Abbas Kiarostami: A Report: Montreal Review



Admiring doc may interest fans but is a poor point of entry for newcomers.

The auteur's first film is the focus of a doc that touches on later work, as well.

MONTREAL — Viewing a world cinema great's career through the production of a film he himself says he doesn't like to recommend to people, Bahman Maghsoudlou's Abbas Kiarostami: A Report feels like the first bits of research for a mammoth, career-spanning survey that have been hastily repackaged to stand alone. Kiarostami's most serious admirers will appreciate its insights into the challenges faced on his first feature-length production, but the doc's appeal isn't broad enough to carry it beyond fests and specialized educational bookings.

Maghsoudlou, who cites the late Andrew Sarris as a mentor, enlists that critic and New York cineastes like Godfrey Cheshire and Richard Pena to speak about Kiarostami's aesthetic. The interviews are predictably insightful but appear to have been shot quite some time ago; less useful is a shapeless assemblage of footage shot at a Cannes award ceremony and similar celebratory events.

The meat of the film contains interviews with the principals who made 1977's The Report, a project so ambitious -- it was much longer than its predecessors, it employed rare-in-Iran sync sound technology -- that the director recalls insisting on an overly strict adherence to the script he had written. Interviews with the film's DP and sound designer are upstaged a bit by its stars, Kurosh Afsharpanah and Shohreh Aghdashloo. All speak with more admiration for the project than its present-day reputation suggests, but only occasionally does a comment get at something memorable: On the subject of sync-sound versus post-production dubbing, we're told that only live recording can capture "the sweetness of a sugar cube in the mouth" of a character drinking tea.

The film enjoyed a popular theatrical run in the months before the Iranian Revolution, and one of its virtues now is the view it affords Westerners of that time. Maghsoudlou follows a discussion of its impact with a quick blaze through the films that followed, offering brainy praise of the later work -- Pena speaks of "the difference between the space of the screen and the space around the screen...made alive and dramatic" -- without often finding ways to illustrate what those comments actually mean.

Production Company: International Film & Video Center

Director-Screenwriter-Producer: Bahman Maghsoudlou

Directors of photography: Mohammad Abdi, Jean-Francois Chevalie, Kambis Kooshan, Bahram Molaie, Bahman Maghsoudlou, Seifollah Samadian

Editor: Abbas Ahmadi Motlagh, Ghassem Ebrahimian, Lillie Zuck

No rating, 82 minutes