Taste of Cherry (Ta’m e guilass)

Taste of Cherry

It’s not because you don’t understand, but you can’t feel what I feel.

After taking care of Jafar Panahi’s lone entry on the list, it seemed only fitting to follow him up with his mentor and former boss, the great Abbas Kiarostami. Taste of Cherry is my first Kiarostami film, and I have still yet to see if it was a good one to start off on, mostly because the film was so impartial to everything that happened. It was filled with a various smattering of moments, most apparently inconsequential to the main plot of the film, but they were there nonetheless. It sure felt like Kiarostami’s style, but I have yet to see any other films by him, so I hesitate to call it as such. It was very neorealist, and for once that didn’t come across as a bad thing for me. Must be something about more modern neorealism that I can be more forgiving towards.

The film starts out by cutting in medias res to the main character driving his car around, looking for someone. We know nothing, and slowly the film feeds us bits and pieces of information as we go along. The man’s name is Badii, and as it turns out, he is a suicidal man; he is driving around looking for someone to fill in the earth on his grave after he has killed himself. I can see Kiarostami’s influence on Panahi, and on The White Balloon; the two films are cut from the same mold. Both start out in the middle of the action, if it can liberally be called so, dole out pieces of info here and there, and are largely based on a single event that breaks down into smaller parts, or attempts, of the event. Kiarostami opts for a hyper-realistic style, framed with a very cinematic eye behind the camera. The film looks like a film, but feels like an actual day in this man’s life; we follow him as he goes about his peculiar business, but we never intrude or break that special barrier that keeps us squarely in the viewer’s seat (at least, not until after the end). I mentioned before that the film is pretty much just a collection of superficial moments, only some of which relate to Badii and his search, but all of which I was able to find something to like about; it was quaint, and tranquil, almost like a child observing each motion of the world with wonder. It’s edited together very smoothly and succinctly; each shot in the film leads into the next very nicely, and it was a form of artistry I had gotten used to not seeing in the films I’ve watched as of late.

The only thing I was unsure about was the end, or rather the post-script. After the film proper ends, it then goes into some unrelated footage taken during the shooting of the film, almost like a behind-the-scenes featurette. I wasn’t sure why this was there; one critical review of the film I read likened it to the French New Wave in that it was there to remind you that you’ve been watching a movie, but that didn’t seem necessary in my eyes. The film works well enough without this reminder, if indeed that was the intention, and I took a lot out of it even knowing that it was a film. That aside, this will definitely end up on my potential list of really good mental health advocacy films; there’s a conversation between Badii and a man about the nature of suicide, and why people either do or don’t do it, and it was probably the highlight of the film for me.

I probably wouldn’t have liked this nearly as much if I hadn’t done a little research on it beforehand; if I hadn’t prepared myself for what the film had to offer instead of going in blindly and coming out the other end stymied. It’s to that end that I revealed in the previous paragraph Badii’s name and intentions, before you’ve seen the film (if you haven’t already); it clears some of the initial confusion, since the film takes a little while to reveal these things, and the moviegoer of today is a rather impatient one, to put it nicely. It also does very little to ruin the experience, so no need to get mad at me for not throwing up a spoiler alert for that; you can still easily enjoy this film knowing what it’s about, as there are still plenty of questions the film asks (and quite a few which it deliberately leaves unanswered). However, all that I’ve said aside, this is a hard one to recommend, just because it’s pretty much a series of negligible incidents, without much actually happening; I’m afraid too many people who’d watch this would find it not just boring, but insultingly so, because nothing really happens throughout the running time. I probably would’ve been one of these people had I not done a little preparation for the experience, so this is me hopefully doing the same for you; if you’re still interested, give this a try. It did win the Palme d’Or, but then again, so did Secrets & Lies, so your mileage will really vary with this one.

Arbitrary Rating: 7/10

P.S. New longest post right here.

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