Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Wind Will Carry Us

(Abbas Kiarostami, Iran/France, 1999)

Another bracing dose of Abbas Kiarostami's subtle, transcendent, and slyly comedic humanism.  As always, there is an impish side to Kiarostami; his trademark of epistemological uncertainty that is at least partially for laughs, a joyful concession to the beguiling confusion of existence. All you can say for sure is that there's something funny going on - both inside and outside of the frame.  Gradually, however, the picture resolves.  That's the way of Kiarostami's fundamentally poetic approach to cinema.  An image, a character, an object - sometimes all three at once - is introduced, and then shifted slightly, repeated, echoed, as the theme develops. The Wind Will Carry Us, like pretty much every Kiartostami film I've seen, seems to be about nothing short of life itself.  He's one of the very few directors that pulls this off with apparent effortlessness; nobody does the universal in the particular like Kiarostami.  The quiet strangeness of life, the limpid beauty of nature, the awkward and quaint behavior of human beings are all regarded with a wise, curious eye.

More specifically, The Wind Will Carry Us concerns the old theme of urban versus rural culture.  Much of the humor comes from the awkwardness of the main character and his cell phone, and the mutual bemusement of the documentary crew and the local villagers.  Among Kiarostami's great skills is rhythm, and much is revealed in the contrast between modern, urban rhythm and that of the rural community, which is shown by Kiarostami as being more attuned to nature.  Among the rhythms is the act of reproduction and the human desire that precedes it, which must be kept hidden due to the cultural strictures of the remote town and the realities of censorship in modern Iran.  Sex and death might be the essential dialectic of Kiarostami's work, but there are other factors at work in the foreground that, at least to my eyes, are just as important, if not more so.  If the big, heavy themes loom in the background, we should be careful not to miss what's closer at hand, if far less imposing: the daily rituals of a life lived slowly, the little eddies of emotion generated by misunderstanding and mood, the small graces and tenderness born of compassion and affection. 

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