Wednesday, October 18, 2006
My third foray into Iranian cinema was the best yet. The protagonist of A Taste of Cherry drives around a desolate desert community looking for someone to do a well-paying menial job. Despite the region's terrible poverty, nobody seems willing to work for Mr. Baddi. Wind-blown dust covers everything, and heavy machinery and mining equipment move tons of earth all around him, compounding Mr. Baddi's desperate circumstance with comic irony. All he wants is for someone to come at 6am and look in a hole he's already dug and to bury him if he's in it. In exchange they get the equivalent of six months' pay.
I love everything about this subtle gem of a film: the intimate manner of shooting in tiny spaces, the dry barren landscapes, the marvelous dark humor of the performances, the resonant visual symbols. I particularly love the way this film takes its time without trying to overstimulate the audience, while allowing a true appreciation of Baddi's torment. There are many very long, very quiet sequences, including a dark screen that lasts just long enough. Very reminiscent of Zhang Ymou's best stuff. The speech about mulberries will change your life. Highly recommended.