Movie Review By Andrea Chase
There are so few Iranian films distributed here in the U.S. that any making it to our shores deserves to be celebrated, if only to encourage the powers that be to bring in more and more of them. It is a sad fact that, though, that of these films, the finest are relegated to one or two showings at film festivals and other lesser lights are the ones that make it to the multiplexes. Such is the case with "Taste of Cherry," winner of the palme d'or at Cannes for reasons I cannot begin to fathom.
The premise is this. A man of means looks for someone to assist him in what may or may not be a serious attempt at suicide. The assistance consists of checking to see if an overdose of sleeping pills has done the job, and if so, burying the corpse. He interviews three prospects each of whom react in ways suitable to their circumstances - a young soldier conscripted off his farm, a seminary student working a summer job, and an elderly man with troubles of his own. As an aside, all three candidates come from minority ethnic groups within Iran - Afghani, Kurd, and Turkish, allowing "Taste of Cherry" to offer a glimpse of what life for minorities is like there.
As is common in Iranian films, professional actors are cleverly mixed with typecast, non-professionals. A laborer plays a laborer, for example. It's a wonderful device used by, among others, Roberto Rosellini 50 years ago in "Stromboli," that's never caught on the way it should have here. There's also a refreshing directness and a love of storytelling that is unsullied by the "Hollywood" formula and comes through even in the face of this film's particular failings.
Here's the downside to "Taste of Cherry." Most of it takes place in a range rover driving endlessly through terrain that is singularly uninspiring. It relies on static shots and no perceptible pacing to tell a story that adequately fills thirty minutes, not the ninety-eight allotted to it. It's a numbing way to tell a story about the intrinsic beauty of life.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 5/6/98
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