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Once again Ebert rips Kiarostami

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Once again Ebert rips Kiarostami

Old 04-11-03, 03:01 PM
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Once again Ebert rips Kiarostami

First Taste of Cherry, now this:

TEN / ** (Not rated)

April 11, 2003

The Woman: Mania Akbari
Her son: Amin Maher

Zeitgeist Films presents a film written and directed by Abbas Kiarostami. Running time: 94 minutes. No MPAA rating (no objectionable material). In Farsi with English subtitles.

BY ROGER EBERT


I am unable to grasp the greatness of Abbas Kiarostami. His critical reputation is unmatched: His "A Taste of Cherry" (1997) won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and "The Wind Will Carry Us" (1999) won the Golden Lion at Venice. And yet his films--for example his latest work, "Ten"--are meant not so much to be watched as to be written about; his reviews make his points better than he does.

Any review must begin with simple description. "Ten" consists of 10 scenes set in the front seat of a car. The driver is always the same. Her passengers include her son, her sister, a friend, an old woman and a prostitute. The film is shot in digital video, using two cameras, one focused on the driver, the other on the passenger. The cameras are fixed. The film has been described as both fiction and documentary, and is both: What we see is really happening, but some of it has obviously been planned.

Kiarostami's method, I learn from Geoff Andrew's review in the British magazine Sight & Sound, was to audition real people, choose his actors, talk at length with them about their characters and dialogue, and then send them out in the car without him, to play their characters (or perhaps themselves) as they drove the streets and the camera watched. Beginning with 23 hours of footage, he ended with this 94-minute film.

Now you might agree that is a provocative and original way to make a movie. Then I might tell you that "A Taste of Cherry" was also set entirely in the front seat of a car--only in that film Kiarostami held the camera and sat alternatively in the seat of the driver and the passenger. And that "The Wind Will Carry Us" was about a man driving around trying to find a place where his cell phone would work. You might observe that his method has become more daring, but you would still be left with movies about people driving and talking.

Ah, but what do we learn about them, and about modern Iran? Andrew, who thinks this is Kiarostami's best film, observes the woman complaining about Iran's "stupid laws" that forbid divorce unless she charges her husband with abuse or drug addiction. He observes that the movie shows prostitution exists in Iran, even though it is illegal. The old woman argues that the driver should try prayer, and she does, showing the nation's religious undercurrent. The friend removes her scarf to show that she has shaved her head, and this is transgressive because women are not allowed to bare their heads in public. And little Amin, the son, seems like a repressive Iranian male in training, having internalized the license of a male-dominant society to criticize and mock his mother.

All very well. But to praise the film for this is like praising a child for coloring between the lines. Where is the reach, the desire to communicate, the passion? If you want to see the themes in "Ten" explored with power and frankness in films of real power, you would turn away from Kiarostami's arid formalism and look instead at a film like Tahmineh Milani's "Two Women" (1999) or Jafar Panahi's "The Circle" (2000), which have the power to deeply move audiences, instead of a willingness to alienate or bore them.

Anyone could make a movie like "Ten." Two digital cameras, a car and your actors, and off you go. Of course much would depend on the actors, what they said, and who they were playing (the little actor playing Amin is awesomely self-confident and articulate on the screen, and effortlessly obnoxious). But if this approach were used for a film shot in Europe or America, would it be accepted as an entry at Cannes?

I argue that it would not. Part of Kiarostami's appeal is that he is Iranian, a country whose films it is somewhat daring to praise. Partly, too, he has a lot of critics invested in his cause, and they do the heavy lifting. The fatal flaw in his approach is that no ordinary moviegoer, whether Iranian or American, can be expected to relate to his films. They exist for film festivals, film critics and film classes.

The shame is that more accessible Iranian directors are being neglected in the overpraise of Kiarostami. Brian Bennett, who runs the Bangkok Film Festival, told me of attending a Tehran Film Festival with a fair number of Western critics and festival directors. "The moment a film seemed to be about characters or plot," he said, "they all got up and raced out of the room. They had it fixed in their minds that the Iranian cinema consisted of minimalist exercises in style, and didn't want to see narrative films." Since storytelling is how most films work and always have, it is a shame that Iranian stories are being shut out of Western screenings because of a cabal of dilettantes.

Andrew mentions that the Iranian censors passed "Ten." Of course they did. Why censor a film by an international prize-winner, when it is obviously unwatchable by most audiences? The amazing thing is that the censors passed "Two Women" and "The Circle," which are truly brave films. The existence of such films is evidence that there is infinitely more to Iran than the simplistic rhetoric of the "axis of evil" can hope to comprehend.
Copyright Chicago Sun-Times Inc.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'll give him the bennefit of the doubt in one reguard: Ebert hasn't seen the Where Is The Friends House, Life and Nothing More..., Through the Olive Trees trilogy. Those films are essential to understanding Kiarostami. But nevertheless, I don't understand how a critic who enjoys the transgressive cinema of Godard, and writes passionately about My Life to Live and Contempt, doesn't "get" Kiarostami.

He must not have seen Close Up either, becuase he would never say Kiarostami's films can't be appreciated by a wide audience if he had.

His lawding of conventional narative Iranian film over unconventional "new" cinema is disconcerting. I liked Children of Heaven all right. But it is noteworthy that Iranian cinema (particularly the cinema of Kiarostami) is not content to be an Iranian version of the same kinds of narative films made everywhere else in the world. Given his druthers Ebert would have them put towels on their heads and do The Remains of the Day in Farsi rather than invent a new poetic visual style.

Bottom line, ebert doesn't "get it", but his acusation that no body else will get it either is what's so disconcerting. There are films of his that general audiences would love. Friend's House, Life and Nothing More, and Close Up particularly.

Ebert objects to the psudo-doc technique as an acceptable way to make a film, yet he gave Kor-ida's AfterLife four stars. Whatever? I like Ebert, but his failure to "get" Kiarostami frustrates me.

Last edited by Pants; 04-11-03 at 03:06 PM.
Old 04-11-03, 03:28 PM
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I haven't seen the particular film that Ebert is reviewing, but I reviewed The Wind Will Carry Us (http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=5316) and I can definitely agree with many of his points.

Stories are about narrative; some of that narrativecan be created on the screen for us, and some of it can be what we create in our own minds from what we see. One way to "push the envelope" in film is to increase the amount that the viewer has to create, and minimize what's created for you. Sometimes this works, as it draws the viewer in and gets him/her to engage with the material and think about it... but a lot of the time it doesn't work. Just because the director thought certain things about a subject doesn't mean that those things will come across on the screen if he doesn't put them there.

Symbolism can be very powerful, but symbolism without a full narrative structure to support it rarely works, in my opinion (and if you check my bio page, you'll see my background in literature so you'll see that I've had to grapple with literary symbolism and the whole nine yards quite a lot!).

I also disagree with Pants' statement that certain specific films are essential to understanding Kiarostami (or any other filmmaker). Any film has to stand on its own merits; it could be *enhanced* by considering it in respect to others, but in the final analysis whatever it is, has to be judged on... whatever it is. So if a work has to be defended by "well, you have to have seen X, Y, and Z to appreciate it", then I think that's a sign of a deficiency. (Deliberate sequels are obviously an exception, as they're intended to be relate to each other... but each one should still be considered also on its own merits.)
Old 04-11-03, 03:50 PM
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I think Ten might well be Kiarostami's finest work. It is, along with Werckmeister Harmonies and Rosetta, one of my top three films of the past half-dozen years. I cannot rate it highly enough. For some reason Ebert just doesn't 'get' Kiarostami, but it's common for most critics to have one great director whose work puts them off completely.
Old 04-11-03, 03:50 PM
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Re: Once again Ebert rips Kiarostami

Originally posted by Pants
But nevertheless, I don't understand how a critic who enjoys the transgressive cinema of Godard, and writes passionately about My Life to Live and Contempt, doesn't "get" Kiarostami.
I agree with you...and IMHO is that he is often not giving an honest attempt to understand...

Side note: What baffles me is that he liked Speed 2 for what it was...
Old 04-11-03, 03:55 PM
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I agree with Ordway. To me if you say..."This film helps you understand this filmmaker more" then the filmmaker didn't do his job right in my opinion. A film should really be able to stand on its own merits. I should be able to walk into Ten or A Taste of Cherry or any other film by him and be able to appreciate based off just that film.

That being said, Ebert has a lot of other good points about this film. Sometimes I think we fall all over ourselves to compliment filmmakers for being different and inventive even if the techniques they use really don't work. It's good to be willing to try different things, but I want it to work in the end and in my opinion most of the films i have seen by Kiarostami just don't work for me. I too find it hard to believe they would ever find a wide audience specifically because of that.
Old 04-11-03, 04:06 PM
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Originally posted by badger1997
Sometimes I think we fall all over ourselves to compliment filmmakers for being different and inventive even if the techniques they use really don't work. It's good to be willing to try different things, but I want it to work in the end and in my opinion most of the films i have seen by Kiarostami just don't work for me.
Wow. That's completely the opposite reaction I have to his work. One of the things I loved most about Ten, along with Taste Of Cherry, among others, was the lack of deliberate technique. I think what Kiarostami's trying to do is remove himself from the narrative process as as much as possible, to decrease the distance from the viewer to the character, so to speak. I certainly am not "falling all over myself" about a technique that involves mounting two cameras on a dashboard and letting them roll; it's the fact that Kiarostami has the supreme self confidence to let his 'actors' speak for themselves, rather than imposing some sort of narrative structure on them. Sure, he structured the film, and he edited it, so at some point he imposed himself on the film. But I think he did this only to be true to the characters and the stories they brought.
Old 04-11-03, 04:15 PM
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ordway-

Many of Kiarostami's films CAN be walked into cold and appreciated independently of each other. But Through the Olive Trees, for instance, would be completely incomprehensible w/out having seen Life and Nothing More.
(Deliberate sequels are obviously an exception, as they're intended to be relate to each other... but each one should still be considered also on its own merits.)
One could argue that Through the Olive Trees IS a sequal to Life and Nothing More, but i don't know if they were concieved that way or just organicly grew that way.

The liner notes of Criterion's Taste of Cherry makes a good case for the neccessity of the audience to consider the relationship within the film as well as the relationship between the films. That is, how do the similarities and the differences between the techniques and story structure of Life and Nothing More and Taste of Cherry comment upon the subject of each respective film?

Plenty of films require an outside understanding of a director's previous films or sometimes other films he didn't direct. To be understood, Godard's Contempt requires that the viewer have seen Some Came Running, Two Weeks in Another Town, at least one other Bardot film, AND be fairly knowledgable about the entire arc of Fritz Lang's career. That's a pretty tall order, but Contempt is a difficult film, and so is Taste of Cherry.

Some films DO require their audience to have seen previous films. Jay and Silent Bob Stikes Back, like a Bande Apart is so ridled w/ inside jokes that a casual viewer would be baffled, but someone who is intimate w/ K.Smith, his previous films, the DVD audio commentaries of those films, his comic books, and web site, will gleen great comedy from the film.

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Old 04-11-03, 08:46 PM
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Re: Once again Ebert rips Kiarostami

Originally posted by Pants
I'll give him the bennefit of the doubt in one reguard: Ebert hasn't seen the Where Is The Friends House, Life and Nothing More..., Through the Olive Trees trilogy. Those films are essential to understanding Kiarostami. But nevertheless, I don't understand how a critic who enjoys the transgressive cinema of Godard, and writes passionately about My Life to Live and Contempt, doesn't "get" Kiarostami.

He must not have seen Close Up either, becuase he would never say Kiarostami's films can't be appreciated by a wide audience if he had.
Ebert gave Godard's "In Praise of Love" one-star, and gave Werner Herzog's "Invincible" 4-stars.

That should really explain enough, really. The thing is, Ebert is a populist critic. He's never had much of a grasp on art films. For true critics of the art of filmmaking, read Amy Taubin, J. Hoberman, and Johnathan Rosenbaum. Ebert is really no longer relevant as a critic of the arts. But as a guy who reviews for the casual moviegoer, he does his job.

IMO, The Wind Will Carry Us and Close-Up are magnificent - they can be enjoyed in so many different levels. And I've never seen "Where is My Friend's Home", etc. before. I'll be seeing "10" on Monday.

On the other hand, "The Circle" was quite weak exactly *because* the subject matter was portrayed so heavy-handedly . Figures that Ebert would champion "digestible" films rather something which requires the viewers to actually think, rather than be given the solution already.

Last edited by Grimmyhk; 04-11-03 at 08:57 PM.
Old 04-11-03, 08:51 PM
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Originally posted by ordway

Stories are about narrative; some of that narrativecan be created on the screen for us, and some of it can be what we create in our own minds from what we see.

Symbolism can be very powerful, but symbolism without a full narrative structure to support it rarely works, in my opinion (and if you check my bio page, you'll see my background in literature so you'll see that I've had to grapple with literary symbolism and the whole nine yards quite a lot!).
Narrative is, more than ever, a dead art form. There's little inventiveness left to tell stories, IMO. "Waiting for Godot" opened a new form of expression to us, and I personally am glad certain directors are creating something fresh and different without needing narrative arcs (for example, Claire Denis' wonderful "Friday Night"), rather than conforming to rules that dictate what works and what doesn't. I also am a big fan of literature, but understanding books has little bearing on how you understand films, or other artforms like dance and music.

Last edited by Grimmyhk; 04-11-03 at 08:58 PM.
Old 04-12-03, 03:24 AM
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The thing is, Ebert is a populist critic. He's never had much of a grasp on art films.
I'm no big Ebert fan, but I think that's ludicrous. Ebert knows as much about film and even art films, than any critic does, if not more. The man knows his stuff.


but his acusation that no body else will get it either is what's so disconcerting.
I haven't seen the film in question, but if he's accurate in it's portrayal, I'd have to at least agree that the overwhelming majority of movie patrons wouldn't get it.
Old 04-12-03, 06:19 PM
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Originally posted by Grimmyhk
Narrative is, more than ever, a dead art form. There's little inventiveness left to tell stories, IMO. "Waiting for Godot" opened a new form of expression to us, and I personally am glad certain directors are creating something fresh and different without needing narrative arcs (for example, Claire Denis' wonderful "Friday Night"), rather than conforming to rules that dictate what works and what doesn't. I also am a big fan of literature, but understanding books has little bearing on how you understand films, or other artforms like dance and music.
To take the latter point first, I think that understanding the way literature works is quite helpful in approaching film. I'm not saying it gives a "understand everything" pass -- far from it -- but knowing how structure, form, symbolism, character, theme work in print does give a helpful start in seeing how those things work on the screen. One of the types of films that interests me a lot is adaptations of books, because it's always interesting to see how it's "translated" and how certain things work well in one medium and not in another.

It's interesting to compare, for instance, DVD Savant's reviews with my own - Savant is much more the film theorist, and I don't take that approach, and so we have often quite different ways of talking about a film, but I think we both get at interesting (if different) points. I think it's The Rocking Horse Winner that makes a good example of two different approaches to understanding a film - Savant reviews it from a film-theory point of view, and I review it more from a literature-adaptation point of view.

In terms of narrative - I would very much disagree with the idea that narrative is in any way "dead" or unnecessary. The more books I read, and the more films I watch, the more I am convinced of the human *need* for narrative. This need can be satisfied in a variety of ways, and it does get stale when it's always approached in the same way, which is why we need artists constantly inventing, re-inventing, and renewing approaches to narrative. I think it's the human need for narrative that's at the core of "anti-narrative" films - these are films that are shocking or interesting because they go against what we instinctively want, and thus force us to confront our need for structure and narrative. (Note: "narrative" isn't the same thing as "closure" or "happy ending." Narratives come in all forms.) But I think that while storytelling needs artists who are willing to challenge narrative, it's because those challenges keep our interest in narrative alive - not because narrative is going to someday be outdated.

Look at Homer's Odyssey, for instance - now there's an example of the utter enduring nature of narrative. The Odyssey is a marvelous piece of storytelling that has lasted over hundreds of years, and translation into a different language, and translation into different forms - from original oral poetry/song to written poetry, to prose versions, to filmed versions. It has not only been told and retold in its own form, but it has inspired adaptations of it, like Godard's Contempt and Joyce's Ulysses. All this from a work that is a fantastic narrative on a number of levels - the adventure story of Odysseus trying to return home, the story of Telemachus seeking his father, the story of Penelope struggling to retain her autonomy. All of these are literal narratives (some told beginning-to-end and some told in medias res, because structure and narrative aren't the same thing) that compel us to keep reading/listening/watching to see how they develop. They're also narratives on the thematic level: the development of character, the changing of character, as Odysseus goes through various changing experiences on his way home.

Narrative is alive and well, and the day that artists choose to reject it completely, rather than work with it, would be the day that art becomes sidelined to human interests.

Going back to Kiarostami's work, wendersfan makes an interesting point about his non-traditional approach. But to me, the attempt to deliberately have *no* technique is in itself a technique. There is no such thing as a "natural" film; even if a camera is left running randomly, someone chose where and when to run it, and made the choice to run it randomly.
Old 04-13-03, 12:19 AM
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Last month, after seeing The Son (Le Fils), I was looking at some reviews. I came across Ebert's four-star rave. He writes that the film's power could not come from "traditional narrative styles." He describes the Dardennes' approach: "Nor do they make any effort to explain. They simply (not so simply) show . . . "

I was surprised by his review, It made me think of his one-star Taste of Cherry review, where he seemed to be begging for traditional narrative signposts to lead his feelings: "If we're to feel sympathy for Badhi, wouldn't it help to know more about him? To know, in fact, anything at all about him?"

I don't know what this points to. But to me it seems he embraces the non-traditional only when he gets emotionally attached to a work, otherwise, he gets extremely alienated (see also his review of Dead Man, and In Praise of Love as well). Part of the risk when a filmmaker, or any other artist, leaves conventions behind is alienating his or her audience. But they're also striving for a new kind of emotional attachment not normally found. Now, it would be a disservice to Kiarostami and his extremely gentle approach to filmmaking to try and hammer his importance into Ebert's head. My suggestion would be for him to watch the beautiful Where is the Friend's House. If he can't enjoy that for what it is, then he's just being stubborn.

Now, as to his 10 review, which seems to just rehash what he had to say about Taste of Cherry, (no surprise, Ebert loves to restate himself) I was just annoyed at the inaccurate jabs he took to that film and The Wind Will Carry Us.

In regards to narrative, I would hardly call it dead. But cinema is relatively an infant art form. Narrative is only one aspect. The dominant aspect to be sure, but only a piece of the pie.

As for 10 itself, I thought it was a wonderful, wonderful film. I'm sorry I wasn't "deeply moved" though, just quietly awed.
Old 04-13-03, 12:32 AM
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Originally posted by ordway
Going back to Kiarostami's work, wendersfan makes an interesting point about his non-traditional approach. But to me, the attempt to deliberately have *no* technique is in itself a technique. There is no such thing as a "natural" film; even if a camera is left running randomly, someone chose where and when to run it, and made the choice to run it randomly.
I don't think Kiarostami wants to be invisible and "natural." I was reading a review of 10 that had mention of Taste of Cherry, saying in an interview that Kiarostami had wanted to rupture "what I don't like in cinema, which is the attempt to create the illusion of reality." And if you've seen Taste of Cherry, or The Wind Will Carry Us, or especially Close-Up, he communicates this exceptionally, with each film, on its own. And even in 10, he does this, though he downplays his involvement: "If anyone were to ask me what I did as a director on this film, I'd say 'Nothing and yet if I didn't exist, this film wouldn't have existed.'"
Old 04-13-03, 10:24 AM
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Originally posted by Terrell
[B]I'm no big Ebert fan, but I think that's ludicrous. Ebert knows as much about film and even art films, than any critic does, if not more. The man knows his stuff.
[B]
And exactly how do you prove that what I said is "ludicrous", and that "the man knows his stuff"?

Just go and read one of Amy Taubin's reviews, then read Roger Ebert's. You will quickly understand why he's below par.
Old 04-13-03, 10:42 AM
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Ordway - I have to say that we just have to agree to disagree. As I watch more and more films, it becomes more apparent to me that films that start to throw away the "narrative" aspect of filmmaking just plain interests me more. Some of the examples include:

Songs from the Second Floor
Why has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?
Friday Night
Satantango
In Praise of Love

And frankly, anyone who is into literature has their "specialties" - as well as their dislikes. For me, certain writers drive me nuts - Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Hardy being 2 perfect examples. I will never understand their appeal. My own concentration is in writers like Albert Camus and Franz Kafka. Greek literature was something I fancied when I was younger - I find it rather dull nowadays, to be truthful. Though I do have to say I like James Joyce (esp. The Dead).

But that is neither here nor there, because the art of visuals is very different from the art of reading words. Yes, there are plenty of allusions and symbolism in writing. But in film, it's not ther ein plain writing. Film is more akin to painting than literature - it's a *visual* and aural medium. As such, the words mean much, much less.

To me, people who dismiss works by Kiarostami and the new Godards are staunce fundamentalists - critics who are too blinded by their own limited sense of world-view to look beyond the borders for new insights. Heck, everyone started with the narratives. But why limit yourself?
Old 04-13-03, 01:08 PM
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Originally posted by badger1997
I agree with Ordway. To me if you say..."This film helps you understand this filmmaker more" then the filmmaker didn't do his job right in my opinion. A film should really be able to stand on its own merits. I should be able to walk into Ten or A Taste of Cherry or any other film by him and be able to appreciate based off just that film.
I disagree. If you are able to completely understand a film just walking in fresh, thats implying that you are not bringing anything to the experience. Maybe the typical Hollywood fare encourages this, but a true film shouldn't. Many artists' work only makes sense in the context of their body of work - I could cite many examples, but people like Van Gogh immediately come to mind.

That being said, Ebert has a lot of other good points about this film. Sometimes I think we fall all over ourselves to compliment filmmakers for being different and inventive even if the techniques they use really don't work. It's good to be willing to try different things, but I want it to work in the end and in my opinion most of the films i have seen by Kiarostami just don't work for me. I too find it hard to believe they would ever find a wide audience specifically because of that.
If the goal of the film-maker is to find the widest audience, sure. Which is really the wrong way to approach making art, but if you wanted to rake in the cash, sure. Of course if you're working in Farsi, you're already off to a bad start.
Old 04-14-03, 09:17 AM
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Originally posted by Grimmyhk
Ordway - I have to say that we just have to agree to disagree. As I watch more and more films, it becomes more apparent to me that films that start to throw away the "narrative" aspect of filmmaking just plain interests me more.
No disagreement there - it's completely valid that *you* personally find non-narrative filmmaking to be more satisfying. For me, the things that are most interesting are narratives that are handled in less conventional ways, like with different chronological organization or structure (Memento, Amores Perros) or films that subvert expectations while being true to the material.

I would never go so far as to say that non-narrative film is "not as good" as narrative film - I do say that it's likely to be unsatisfying to a lot of viewers, and that depending on how it is handled, I personally might or might not find it interesting.

To me, people who dismiss works by Kiarostami and the new Godards are staunce fundamentalists - critics who are too blinded by their own limited sense of world-view to look beyond the borders for new insights. Heck, everyone started with the narratives. But why limit yourself?
Well, here I think you're treading on thin ice. To use the word "dismiss" with regard to critics who didn't care for Kiarostami's work makes it sound like they don't have a right to not like his films. "Dismiss" implies "this isn't even worth discussing." I didn't dismiss The Wind Will Carry Us, and I don't think Ebert dismissed Ten; he clearly didn't like it and didn't find it successful at all, but that's not the same thing as dismissing it.

There is no need to set up an "us vs. them" view with regard to art. To say that the ones who don't appreciate Kiarostami, etc., are "fundamentalists blinded by their own limited sense of world-view"... that's being as derogatory toward *their* preferences in a way that you would protest if it were directed toward *your* preferences. (Even after editing that sentence, it's still a bit convoluted... eh.)

I, personally, appreciate narrative-based film more than non-narrative film... but I recognize the validity of a non-narrative approach. As a critic, if I see a film that doesn't appeal to me, I will certainly say so, and explain why, because a review is a personal response; I'm not saying that *you* ought to feel that way, just that *I* do (and why). I do try to point out ways in which the film is interesting, innovative, etc, even if the overall effect doesn't work for me.

In return, I appreciate it when those who appreciate a different style of film return the favor. I think it's perfectly reasonable for someone else to review a film with a totally different opinion - clearly, if it worked for that viewer, it worked for that viewer - but I resent being told that I "should" appreciate a particular film, and if I don't I'm some sort of uncultured yahoo. (Not saying that Grimmyhk had this attitude, just that I've seen it.)

MrN said:

If you are able to completely understand a film just walking in fresh, thats implying that you are not bringing anything to the experience. Maybe the typical Hollywood fare encourages this, but a true film shouldn't. Many artists' work only makes sense in the context of their body of work - I could cite many examples, but people like Van Gogh immediately come to mind.

I think it's true that you will sometimes appreciate a film *more* (or on more levels) if you see it in context. The best films reward viewers with material below the surface. With the "typical Hollywood fare," what you see is what you get - the first time. With a more nuanced film, you get a certain amount the first time (hopefully enough to stand as an enjoyable/interesting film by itself). After learning more about it, or on a second attentive viewing, more layers can be appreciated.

However, I think that a film that *relies* on the viewer having this context is weak in some areas. If you can't appreciate a film at all without knowing a lot about it, if it's *completely* inaccessible when seen fresh, that to me is a flaw.
Old 04-14-03, 11:02 AM
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I guess the key element is how much a viewer 'should' know and what you mean by 'completely inaccesssible.'

I mean, even if you show the most basic of films to an eskimo, it might be totally inaccessible. But, thats not the fault of the film-maker nor the viewer. The makers should have an idea of who their audience is and at the same time the viewer should know at the very least the name of the director of the film.

If a viewer doesn't know the name Kiorastrami (at this point in his career), then its unlikely he/she would seek out 'Ten.' This allows the film-maker to build on their oeuvre. If they don't, then they are effectively making the same film everytime.

As for the whole non-narrative/narrative debate, I think it is subjective and I have a feeling when someone says non-narrative, it is meant to include non-traditional-narrative. I can't imagine a film with absolutely no narrative. And these days I do prefer the non-traditional approach.
Old 04-14-03, 01:04 PM
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I just saw Ten.

My verdict: ****1/2. - Best film of the Festival (so far), and easily the best Kiarostami film I've seen.

Once again, Ebert's views mean nothing to me, as per usual.
Old 04-14-03, 01:46 PM
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The best you've seen!!!! Wow! What others have you seen? I'm sure it's good but I can't believe it's better than Close Up or Life and Nothing More.
Old 04-14-03, 02:11 PM
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Originally posted by Pants
The best you've seen!!!! Wow! What others have you seen? I'm sure it's good but I can't believe it's better than Close Up or Life and Nothing More.
I also think it's his best (or the best I've seen). I've seen Close-Up, but not Life and Nothing More.
Old 04-14-03, 08:55 PM
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Never saw Life and Nothing More, but I think it's better than Close-Up. I'll be writing a comprehensive review of "Ten" pretty soon on my website.

"Where is My Friend's Home?" and "And Life Goes On" will be playing this Sunday near me too - I'll try to catch them both.

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