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Ten, the latest film by Iranian master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, focuses on ten conversations between a female driver in Tehran and the passengers in her car. Her exchanges with her young son, a jilted bride, a prostitute, a women on her way to prayer and others, shed light on the lives and emotions of these women whose voices are seldom heard. Written by
Yes, it's a gimmick: the entire film is shot from the dashboard of a car, and only the driver and the passenger are heard and (sometimes) seen. This gimmick will not please everyone, and hardly qualifies the film as a masterpiece. But Hitchcock's brilliant "Rear Window" was a gimmick too, and Kiarostami's "10" is no less worthy of attention. A movie has to be done well, regardless of its tricks, and "10" fits the bill. The driver of the car also drives the conflict; she is a recently divorced Iranian woman in a country in which women barely have the right to divorce at all. As the city rushes past--it's great fun to watch the people and places outside--she curses the drivers and pedestrians along the way but holds her own against the crises in the passenger's seat. Funny thing about a car: it gives one the sense of control (here, that's clearly an illusion) and the oxymoronic ability to remain private even while out in public. She and her women passengers air their grievances within this zone of safety; a scene in which a passenger slowly removes her head covering, a symbol of repression, is moving and unsettling. The greatest conflict, however, is between the driver and her young son, who's bitter about the divorce and lets his mother unravel until he, not she, controls where the car is heading. The boy's performance is astonishingly real, as much for the way he fills the silences as for his sharp and sometimes humorous counterpoints. The film could have done without the "countdown" of the 10 conversations--the source of the title--but no matter: everything in between is a delight.
8 out of 10
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