Standing apart from celebrated Iranian ideals of war and martyrdom, revolutionary filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami was known as a man who praised life and celebrated it in all his works. Creating films for more than 40 years during times of unending war and political turmoil, Kiarostami promoted the Sufi tradition of seeing God as part of nature and the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian ideal of environmental protection.Kiarostami’s self-image as a citizen of the world, his renunciation of war, and his concern for the future of nature cement his importance within the art form of poetic cinema. Addressing Kiarostami’s illumination of humanity’s self-destructive tendencies, author Julian Rice presents a detailed analysis of twelve individual films, from Homework (1989) to Like Someone in Love (2012). Departing from concerns of spectatorship or film in general, Rice’s book portrays the human and spiritual core of Kiarostami. Connected to all other humans and to the earth we all inhabit, Kiarostami’s vision remains a powerful message for film scholars and peaceful people everywhere.
Kiarostami (1940–2016) was one of the world’s greatest filmmakers: a total original, a “mystic poet” of the cinema, he braved the disapproval of the Iranian authorities to create some of the greatest films ever made—Where Is the Friend’s House (1987), Taste of Cherry (1997), Ten (2002), and Close-Up (1990), just to name this reviewer's personal favorites. Rice’s book does justice to Kiarostami's greatness. Rice’s film-by-film analyses clearly delineate Kiarostami’s influences—Zoroastrianism, Sufism, Shia, poets like Omar Khayyam, Rumi, and Sohrab Sepehri. Rice (Florida Atlantic Univ.) pinpoints such recurring images as zigzag paths, solitary trees, and solitary figures in an empty landscape, and describes the director's filming techniques—long stationary shots, alternating long and close shots, shots from within moving cars, use of non-actors. Most important, Rice analyzes Kiarostami’s themes—light versus dark, country versus city, poor versus rich, greed versus selflessness, life versus death. Rice makes clear that all of Kiarostami's films reveal his conviction that life is made of journeys, the goals of which do not matter. What does matter to Kiarostami is the zigzag journey itself and how it takes his characters toward spiritual awakenings. Rice’s eloquent book impels one to seek out or revisit all of the films. Highly Recommended.