In the course of his many visits ‘to the museum’, particularly the Louvre, Abbas Kiarostami slips unrecognised among the tourists and captures, with an almost sociological attention, these pilgrims who become protagonists of the images that he in turn composes.
Ambiguity arises from the mingling of contemporary reality with the historical décor serving as their setting. Like the iconic spiralling chignon worn by Kim Novak in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which matches that of the portrait she contemplates, patterns are used by Abbas Kiarostami to capture a similarity that creates misdirection. These hats, necks, and serpentine contours, in providing their detail, are merely pretexts to enter into the picture. The multiplication of successive layers of representation is, for the director, a way of both exacerbating unease and interrogating tradition in the light of modernity.
Kiarostami makes use of his inclinations toward documentary and the social sciences, creating an endless regression of picture-within-picture. And yet, it is not so much a question of mass tourism as of a place of shared memory, revealing our relationship to the image. By referring to large-scale history painting, Abbas Kiarostami seeks to address the history of the gaze. Is not the frame the common denominator which, from painting to film, allows us to traverse all disciplines?
Abbas Kiarostami, born in 1940 in Teheran (Iran) combined his studies at the University of Teheran’s School of Fine Arts with designing posters and directing commercials. In 1969 he created a film department in Teheran’s Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults (Kanun), where he made his first short subjects. His films ‘Close-Up’ (1990), ‘Where Is the Friend’s Home?’ (1990), ‘Life and Nothing More’ (1992), and ‘Through the Olive Trees’ (1994) were acclaimed by critics. In 1997, The Taste of Cherry won the Palme d’Or at Cannes; in 1999 he received the Grand Special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival for The Wind Will Carry Us. His latest films, ‘Certified Copy’ (2010) and ‘Like Someone in Love’ (2012) were made in Italy and Japan, respectively. In parallel with his film work, Abbas Kiarostami is also a painter, poet, and photographer.