September 24, 2004

10 on Ten / Five

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

The two new documentaries from Iranian visionary Abbas Kiarostami are worthwhile for his loyal fans and daunting for the uninitiated.

In 10 on Ten, he revisits his triumphant 2002 drama Ten and lectures on his cinematic method. Following the same template, he navigates around Tehran in his car and discusses various aspects of filmmaking during the 10 segments. While informative and absorbing, the film requires viewers’ prior knowledge of Ten. A pair of sunglasses largely conceals Kiarostami’s facial expressions, and the unwarranted English dubbing here further eclipses any signs of his animated zeal. Since the film’s visuals are mostly futile, the director’s insights probably better serve as a commentary alongside Ten on DVD.

On the 100th anniversary of Yasujiro Ozu’s birth, Kiarostami pays tribute to the late Japanese master with Five. Kiarostami trades his signature winding dirt roads for the beach, and sets up five Ozu-esque long takes to survey driftwood, people, dogs, ducks, waves and ripples. Some will find this exercise excruciating, as the entire screen is nearly pitch black for over 20 minutes during one segment. But the film’s wonderfully studied details will reward the kind of patient and observant viewers who find amusement staring into a fish tank.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2004 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.