I was late for a rendez-vous with friends to see some of Kiarostami’s early films being shown across the street, so I hurried past his photographs of trees in the snow, promising to return while their winter still hung on the walls.
“I have a ticket waiting for me,” I announced at the will-call booth.
“Excuse me, sir,” came an irked voice from behind me, “but there’s a line here?”
How did I miss seeing all the people in the queue, when my eyes could now see invisible air? 'Sorry ma’m,” I said to her. And almost confided, “I thought I was ignoring a row of trees planted in the snow.” Beware!
Kiarostami looked on with amusement as I trudged to the back of line. Not Abbas, but his son Ahmad, who had labored to make the event happen. He welcomed us, then sat one row behind us with a couple of his artist friends. We chatted each other up with such good natured Iranian cinema banter that I nostalgically wished I had brought some pistachios and So Can I, released when Abbas was in his mid thirties, already predicts the future authority of his signature seal of humor. In this cartoon short, a child realizes he can ludicrously jump like a kangaroo, laughably crawl like a worm, and passably swim like a fish. But when he ponders whether he can fly like a bird, he is stumped. As adults we laugh at the child’s charming dilemma, but how many times have we been confronted with the tragedy of human limitations? How many times have we wept helplessly as death took away a loved one? The film ends with a magnificent shot of a jet plane taking off, engines screaming louder than thirty simorghs.
Decades later, in The Wind Will Carry Us, Abbas’ formidable flight of humorous intellect challenged the tragic limitations of
Therefore, I feel wary of the grandmaster as I critique the last work in that day’s Kiarostami lineup, a filmmaking masterpiece called The Traveler. Released five years before
It is unwise, however, to be too confident of having discovered the elements of Kiarostami’s craft. post-Darwinian-psychology, not the boy and his medieval predicament. Checkmate!
Kiarostami makes us laugh when the resourceful boy goes around with a filmless camera conning his vain but destitute classmates into paying for portraits. Later, we watch more soberly as Ghassem secretly sells his own soccer team’s equipment to the rival team. We discovered the boy’s frightening zeal earlier when he endures torture at the hands of his headmaster rather than give up the few Tomans stolen from his own mother. For Ghassem, the soccer match in
There are scenes in which the mother blames the father, and the headmaster blames the mother for not intervening early enough. But their powerless mannerisms show clearly that no one is a match for Ghassem’s innate single-mindedness.
Yet, like a nature film on the Discovery channel, Kiarostami makes us root for this beautiful natural predator. We adore scruffy little Ghassem for his precocious determination. We sigh at his disappointments and cheer as he emerges triumphant after each crisis. From the film’s view, Ghassem’s opponent is not the society he victimizes, but the Universe that gave him desire without the means. Posed in this way, it is impossible not to give heart and soul to the boy who commands into the Void, “let there be justice for me.” The rest of humanity queued up to receive their rights, might as well be a row of trees planted in the snow.
Therefore, I feel wary of the grandmaster as I critique the last work in that day’s Kiarostami lineup, a filmmaking masterpiece called The Traveler.
Released five years before