- Abbas Kiarostami v. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who to believe?
No, people in Iran are not evil ! Don't bomb them...
(Public Service Announcement of the week)
My notes on the interview of Abbas Kiarostami by Laure Adler (9-26-2007), for the exhibition in Paris MoMA : Centre Georges Pompidou. France Culture radio broadcast, available online for a couple more days (REALaudio, FRENCH-FARSI, 30').
Photograph, documentarian, filmmaker, poet, furniture designer, performance artist... a multi-talented artist.
At the head of Kannoon (Institute for the intellectual development of children and adolescents) for 20 years, Kiarostami began his cinema carreer when the Shah ruled Iran, making educational documentaries for children and about children. He learnt so much from them and by seeing himself in them. One of his close childhood friend tell him now, that the kids in his films are just like Abbas was when he was their age. I'm solitary now as an adult like I was as a child. We are all profundly lonesome beings, whatever the age, even among friends...
My job of filmmaker, ma life condition, impose this loneliness, but it's mainly because I wanted it.
There is no distinction between reality and fiction (documentaries and fictive story). Artifice and lies help to reconstitute truth on screen.
And Life Goes On... (1991) : A.K. comes back to the location where he shot his first feature film, Where is My Friend's House? (1987), which was hit by a terrible earthquake (30,000 deads). He went there with his son, 8 yold, to meet friends (protagonists of that film), and only had the idea to make it into a film, Through The Olive Trees (1994), back in Tehran. The innocence and hope in the eyes of his son confronted to the pain of life, changed the pessimistic vision A.K. had.
Taste for Secret : In The Taste of Cherry (1997) the suicide motive is mysterious, in The Wind Will Carry Us (1999), the local boy cannot reveal the subject of the documentary filmed by the guys from Tehran. Life by definition bear a secret, and this mystery of life must remain hidden. We must not reveal it.
When he set the ligthing for his photographic exhibition at Centre Pompidou, he realised the more he lowered the brightness, the more they enclosed a secret. The relationship to a work of art is to approach this secret. Maybe that's explains the black shades he wears all the time! ;)
By the way, scientists recently discovered that Monet, father of impressionism, might have had a vision disorder. There is a reason for everything...
The problem of today's movies, is there is no more mystery remaining with us when we walk out of the movie house. The essence of art is to contain this mysterious unspoken aspect. Cinema is a work of art that establishes a creative relationship between the spectator and the film, through this imaginative reaction to mystery.
To the question "why do we hear children precisely when the old man talks about the taste of cherry to convince the protagonist of The Taste of Cherry?"
AK responds : Chance doesn't exist in cinema. Everything in the film is noticed and endorsed whether it happened by chance during shooting or purposefuly. But the choice to keep it on the editing table is fully conscious.
The secret in The Taste of Cherry allows for every viewer to identify with the undefined crisis leading the protagonist to wish to terminate his life. Some believe he had a broken heart affair, others that he had depts...
Landscape : Nurturing Nature = identified to a mother. AK didn't choose Nature as a subject he was invited by Nature, who embraced him with wide open arms.
Politics : I accept the label of politically involved filmmaker. Politics + Poetics. Like in The Bicycle thieves.
My cinema evolved towards formal epuration : abstraction, contemplation, méditation of nature. Nature questions me profundly.
Location scouting and casting is the most time/energy consuming. To find the people who will say what I wrote is the most important. To meet in flesh what I imagined in my mind.His next film, Copie conforme (2008?), staring Juliette Binoche, is on hold for 3 years because he didn't find the right man to play opposite her. His producer suggested that maybe Abbas himself should play the role.
He doesn't always tell the actors what to do, who they are on set. Leaving the actors in doubt so they bear this worryness that is everyday life. The fact they doubt makes them look more like me.
In his last film, 100 women are shot looking at a white sheet of paper where they are supposed to read a story. They didn't know what the story was, didn't know what to do, and had to improvise. The story was added after with a voiceover commentary. The uncertainty creates the expression of truth. Too much information, indications turn actors into robots who try to become you, the auteur, and don't reflect life itself, naturally.
Cars are omnipresent in AK's films. He says a shot onboard a car combines his preference for stationary shots with the dynamics within the frame. The car allows for the spectator to concentrate on a static frame and still enjoy the motion of the background image.
Death : People always believe to be immortal, death is only for the neighbor. We only witness others dying. We'll never see our own death.
"I'm afraid of height because I've already fell
I'm afraid of a break up because I've already been broken-hearted
But why am I afraid of death if I never experienced death before?
If it's the feeling of not existing anymore, that's something we experience every time we sleep, yet we are not afraid of sleep..."
* * *
SHOT ANALYSIS by D.P. Caroline Champetier
The cinema of A.K. helps me to live, she says.
She was invited by A.K. to a private screening at the Paris MoMA of a piece of his latest work. She describes what she saw. It's a plan-sequence of 17 minutes filmed with a digital camera, with a lens probably equivalent to a 50 or 70mm.
We can see rocks on a sea shore, with cavities, in one of them, the highest, there are 3 seagull eggs, and the waves slam that rock.
An evident suspense is created by this simple situation without a need for explanation. The first egg is pushed out by the waves, and ends up in a lower, less secure, cavity. And finally falls off and disappears in the sea. The egg is lost. [Egg symbol of life, youth in becoming]
Then the other two eggs follow the same fate, are also ejected one after the other, and disappear.
When the light is switched back on, Kiarostami shows a contented smile, waiting for questions.
The sound is not live. This was a post-production reconstruction. Actually, even the plan-sequence is forged, with a precise montage of 15 shots spliced together.
A.K. master of space and time becomes the illusionist who make believe what he wants the spectator to believe. He recreated this made-up dramaturgy, this suspense, this succession of events that looked so natural and believable.