Abbas Kiarostami's Five (Iran-Fra-Jap / 2003)

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Abbas Kiarostami's Five (Iran-Fra-Jap / 2003)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Mar 27, 2007 6:26 am

*A 2007 U.S. Release*

***possible spoilers***

Described by Abbas Kiarostami as an experimental work which coalesces elements of poetry, photography and cinema, Five (aka Five Dedicated to Ozu), one of his latest efforts, is comprised of five sublime and poetic shots of nature. The Ozu-like low-angle long shots are primarily single and stationary.

The surprisingly tense opening one observes a piece of driftwood on the beach which, as Kiarostami has contemplated, feels lonely and now wants to return to where it came from. The waves do their best to fulfill its desire, eventually taking a part of it with them. Kiarostamis single take benefits from a fortuitous occurrence as the lost piece of wood reappears on the screen for a few seconds near the end of the segment before being engulfed by the roiling ocean. This reminded me a little of one of Tsais slow pans in What Time is it There? (2001), which became enriched from the happenstance of an aquarium fish eating the cockroach at exactly the right moment in time. Needless to say, both filmmakers wouldnt have had it any other way.

The stationary second and the fourth shots are somewhat similar: the former features people passing by on a seafront boardwalk; the latter has a large group of ducks tottering alongside the beach, first in one direction and in then the other (Kiarostami wants us to focus on the individual traits of the ducks). The third, however, harks back to what the filmmaker has stated on numerous occasions regarding the role of the director. According to him, he simply planned on capturing the sunrise with this take, but eventually ended up with something quite extraordinary. After setting up his camera, Kiarostami fell asleep, later discovering that a family of dogs is firmly in view near the shore, and is behaving in a unique fashion. The image ultimately gets consumed by the brightening light.

Arguably the most remarkable and ambitious is the final "take" which has the filmmaker pointing his camera on a pond at night with the moon reflecting in it through the clouds. In order to precisely capture what he wanted, Kiarostami visited the location for several months and took nearly two dozen shots, which were later blended seamlessly. The nature-related sounds heard during this segment were also processed during post-production, but that doesnt diminish his accomplishment (though Kiarostami himself might disagree with that). The eerie, perpetual darkness, not to mention the questions regarding the nature of perceived reality, will remind some viewers of his 1997 masterpiece, Taste of Cherry.

This economical, contemplative effort was conceived and produced on the Northern Iranian shores of the Caspian sea while the Iranian master was scripting Crimson Gold (2003) for his good friend and colleague Jafar Panahi. Much like a few of the other films Kiarostami has made this decade -- ABC Africa (2001), Ten (2002), 10 on Ten (2004) -- Five was shot on DV. As you mightve inferred by now, it doesnt have a traditional literary narrative, but Kiarostami wants the viewers to cooperate in order to mine the abstract and arbitrary one which could exist (each shot does contain a progressive element). And If that means dozing off during the film, then so be it.

Grade: N/A

*FIVE was part of the full-scale Kiarostami retrospective which took place at The Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in NYC. The retro is scheduled to travel to other important N. American cities and venues.

*FIVE was also shown as a media installation -- "projected in a continuous and synchronized loop onto five separate partitions dividing the gallery space, with the audio component of each screen blending slightly together." Kiarostami approves a non-theatrical/non-home video screening of the film only if it's shown exactly the way described above.

*The film played at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival (out-of-competition). A few sources, including MoMA's catalogue, indicate that this was the film's world premiere. Others mark it as a 2003 one.

*It will be available on DVD in the U.S. on July 24th (Kino International). About Five (2005), a nearly hour-long making-of-featurette, is scheduled to be included as an extra. The French DVD from MK2 has already been released with the same content.
[Edit]DVD info

Re: Abbas Kiarostami's Five (Iran-Fra-Jap / 2003)

Postby A » Tue Jun 12, 2007 3:52 pm

At the time this film was shown at Cannes i was very curious about it. I remember it got some negative press (don't know if I should call them reviews...), and that Kiarostami was loosing it. What a presumptuous statement. Even if one doen's like his last couple of films, imo this is like saying Kubrick or Tarkovski had lost it during their careers

The way you describe the film, it sounds very intriguing and I'm glad it got released on DVD, as I wouldn't have thought this possible. Usually anything that tends to be avant-garde or experimental is neglected.
Thanks for giving it proper attention arsaib.

Did you see it as part of the retrospective or do you own the French DVD?

Re: Abbas Kiarostami's Five (Iran-Fra-Jap / 2003)

Postby arsaib4 » Tue Jun 12, 2007 9:49 pm

Yes, you're right, the less-than-insightful reviews from Cannes weren't very supportive. Five is the kind of work which willfully gets compared to Snow's seminal Wavelength, and when it doesn't quite measure up, it is thrown aside for being pretentious.

Thanks for your comments. I'm glad that the film is being released in the U.S. I initially watched it at the retro, but after being informed that it only truly comes into perspective if seen alongside About Five I decided to borrow the French DVD from a friend as well, and that certainly helped. I hope you get the chance to watch it in the near future.

Re: Abbas Kiarostami's Five (Iran-Fra-Jap / 2003)

Postby A » Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:03 pm

Yes, I'd like to see it soon (if my wallet alows it ). You watched the documentary About Five?
Does Kiarostami explain the reason why he filmed certein things, how he came up with the ideas, etc.
It's good if you think it helps the understanding of the movie. Usually such supplements get thrown in and aren't very useful.

Re: Abbas Kiarostami's Five (Iran-Fra-Jap / 2003)

Postby arsaib4 » Thu Jun 14, 2007 10:44 pm

Yes, About Five is a very relaxed, self-reflexive work. An experimental effort like Five certainly benefits from it. During the documentary, Kiarostami also answers a few pertinent questions posed earlier to him by Geoff Andrew. I've already instituted some of the answers in my post. The Iranian master certainly appreciates the simplicity of Ozu's mise-en-scne.

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