This is a slightly different edit of a dialogue proposed and inaugurated by Ehsan Khoshbakht on July 5, 2016, edited by him, and published in the British Council’s online Underline magazine on July 8. — J.R.
Abbas Kiarostami (1940-2016), arguably the greatest of Iranian filmmakers, was a master of interruption and reduction in cinema. He, who passed away on Monday in a Paris hospital, diverted cinema from its course more than once. From his experimental children’s films to deconstructing the meaning of documentary and fiction, to digital experimentation, every move brought him new admirers and cost him some of his old ones. Kiarostami provided a style, a film language, with a valid grammar of its own. On the occasion of this great loss, Jonathan Rosenbaum and I discussed some aspects of Kiarostami’s world. Jonathan, the former chief film critic at Chicago Reader, is the co-author (with Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa) of a book on Kiarostami, available from the University of Illinois Press. – Ehsan Khoshbakht
Ehsan Khoshbakht: Abbas Kiarostami’s impact on Iranian cinema was so colossal that it almost swallowed up everything before it, and to a certain extent after it. For better or worse, Iranian cinema was equated with Abbas Kiarostami.… Read more »
My column for the Summer 2016 issue of Cinema Scope. — J.R. J.P. Sniadecki’s feature-length The Iron Ministry (2014), available on DVD from Icarus Films, is by far the best non-Chinese documentary I’ve seen about contemporary mainland China. (Just for the record, the best Chinese documentary on the same general subject that I’ve seen is Yu-Shen Su’s far more unorthodox—and woefully still unavailable — 2012 Man Made Place; a couple of snippets are available on YouTube and Vimeo.) Filmed over three years on Chinese trains, it’s full of revelatory moments, and not only in its surprisingly outspoken interviews: the non-narrative stretches, which compare quite favourably with the more abstract portions of Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s Leviathan (2012), are pretty stunning as well. Skip this one at your peril. Second Run’s very first Blu-ray — Pedro Costa’s Horse Money (2015) — is gorgeously transferred, and has splendid extras: Costa’s 2010 short film O nosso homem, essays by Jonathan Romney and Chris Fujiwara, an introduction to Horse Money’s introduction by Thom Andersen, and Laura Mulvey’s conversation with Costa at London’s ICA. The extras on Criterion’s Blu-ray of Jean-Luc Godard’s Band of Outsiders (1964) are too numerous to mention here, but suffice it to say that just about every intertextual reference in this cherished object are teased out in one way or another.… Read more »
Last year, an expanded edition of my book with Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa, Abbas Kiarostami (University of Illinois Press, 2004), was published in Argentina by Los Rios, translated into Spanish by Luciana Borrini and Julián Aubrit. Unfortunately, an expanded edition of this book in English isn’t forthcoming because the current editors of the Contemporary Film Directors series at University of Illinois Press are interested in commissioning a new book about Kiarostami, not in revising or expanding the existing one. However, one of the two texts added to the Argentinian edition, my essay “Watching Kiarostami Films at Home,” is already available on this site, as are an essay about Shirin I wrote for the Cinema Guild DVD and an earlier dialogue I had with Mehrnaz about the film. Here is the other addition, written by Mehrnaz expressly for the expanded edition. — J.R.
Reflections on Like Someone in Love (2012)
By Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa
A phone conversation between Chicago (Saeed-Vafa) and Rome (Kiarostami), March 17, 2013:
MS: When you talked about Shirin in one of your interviews, you said that it was a unique film that could have changed your career, if you had made it earlier. What did you meant by that?… Read more »
Written in late July, 2014 for this forthcoming volume. — J.R.
JONATHAN ROSENBAUM: Having by now covered practically all of the films of Abbas Kiarostami between us — starting with our book about him published in 2003, which dealt with all the films up through 10 (2002), and then continuing with further articles and dialogues since then, all the way up through Like Someone in Love (2012) -– it’s hard to know what we can add in the form of a Preface to the Persian translation of all of the above. Broadly speaking, I suppose one could say that over the past decade, Kiarostami has shifted from being an arthouse director to being a sort of gallery artist who worked in both film and still photography before finally, in more international and less Iranian terms, becoming an arthouse director again. Does this overall description of his evolution strike you as being accurate? And do you think Kiarostami has gained or lost anything in the process?
MEHRNAZ SAEED-VAFA: Your description sounds accurate to me, and I think Kiarostami has definitely gained something. He’s made several shorts and features going in different directions and styles that continue to challenge the expectations of his fans and followers. … Read more »
DVD AWARDS 2016
XIII edition (Il Cinema Ritrovato)
Jurors: Lorenzo Codelli, Alexander Horwath, Lucien Logette, Mark McElhatten, Paolo Mereghetti (chairman), and Jonathan Rosenbaum. (Although Mark McElhatten wasn’t able to attend the festival this year, he has continued to function as a very active member of the jury.)
1. BEST SPECIAL FEATURES:
NICO PAPATAKIS BOX SET (France, 1963-1992) (Gaumont Vidéo, DVD)
A comprehensive and cogent presentation of a neglected filmmaker from Ethiopia and a singular cultural figure in postwar France who ran an existentialist cabaret, produced major films by Jean Genet and John Cassavetes, gave the German singer Nico her name, and made many striking films over four decades. (JR)
2. BEST DVD SERIES:
COLLECTION 120 ANS N.1 1885-1929 (France, 1885-1929) (Gaumont Vidéo, DVD)
To celebrate its 120 years of activity in the film industry, Gaumont has published a series of nine beautiful box sets that summarize the whole history of cinema. Divided by decades, the box sets consist of twenty to thirty-five DVDs with the most representative films marked with a daisy symbol. The editions include films made by Alice Guy, Louis Feuillade, Dreville, Duvivier, Gabin, Louis de Funès, Pialat and Deville but also masterpieces made by Losey, Fellini or Bergman that the French company co-produced.… Read more »