Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami’s distinct movie making style is minimalist, and frankly, an acquired taste. Although he is Iran’s most celebrated auteur, his cinematic style is completely different from directors like Majid Majidi (Children of Heaven) or even Bahman Ghobadi (Turtles can Fly) who assisted him in “The Wind Will Carry Us”. His films tend to focus more on everyday life, against the backdrop of the Iranian landscape with light general themes involving family and society. The poetically titled “Taste of Cherry” is essentially a snapshot of one man's life, without the bells and whistles of conventional cinema. Those looking for a strong narrative will be disappointed, but give it a chance if only to see how unique Kiarostami’s films are.
The story begins with Badii (Homayoun Ershadi) driving near the outskirts of Tehran and asking strangers to help him in exchange for money. Expectedly, most ignore his proposition but a few decide to hear him out. We soon learn that Badii wants to commit suicide. The helper’s assistance would be required only in the aftermath of the act, and not in the commission of the suicide itself. It is never revealed why Badii is intent on killing himself. Some of the strangers try to talk him out of it. When told suicide is a sin against Islamic teachings, he replies simply: “So is unhappiness.” The title references his conversation with an old man, who astonished by the request attempts to explain the gift of living, asking Badii whether he is really prepared to give up the taste of cherries for a few problems.
As in most of his films the dialogue seems unscripted and is often repeated by the speaker. It’s an unusual film one never forgets, even though it doesn’t necessarily leave a strong impression while watching it. With the exception of “Certified Copy”, which didn’t feel like a typical “Kiarostami” this is perhaps his most accessible film. As the film unfolds, the audience will find themselves lost in thought about their own lives. This is where the film really succeeds because it doesn’t hinge on whether Badii lives or dies, but rather what the viewer makes of it. This point is reinforced in the end when Kiarostami reminds us in almost Brechtian like fashion that this is just a film.
Score: 4 / 5
Photo credit: http://photos.lucywho.com/taste-of-cherry-photo-gallery-c17489895.html
This review was first published on http://mumbaiboss.com/2010/05/14/taste-of-cherry-on-utv-world-movies/