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This is the transition from Kiarostami's films about children into his
more adult, philosophically ponderous phase (and his bridging of the
gap between characters searching on foot, as in the first of the
trilogy, "Where is the Friend's Home," and within cars). As with all of
Kiarostami's films, it's just beautiful to look at, not so much the way
he films it (although this film continues his favorite shot of action
taking place extremely far away), but what is filmed. For this reason I
almost feel like I'm blinded by the director's name on the film, giving
his films such high marks, because he doesn't really DO anything that
you can point to. There is no startling mise-en-scene (the nature
exists anyway, regardless of his camera). But he repeatedly and
consistently creates a tranquil, pure, loving feeling in me. It has to
do with his soul: he's putting it up there every time. Not
autobiographically, but tonally. It has nothing to do with words like
"craft" or "quality."
The simple gesture of a child wanting to raise a grasshopper is enough for Kiarostami to be considered a great realist, an observer. And his film is a connector of people. It might sound simple to say, but for a Westerner with no real idea of what life is like in Iran -- or better, not life, but people -- the simple depiction of it that shows, "Hey, they're basically like us," is invaluable. That's the difference between artists who share what is and artists who create what isn't. And more immediately, within the film, he deals with the public tragedy as great connector, whether it's an earthquake or an act of terrorism. And for us Westerners whose first real impression of that came with 9/11, this film will ring true -- and be remarkable if we consider that things like this happen over there all the time. (Which possibly explains why our main character never seems all that shocked by anything he sees; when a woman cries for her family, he nods his head, but doesn't seem terribly affected by her tears.) One character here asks what Iran has done to anger God and cause the earthquake, but there is little religiosity in the film. Unlike certain recent American films, this film does not have a tendency toward hand-wringing and overwrought seriousness reaching toward the skies. That scene itself is understated like the entire film. The characters here are not spiritual ciphers. They're utterly practical.
As with Kiarostami's two greatest films, "Close-Up" and "Taste of Cherry," the film becomes brilliant when it breaks from its placid realism into self-reference: the main character pulls out a picture of a boy who acted in the real film "Where is the Friend's Home?" and asks strangers where this real boy is, who he says played a role in the film. Is this a real earthquake? Is this actor really harmed? Is this a documentary? Is the main actor playing Kiarostami; is Kiarostami filming this from the passenger seat? Are they really out looking for this boy? But as with those two masterpieces, it's this that borders on insufferable, smirking cleverness on Kiarostami's part that makes me question the so-called honesty of his films. (I find his interviews pretentious and evasive.) Is it possible to be a self-referencing deconstructionist and reveal human truths, not just reveal "the nature of cinema," in an attempt to be the Iranian Godard? This is what lessens my enjoyment of his films, because it lowers my trust. Kiarostami asks a lot of us. "Okay, admit the first film was openly a film, but accept this as a closed film, until I tell you it's a documentary..." There are other flaws. It does get "cute" at times, as when the main character repeats his son's question at a later time ("Why is it coming out of a tap?"). And the boy seems preternaturally wise -- part of the film's "message" is not to discount kids' wisdom: the boy questions the validity of the claim that God caused the earthquake, shocking one woman that he and his father come in contact with throughout their travels.
However, there is so much richness elsewhere (and I'm willing to accept that the layering of the self-reference adds to the film, even if it makes it momentarily annoying) that you can move beyond its flaws (which, honestly, I would accept pretty easily in another film; with Kiarostami you have expectations in the clouds). I'm particularly interested in the way children (and the child experience as remembered or experienced by an adult) are presented on screen, and I'm continually ecstatic that we have Kiarostami contributing to this. (That the main character's son describes one boy from "Where is the Friend's Home?" by his eyes is appropriate, as when we see him they are indeed strikingly beautiful.) The film is also an interesting comment on what happens to people after they work -- Falconetti comes to mind. And the ending is already a classic: it's like the swimming pool scene in "Nostalghia" in tone. Does what happen happen because the film has to end that way, or because of the human spirit? (This is one of the few scenes where music plays under it.)
Even though the movie has no end, only a means, it moves forward like a good documentary. Even though time is not indicated (there are few, if any lapses; time is experienced, as in Tarkovsky), it moves along at a nice pace -- not so much in that the story is brisk, more in that we've settled into its own rhythm. There is no "story," only the story of film as experience. Lots of Big statements could be inferred from the film -- it's about an endless journey with no resolution to a place they don't know how to get to (college students, get your pens out) -- but I take it directly. 9/10
Whilst watching this film i was struck by how natural and simplistic the film was. A film director and his son travel through Iran after an earthquake has struck to try and see if the boy who starred in his last film is still alive. That is what the film is, observing people on the road, whose lives have been destroyed, people whose lives still go on. Kiarostami presents life in such a naturalistic way that we are sitting in the back seat of the car taking the journey as well. That is the perfection of the this film, the real life, the carnage of life, the people striving for life, all add up to one up-lifting experience. Like Rossellini with a uplifting finale, and minus the melodrama. Kiarostami seeks to capture reality on film in a similar way as the Neo-realists, through humanity and observation, but while the Neo-realists films can be seen as natural, Kiarostami reinvents naturalism as if nature had shot the film itself. Yet another piece of perfection from Kiarostami, not to be missed.
Life and Nothing More (1992, dir. Abbas Kiarostami) What is so unusual about Kiarostami's films? They seem to to inhabit a world that is so ordinary, mundane even, and yet they are lent a sense of wonder as well. The simplicity of action and story is undermined by circumstances that reveal the courage that it takes just in order to live. Here a man and his son are driving to Koker, a town which has been devastated by the Iranian earthquake. Along the way they come across people who are carrying their belongings, food supplies, heaters, etc. after having lost everything. They stop to ask for directions. One woman can't help them, breaks out in tears, "I've lost 16 people" The man can only say, "May god grant you forbearance." There is no easy sentimentalism. Here life goes on for those that survive in spite of it all. There is still the need to fill ones life with love and joy and momentary pleasure. One man talks of his plan to get married in his hometown, despite the disaster. The son talks to his friend about watching a soccer game. He becomes terrifically excited by the building of an antenna at one of the nearby villages which will allow him to watch the game. You see none of the horrific footage of mangled bodies and uncontrollably hysterical victims that we usually associate with natural disasters. You only see people who have experienced tragedy, but continue to live and endure.
Naturally, before obtaining this film I checked with IMDb regarding its
entertainment value. But I mis-read the plot. I thought the director
(and his son) played themselves in the film. Now upon re-reading the
user comments here, I discover they were played by actors. Very good
actors. Also I discover only seven reviews of this work. So I feel
obligated to increase that number by one.
If you are a citizen of the U.S. who is registered to vote, you should also see this movie. All the people in this movie live in Iran. Iran is one of those oil-rich countries which is weaker than the U.S., making it an attractive target for American invasion. Iran is a sovereign nation, and should not be invaded.
This is the second film in a trilogy. The first one (Where Is My
Friend's Home") involved a kid searching for his classmate's house to
return a notebook (to save him from the wrath of his teacher). A
charming little film.
This one is a faux documentary that follows the director's attempt to find the two boys after the devastating 1990 earthquake. It is leisurely paced (though I would never say it is "dull") but the earthquake scenes are powerful and beautiful. The director's quest is absorbing and he and his son are a likable duo. Also there are some surprising philosophical and comedic interludes.
I would recommend this film highly whether or not you have seen the first.
There is a long intro before the title. A film director and his son are
shown driving in a small beat-up car to northern Iran soon after the
1990 earthquake. When the car enters a long tunnel, the camera keeps
rolling and on the darken screen the titles finally appear.
The film director is nominally Kiarostami, but played by an actor. Typical for his films, the documentary genre blurs with the fictional account. The devastation that we see from the moving car is real, though the lamentations we witness are probably staged, which does not diminish the sense of suffering of the affected local communities.
The impetus of this travelogue through a torn landscape is to locate at least one of the kids that was his main character in one of his previous films, "Khaneh-je doost kojast?". That quest is the director's central preoccupation, so much so he does not recognize another boy, who he gives a lift to, that had a secondary role in that film. If you see the aforementioned film, you will clearly remember the face.
The quest is made difficult by roads that have been gutted or blocked by rock and earth slides, and by the steep mountainous terrain of his goal, the small town of Koker. As he gets tantalizing close, we root for him.
The way the film ends may be disappointing to some, but I found that it matched the title of the film, "And Life Goes On". For the survivors of the earthquake there is mourning for the dead, but at the same time the 1990 World Soccer Cup is going on. What team will make it to the final? While houses have to be rebuilt, it is also important that TV antennas be lifted so that all can see the games in the evening. The director will make more films but now he is concerned about the well-being of that child actor. So life goes on, the quest must go on. There is no ending.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"I believe the films of Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami are
extraordinary. Words cannot relate my feelings." - Akira Kurosawa
Abbas Kiarostami directed "Where is the Friend's Home?" in 1987, the tale of an 8 year old boy who embarks on a quest to find his friend's house. The film took place in Koker, a village in northern Iran. The village was devastated three years later by the 1990 Manjil-Rudbar earthquake. This earthquake prompted Kiarostami's real-life return to Koker, a journey in which he attempted to locate the young stars of his 1987 film, all of whom were actual Koker residents. Kiarostami's 1992 film, "Life and Nothing More", reconstructs this journey. His 1994 film, "Through the Olive Trees", is partially about the making of "Life and Nothing More". This trilogy of films marks a larger shift in Kiarostami's filmography: a movement away from neorealism and toward postmodern self-reference.
Unlike most "natural disaster movies", "Life and Nothing More" quickly forgoes condescending gestures. Kiarostami has little time for either noble sufferers or canned sorrow. Instead he focuses on two characters, an unnamed film-maker (a stand-in for Kiarostami himself) and his young son, both of whom travel to Koker in a rickety yellow car. Landslides and traffic hamper their journey, but pretty soon they arrive in Koker. They then embark on a mission to locate the two young boys who appeared in the director's "Where is the Friend's House?" Both films offer similar journeys and tell tales of, not human beings conquering adversity (both quests fail; the boy never found his friend's house, and the film-makers never find the boys), but of characters persevering despite obstacles. Climbing is thus a repeated motif, Kiarostami treating us to long-shots of vehicles trekking up mountains and characters who either push unrelentingly onward or clamber out of rubble. Kiarostami's camera lingers on debris and collapsed concrete, Koker's residents like solitary weeds sprouting weakly upwards after a drought.
Later, a woman tells us she lost her home and family, but declines outside assistance. She will get by on her own. "If the dead could return," another haggard character tells us, "they would appreciate life more." This character, who plays himself playing himself, was cast in Kiarostami's previous film, where he was made to look "older and uglier". "That is not art," he states. "If you make an old man young and handsome, that's art!"
"Life and Nothing More" traces something similar; an attempt to tease out something handsome and dignified amidst perpetual calamity. But this reflexivity is then complicated. The man may have been made "uglier" on film, but, as he now reveals, the previous film lied by suggesting that he lives in a house rather than a simple tent. This tension art which ennobles, searches for truths, but also lies and perverts increasingly obsesses Kiarostami, as his films become less neorealist, more Goddardian and more reflexive. Indeed, increasingly his films don't ask us to enter worlds but instead obsessively revolve around characters who skirt around the edges of worlds, places and actions. They are spectators like us. The car in "Life and Nothing More" is itself a glorified camera mount, shielding both us and its occupants from the outside, even as we and our heroes try in vain to establish contact with the outside world. Kiarostami's films may be structured as games of searching, finding and looking, but are increasingly about the very postmodern problem of seeing, subjectivity and the limits of knowledge. He's, in a sense, the Iranian Atom Egoyan.
Postmodern cinema plays up self-reference, homage, pastiche, nihilistic self-absorption and a detachment from the social. But while Kiarostami's films increasingly call attention to themselves as representation, and are increasingly self-reflexive (they do not quote films outside of Kiarostami's filmography), they mostly lack the smug sense of self-conscious sophistication (and knowingness) which postmodernists trade in. Where central to postmodernism is the gap between the image of reality and what is reality with the sign always victorious over essence Kiarostami's work searches out that essence with the assumption that everything is capable of being at least somewhat true or containing truths.
The third film in what is often called "the Koker trilogy" (it is also three steps meta-removed from the original film), "Through the Olive Trees" opens with a movie director (Kiarostami's surrogate) conducting a casting call. He's looking for a female villager to play the leading role in his new film. He finally selects a woman called Tehereh. She will play a bride. Off-set Tehereh is similarly courted by a man, Hossein, who seeks to make her his bride. The film's great joke is that Hossein is also cast in the film within the film and that Tehereh refuses to speak to him as a co-star; he's poor, homeless and illiterate and Tehereh's parents disapprove of his marriage requests. What Kiarostami is concerned with, though, is the way comedy conceals tragedy, the way the fictional film conceals what it also unintentionally documents and how this tug-of-war itself results in Koker's rebuilding in the wake of the quake.
In all three films, Kiarostami's visuals are wonderfully minimalist, though this tone often gives way to either surreal moments or visual gags. Recall surreal shots of a man carrying a urinal, footpaths which zig-zag up hill-faces and the way matter-of-fact dialogue offered by various civilians clash with the earthquake's horrible aftermath.
Heavyweight film-makers like Godard, Kurosawa and Antonioni (Kiarostami's "Close Up" in many ways is influenced by Antonioni's "Blow Up") have all expressed a fondness for Kiarostami's films. Kiarostami's "Life and Nothing More" was retitled "And Life Goes On..." in the West, a less gloomy title which, in a way, sums up the kind of art-house sentimentality that is responsible for Kiarostami's popularity. Kiarostami's next feature was the audience polarising "Taste of Cherry".
8.5/10 Worth two viewings.
In Abbas Kiraostami's acclaimed pseudo documentary, an unnamed director (Ferhad Khermanend, playing an alter ego of Kiarostami) and his young son to return to Koker, the setting of his great film "Where is the Friends Home", in the wake of the devastating 1990 earthquake that hit northern Iran. The movie is ostensibly about the search for the two boys who starred in the earlier film but it turns into a kind of fictional documentary about the strength of the human spirit in the face of disaster. the camera simply watching out the car window for much of the film, taking in the landscape, the ruins of mud houses, and the streams of homeless people hauling food and equipment to makeshift shelters. The villagers are fatalistic, believing that the earthquake was God's will, but the rebirth of the human spirit is symbolized by the fact that most people seem interested in watching the Italia 90 World Cup matches, despite their terrible tragedy they have gone through (many have lost their homes and family members). In a director with less sensibility, a movie like this would seem the shameless exploitation of a tragedy. The movie is not quite entertaining but it is compelling. The filming of this movie would itself be fictionalized by Kiarostami in Through the Olive Trees.
7/10 If I hadn't read a review or two this movie before watching, i would have been convinced this was a documentary. But it's not. It's a piece of fiction which comes across as a documentary. I am thinking of Orson Welles "War of the worlds" "After the 1990 earthquake in Iran that killed over 30,000 people, Kiarostami went to search for the stars of his previous film Where Is the Friend's Home?. This film is a semi-fictional work based on these events, shot in a documentary-style. It shows a director (played by Farhad Kheradmand) on this journey through the country in the aftermath of the earthquake." The movie puzzled me. Is the main actor a professional among amateurs. The acting (and I guess it is acting) doesn't come across as acting. my favourite moment comes during a sequence during which the lead speaks to two young girls doing their laundry in the open. That's because both of their houses have been destroyed due to the disaster. One of the girls seems more timid than the other. For a few moments there is a shy smile on her face. Is that acting? Looking forward to seeing more of this directors work.
After the 1990 earthquake in Iran that killed over 30,000 people,
Kiarostami went to search for the stars of his previous film "Where Is
the Friend's Home?". This film is a semi-fictional work based on these
events, shot in a documentary-style. It shows a director (played by
Farhad Kheradmand) on this journey through the country in the aftermath
of the earthquake.
While this is a really beautiful film with a rather simple plot, there is something a bit more than that going on. Of course, it also has something of a "meta" feel because the film references another film, thus being both that film's sequel, but also outside of it in a way.
For Americans, the film also offers a very human look at tragedy. For reasons not entirely clear to me, Iran is seen as America's "enemy". This is foolish, given that the problem is the government and not actually the Iranian people. This film makes that perfectly clear, with some of the most innocent, caring folks you would ever hope to meet. Whatever caricature we are supposed to have in mind about Iran, you will not find it here.
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