TASTE OF CHERRY
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Palm d’Or, 1997 Cannes Film Festival
For decades, photographer, poet, and filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami breathed wonder into those daunting divisions between life and death, reality and illusion. On film, his journeys opened up portals of vision that collapsed the everyday and the metaphysical, and helped audiences around the world see beyond the finitudes of life as they are usually handed to us – by religion, nation, work, or the media. Kiarostami passed away on July 4, 2016, and the void he leaves in contemporary art is felt with a special poignancy. The director who once reflected on the meaning of “life and nothing more” has devotees asking what that more could have been. Kiarostami has often suggested that in excess of the boundaries of life might be art itself. So why not film?
We celebrate the work of Abbas Kiarostami with a special screening of his most famous film, TASTE OF CHERRY, a film that, perhaps better than any ever made, extends a hand across the line between life and death to invite empathy and reframe perspectives. As in many of Kiarostami’s films, the plot is simple. Mr. Badii drives around Tehran looking out his window for a stranger to help him with his suicide. He picks up several prospects, who respond with confusion, disappointment, fear, or concern. Some impart wisdom. Some are quick to escape. The parade of neighbors – laborers, soldiers, a seminarist, a taxidermist – represent a parade of personalities and philosophies that re-contextualize the idea of living and that reveal in simple words and gestures the deepest reflections of humanity on the eve of death.
Mr. Badii and his morbid proposal are never merely a dark cloud over the community. He is a harbinger of life at its most intensely felt. So Kiarostami lets the birds chirp in the background, and designs TASTE OF CHERRY as a visual game, where a mountain road, its trees and its inhabitants, become familiar signposts of an unexpected home. The repetitions string along the film’s succession of encounters, creating a cinematic structure to contain Kiarostami’s proliferating passion for humanity and the dimensions of its wills, from wanting to take care of family, to merely wanting to disappear into the earth. And then Kiarostami plays his most triumphant card of all, a coda that reorients sightlines yet again to include Kiarostami himself, calmly on a hill, dreaming up something bigger than life and death altogether. What better way to remember Kiarostami today. –Brian Hu
Writer: Abbas Kiarostami
Starring: Homayoun Ershadi, Abdolrahman Bagheri