Remembering Abbas Kiarostami

KiarostamiPhillip Lopate at The American Scholar:

On July 4, a great artist and a remarkable human being, Abbas Kiarostami, died—unnecessarily, as it turns out. I knew him slightly, having interviewed him several times and written about him often. He was, to my mind, not simply the greatest Iranian filmmaker but one of the two or three greatest filmmakers alive (and now I have to amend that last word). Although his name barely registered on the American public, he was a revered figure on the international art film festival circuit. He began making short films about children, having been invited to start the filmmaking branch of the Kanoon Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults in Iran. From these shorts he graduated to superb feature films, such as Homework, Close-Up, Where Is My Friend’s House, And Life Goes On, Through the Olive Trees, and The Wind Will Carry Us, which combined neorealist humanism in the tradition of Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, and Satyajit Ray, with a formalist rigor (choreographed long-duration shots) and a playful, postmodernist self-referentiality. In a sense, he solved the dichotomy between fiction and documentary. His films were gifted with patient observation and curiosity about ordinary people; there were always humorous bits, they breathed naturally, and they were healthy for you—that is, they made me feel engrossed, suspenseful yet at peace, when watching them.

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