The most recent issue of the delightfully ad hoc monthly periodical The Believer is packed with essays, reviews, etc… related to cinema. They typically offer a few full length items from their issues online. This month:
Perhaps the question I should have been asking was this: What does it mean that Americans and Iranians make such different things of each other’s cinemas? I returned to Tehran last winter to try to make more sense of these cultural readings and misreadings, and in particular to try to better understand the debate in Iran over Iranian directors like Abbas Kiarostami, lionized in the US but not generally admired in Iran. Kiarostami, the director of Taste of Cherry (1997), The Wind Will Carry Us (1999), and Ten (2002), is the reason that Iranian cinema is currently upheld—by critics in France and America and elsewhere around the world—as the greatest since the French New Wave brought us Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Jean-Pierre Melville, and Eric Rohmer.
And yet, to many people within his own country, Kiarostami, as one Iranian film critic said to me, is considered “a crime against the cinema of the world.”
Did you see that last sentence? More:
Makhmalbaf was one of several important Iranian directors who made public statements in support of the protesters: other important directors such as Jafar Panahi, Asghar Farhadi, and Bahman Ghobadi did so as well. The latter did so from inside Iran, which Mahmoud rightly saw as yet more daring—the critique from within always has more force for Iranians wary of outsiders’ frequently tone-deaf calls for Iranian “liberation.” (Makhmalbaf moved to Paris in 2005 after the first election of Ahmadinejad; Panahi was arrested in Tehran in July and had his passport revoked this past October.)
I ask Mahmoud what people are saying about Kiarostami. “Kiarostami is not in Iran right now. He is making a new film in Italy,” he replies. “If you want to know how people think of him see the latest poll in my blog. His films are absent from the top ten films.”
Mahmoud writes back a few days later to say: “Kiarostami now is flirting with Miss Juliette Binoche in the countrysides of Italy and making love stories among the poetic landscapes!”
Among other things in this issue, The Apocalypse Will Be Televised, Unproduced Screenplays by Famous Intellectuals, and an interview with Harmony Korine with what appears to be his typical “Things that are awkward. I just never really cared about perfect sense. I like perfect nonsense” shtick.