Apparently not the best starting point for Katy on Kiarostami’s cinema. She thought it was too simple and repetitive, didn’t see how a realist sketch like this could be considered a film masterpiece. I tried to bring up the italian neorealists and put this movie in context of other late-80’s movies and point out that a simple & straightforward foreign movie will often appeal to americans who like to think of foreigners as simple and straightforward. That’s an extremely unsatisfying thread of an argument, especially since this “simple” film has been championed by Jonathan Rosenbaum and ranked in his top 100 ever, but I don’t know what to tell her since I didn’t see the masterpiece here either. At least I liked the movie, but I’d say the next two in the trilogy (Life and Nothing More / Through the Olive Trees) or the trilogy as a whole may be a masterpiece, not this one by itself.
The setup: Nematzadeh has been warned three times to write his homework in his book, and not on scraps of paper – next time he will be expelled. Ahmed takes Nematzadeh’s book home by mistake and wants desperately to return it. Defying his mom (who completely does not listen) and grandfather (who chats to a neighbor about discipline, saying kids need to be beaten without cause), Ahmed goes off to a neighboring town, asks around, and looks for his friend. Ultimately unsuccessful, he goes home and does the homework twice in both books, sneaking Nematzadeh’s book back in time to avoid punishment. Besides the grandfather bit, there’s another slowdown sidetrack with an elderly man who leads Ahmed to the wrong house while bemoaning that the townsfolk are replacing the wooden doors he made them forty years ago with new iron ones. I think the grandfather/disciple and old man/wood doors bits come together into some grand meaningful theme with the accidentally stolen book, but I don’t know what that would be, exactly, so it just struck me as a cute happy movie with slow bits, recalling the short Two Solutions To One Problem. Maybe the still-in-print book on Kiarostami co-authored by Jonathan Rosenbaum would help me figure it out. Wow, it’s under $14 at amazon, and me with a birthday next week…
Site of the schoolbook mixup… Ahmed helps, while Nematzadeh checks the camera:
Ahmed explains the situation:
Ahmed listens patiently to his elders:
Kiarostami’s signature shot: