Dir/scr/ed:Abbas Kiarostami. Fr-Iran. 2004. 83mins.
Essentiallyan extended lecture on cinema, Abbas Kiarostami's Un Certain Regard entry willbe sure to adorn every self-respecting festival in the world yet, by the sametoken, few commercial exhibitors will ever contemplate selling tickets to apaying audience. Devised as a series of 10 lessons in film-making, the picturefollows Kiarostami as he embarks on a long soliloquy, using even lessaccessories than he did in his ultra-minimalist Ten.
Allthrough the film he has one single camera fixed inside a car, the angle of thiscamera is never altered and it is constantly pointed at the driver, Kiarostami,the only actor on screen. Some visual relief is offered by excerpts taken fromhis last three films - Taste Of Cherries, ABC Africa and Ten.No cast, no sets, not even an operator, just Kiarostami driving the car andtalking to the camera. Professionals will love it but they may well be the onlyones left in the theatre at film's end.
Anintroductory chapter, dedicated to the tremendous impact the digital camera hashad on his work, is followed by dissertations on all the basics of film-making:the camera, the script, locations, music, actors, accessories and the director.Kiarostami wraps it all up in a final lesson in which he underlines how being aself-taught director who has never been to film school - and having neverworked as someone else's assistant before making his own films - allows him totalk only about his kind of cinema; modestly described as "growing vegetablesin a flower pot", compared with Hollywood's planting its seeds over vastartificially fertilised fields.
Needlessto say, he is not particularly fond of the heavy machinery used by thetraditional US movies, which, he says, intimidates both the actors before thecamera and the spectators watching the films, banishes real life from thescreen and replaces it with feeble fiction.
Kiarostamiinsists that legitimate films should tell the truth and claims, everything canbe a subject for a film, if looked at in the correct fashion - the digitaltechniques actually provide today's film-makers with the perfect tool to recordanything they feel like, without submitting to the capitalist rules of filmproduction in all their various aspects. He is against detailed scripts anddialogues that force performers to betray their own nature and deny theaudience the right to use its own imagination, by leaving nothing left unsaid.
Forlocations, his best recommendation is the interior of a moving car, his filmsproviding ample proof of the intimacy it generates, the security from theoutside world, and in the case of Ten, for instance, the advantage ofremoving from the film-making process the upsetting physical presence of thedirector and his critical eye.
Formusic, his suggestion is to better forget about it, certainly if it is supposedto be a crutch to generate emotions otherwise absent, and for actors, as he hasmore often than not shown in his films, he would much rather have non-actorswho are playing themselves or persons that are just like them.
Therefore,costumes and make-up should ideally be left entirely to their discretion, forthey know best what suits them. As far as the role of the director isconcerned, he surprisingly echoes Billy Wilder, who used to claim the bestdirection is the kind that goes unnoticed.
Goingout on a limb, he declares the impact of US cinema is deadlier than theAmerican military, for it inflicts on mass audiences a type of intellectualsubmission that is by now universally accepted by 90% of the audiences. Even inIran, America's fiercest ideological antagonist when it comes to film language,says Kiarostami, the authorities will much prefer the Hollywood kind to anyother.
ThoughKiarostami, smoothly assisted by Steven Gadler's invaluable voiceover, isalways fluid and persuasive, quotes Bresson, Zavattini and Olmi, and makes hiscase in a lucid fashion. Introducing his own film clips to drive his pointshome, one could easily imagine an equally fascinating lecture proposingopposite premises. Hitchcock could have done it once upon a time (Kiarostamimentions him when he talks about another kind of cinema than his own), maybeSpielberg should try it now. But would he care to'
Int'l sales: MK2
Eng-lang voiceover: Steven Gadler