Monday, 12 October 2009
First Look: Abbas Kiarostami's Shirin
"I prefer the films that put their audiences to sleep in the cinema.but the same films have made me stay up at night, wake up thinking about them in the morning, and keep on thinking about them for weeks. Those are the kinds of films I like." Abbas Kiarostami
This November the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) brings Melbourne audiences Shirin (2008), the most recent masterpiece by feted Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami.
Part of the Iranian New Wave of the late 60s, Kiarostami uses poetic dialogue and allegorical storytelling in order to deal with politics and philosophy. Since 1970, Kiarostami has been involved in over forty films, including shorts and documentaries. It was 20 years after his ground breaking debut feature Report (1977) that he was awarded the Palme d'Or at Cannes for Taste of Cherry (1997).
After premiering Shirin at last year's Venice Film Festival, Kiarostami's dramatic essay on spectatorship draws on the endless expressive potential of the human face. Shirin is ostensibly a film about women watching and responding to a film. However, beyond that it is a film exploring the very medium it is working within as it toys with the roles of performer and spectator.
Film Curator Kristy Matheson says Shirin is a must see for anyone interested in the investigation of the cinematic medium at large, those who are keen to understand more about Kiarostami's work and those discovering him for the first time. "Kiarostami's constant experimentation in both narrative and cinematic technique continues to cement his reputation as one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. Subtle, elegant and formally daring, it proposes new potentials of what cinema can offer and how we can engage as an audience."
The film consists entirely of close-up shots of 112 beautiful Farsi actresses watching a semi-mythic Persian love-triangle poem, Shirin, which we hear, but never see. The womens' performances are hypnotic - tears, smiles, fear, regret - each expression propelling the off-screen action.
Interestingly and perhaps as an allusion to the conventions of performance and cinema, Juliette Binoche also appears briefly as one of the women in the audience. Binoche is also starring in Kiarostami's latest film currently in post-production, Copie Conforme.
Some have suggested Shirin belongs in a gallery as it presents like a cinematic essay or a piece of video art, as well as a film. Ultimately, Kiarostami's film sparks a self-conscious consideration of personal acts of viewing and offers audiences a unique engagement with cinema itself.
"With Kiarostami, it seems, we cinephiles can have it all, Hitchcock and James Benning in the same filmmaker" David Bordwell
"Kiarostami represents the highest level of artistry in the cinema." Martin Scorsese
Shirin plays as part of ACMI's First Look program from Thursday 26 November until Sunday 29 November.
For more information click here
To read the Senses of Cinema profile piece on Kiarostami click here
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