Cannes Film Festival Remembers Kiarostami, Screens His Last Movie

Abbas Kiarostami, the celebrated Iranian filmmaker who passed away in July 2016, was a Cannes Film Festival regular. Not only did he win the Palme d’Or in 1997 for “The Taste of Cherry,” but he was repeatedly in the competition for the top prize, and served several times on the festival jury.

As a tribute to the late, great filmmaker, this year’s Cannes Film Festival (which ended last weekend) screened his last film: “24 Frames,” a suite of 24 four-and-a-half-minute segments, all composed of Mr. Kiarostami’s predominantly black-and-white still photographs.

These photographs (examples above) are shown one after the other, and (as in the days before the moving image) progressively depict some form of action or movement. The subjects are mostly animals – goats, cows, deer, lions, birds – and winter landscapes. “24 Frames” is Mr. Kiarostami’s final, poetic contribution to the world of cinema.

“This film is where his photography, films and poetry all intersect,” said Mr. Kiarostami’s son Ahmad in an interview published on the Cannes Film Festival web site. “I see it like a poetry book that you can open whenever you want, to any page you want, and just read one or two pages.”

Ahmad Kiarostami said that getting the film ready for Cannes had been “a heavy load on my shoulders. The movie is not mine. I’ve been working on post-production for the past five months. We had to make some changes, but always while trying to put our own views aside; we had to guess how my father would have thought about this.”

Asked what it was like attending the festival when his father had a film in competition, Ahmad Kiarostami said, “My father always had a tough time at the screenings. He always got nervous when somebody walked out, even to go to the restroom, or if they didn’t laugh loud enough.”

Kiarostami’s final movie received positive and sometimes even glowing reviews from the critics at Cannes.

The Guardian described the film as “gorgeous and enigmatic,” and added, “Watching it is akin to opening a series of nesting dolls, or leafing through a book of dreams.”
“Kiarostami has gone, but the work lives on,” the Guardian concluded. “His unconscious, I think has infected us all.”

Variety’s reviewer described the film’s final segment as “a stunning and majestic Kiarostami statement about love, cinema, death, technology, censorship and the 21st century.”
“It is moving, it is cosmic, it is sublime,” Variety added. “The rest of ’24 Frames’ doesn’t soar on that level, but it builds up to it, and it’s worth sitting through the entire movie to get there.”