Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Kiarostami at FSLC: Ten
your attention is divided, you say things you might not ordinarily—like say when
driving in heavy traffic. That is more
or less the premise underlying a deceptively simple film from Iranian auteur
Abbas Kiarostami. Through ten conversations
her various passengers, much is revealed about the state of the driver’s personal
relationships and well as Iranian society in Kiarostami’s Ten (clip
screens as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s retrospective series, A Close-Up of Abbas Kiarostami.
seems to have an affinity for interior car scenes. They factor in his two latest films, Certified Copy and Like Someone in Love, but for Ten
they are the whole enchilada. The
dashboard cam Kiarostami employs might suggest an Iranian Taxicab Confessions, but the driver is no cabbie (though at one
point she gives a lift to a prostitute).
She is a well educated working professional—a fact her bratty son is
none too thrilled about.
the course of several conversations with the entitled young Amin and her
sister, we learn the driver divorced her first husband and remarried. Given the legal status of women, her only
recourse was to allege either adultery or drug addiction. She did the latter and it evidently stuck,
but her ex clearly uses it to stoke their son’s resentment.
driver’s further conversations hint at boorish male behavior enabled by a
rigidly patriarchal society. While she
cautions one recently dumped friend against her apparently excessive co-dependency,
she has sympathy for one more traditional woman spurned by the man she assumed
she would wed. Arguably, these are the
strongest sequences in the film, bringing socially and temperamentally different
women together on common ground.
Regardless, it seems safe to assume the driver and most of her passengers
would not otherwise wear the headscarves they continually fan and fiddle with
on a hot summer day, if they had a real choice in the matter.
Ten implies much
with great economy. While the audience
does not know the driver’s full story, everyone should have a very good idea of
where she is in life by the end of the film.
Kiarostami is cautious but not unsympathetic in the manner he portrays a
less than slavishly devout modern woman in contemporary Iran. It is not a Panahi film, but it has its
being heard rather than seen for a good portion of each segment, actress-director
Mania Akbari is quite good at multi-tasking, staying in character and
facilitating each conversation while navigating the chaotic streets of
Tehran. She really makes you feel a
mother’s frustration in her scenes with the petulant Amin, but also expresses
heart-felt compassion for the jilted woman she twice drives to a local shrine.
sheer volume of minimalist indie mumblecore released over the last decade
somewhat lessens the effect of Ten’s stylistic
austerity. However, Kiarostami’s film
actually has something to say, albeit obliquely. Indeed, watching it develop is still rather
fascinating. Recommended to those with
an interest in either Iranian or feminist cinema, Ten screens tomorrow night (2/15) at the Walter Reade Theater, as
part of A Close-Up of Abbas Kiarostami.
Labels: Abbas Kiarostami, Iranian Cinema