Ozu had a deft touch when it came to directing children. It would therefore make perfect sense the auteur’s
work has deep resonance for Iranian filmmakers.
Yet, it was the Japanese master’s so-called “pillow shots,” brief but
peaceful still life transition images, that inspired Abbas Kiarostami’s tribute
Five Dedicated to Ozu (clip here), which screens as
part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s latest retrospective, A Close-Up of Abbas Kiarostami.
known as Five Long Takes Dedicated to
Yasujiro Ozu (or simply Five),
Kiarostami’s homage deliberately eschews narrative and characterization in
favor of pure composition. Having premiered
as a museum installation, it is best considered as part of that experimental
genre. Nonetheless, for admirers of
Kiarostami and his protégé Jafar Panahi, it carries additional significance as
the film the former shot while they were co-writing Panahi’s politically
charged Crimson Gold.
five long takes show the Caspian Sea, almost entirely from a fixed vantage
point. In the first scene, we watch the
tide drag a piece of driftwood back and forth, for a lulling effect. The following boardwalk scene also features
repetitive motion as indistinct pedestrians walk through the camera’s field of
vision. However, viewers might wonder at
various times if perhaps Panahi has just made his reported cameo. While one would think there is nothing
conceivably objectionable in Five,
the many uncovered female heads in this scene would most likely be problematic
in Kiarostami’s native Iran. Of course,
the pace and meditative vibe of Five provides
plenty of time for the audience to wonder about such matters.
the third take features dogs—unclean animals according to the ruling mullahs—Five probably has two strikes going
against it. Presenting the frolicking
canines as tiny figures on the horizon, it might be Kiarostami’s most
interestingly framed shot, closely resembling an ECM album cover.
kids who love ducks, Five might just
be worth having for the fourth take of duckies waddling across the beach. Without question, they are the most
entertaining part of the film. For the
concluding fifth take, it is frogs that are heard but not seen, as the moon
rises and glimmers over the dark sea.
most Ozu fans watch Five, their
thoughts will probably wander to what those great films really mean to
them. As pleasant as they might be, his
work is not beloved for the pillow shots Kiarostami has so greatly expanded
here. It is the exquisite dignity of
Chishu Ryu’s many father figures, Keiko Kishi’s endearing sexuality in Early Spring, and most of all the
legendary work of Setsuko Hara. To see
her in the “Noriko” films is to fall head-over-heels madly in love with her. It is precisely that humanity that is missing
Regardless, Kiarostami most likely accomplishes
what he set out to do with Five, so
here it is. At least it presents an
opportunity for viewers to reflect on their respect and affection for the films
of Ozu and Panahi, which is something.
Recommended primarily for patrons of the non-narrative avant-garde, Five Dedicated to Ozu screens this
Thursday (2/14) at the Walter Reade Theater, as does recent masterwork, the
highly recommended Certified Copy starring
the incomparable Juliette Binoche, as part of the Close-Up on Abbas Kiarostami career retrospective.
Labels: Abbas Kiarostami, Experimental Film, Jafar Panahi, Yasujiro Ozu