Kiarostami’s last film shows that until the very end he was pushing the boundaries of how much stillness a movie could contain. It’s just 24 meticulously composed shots, and I can only describe each one as a kind of breathing photograph. A painting or (seemingly) still image gradually comes to life with tiny, almost imperceptible movements, each one a slightly different magic trick. Kiarostami subtly animates elements on the edges of the frame, or lets digitally superimposed wildlife wander into a portrait. The sounds of trees expanding and tides rolling are as muted and tactile as canvas stretching, and he brings in the occasional music cue (Puccini, French street performers, even Andrew Lloyd Webber??!) to pull you in deeper. The overall effect is that we’re watching the oldest use of the camera and the most radical, and the meditation that this film generates was like a massage for my very over-stimulated COVID-era brain.
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The Bri-terion Collection
I’m loving the Criterion Channel streaming service, so every week I’m going to share my favorite new find.