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Wednesday, April 25, 2001

The Wind Will Carry Us

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2001 at 12:00 AM

Given the premise that the crux of meaning in any of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s films is forged in the subjective interpretation of the viewer, I can assert with confidence that this is the enigmatic auteur’s first flat-out comedy.

Like its predecessors (A Taste of Cherry, And Life Goes On et al) it tells a wispy story, rich with observational detail, lavish landscapes and the gently disorientating sight of a man in a car conducting conversations sans the usual cross-cutting between speakers. In fact, in Wind, Kiarostami’s penchant for keeping some of his film’s participants permanently off-camera escalates to the point where what once seemed vaguely mystical now seems like a self-referential joke.

Since Kiarostami parcels out his plot with parsimonious calm, any two coherent sentences one may use to describe it are bound to be misleading. Ostensibly, this is the story of a fish out of water, a modern man who arrives in a remote Kurdistan village on an unknown mission. Arriving with a crew (heard but never seen), he may or may not be an engineer, though that doesn’t explain why he’s surreptitiously waiting for an elderly local woman (also never seen) to die. He’s obviously taken with the quaintness of the kindly villagers and their complex honeycomb dwellings. He’s also driven to distraction because every time his cell phone rings he has to jump into his car and drive to higher ground in order to hear his caller (Kiarostami’s first running gag?). And after each hilltop phone call is completed, he has a droll, Godot-like conversation with a man (unseen) who is supposedly digging a well (on a hill?).

As usual with Kiarostami, the accumulated languidity reaches something close to a state of grace. The director has been welcomed by some in the West as an Eastern practitioner of transcendental cinema a la Bresson, Antonioni, Ozu — the heavy gazers of the art-house canon — but while he shares their poetic tendency, he seems to have his own Iran-specific mix of gravitas and whimsy.

And while a portion of his intention will probably always be opaque, his elevating spirit becomes a little clearer with each film.

Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward, Detroit), Monday at 7:30 p.m. Call 313-833-3237.

Richard C. Walls writes about the arts for Metro Times. E-mail him at letters@metrotimes.com.

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