Ta'm e guilass / Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997)Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 54:31)
My first Kiarostami, which I'd feel worse about if I wasn't pretty sure it was also the Filmspotting guys's first at that point (Close Up is coming later in the Contemporary Iranian leg of this marathon), and it looks to me like two films I love (Panahi's Taxi and Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia) were influenced by this to various degrees... why is it that I find people mysteriously wandering around in cars so interesting, especially with those weirdly enthralling landscapes in the background ? I'm not sure, but I was entirely on-board with the film on that base level, and even moreso when it started hinting at some thriller aspects.
**Spoilers, I suppose**
Once we learn more about the main character's purpose, those hints reveal themselves to be red herrings, and what we have is a parable rather than a thriller. A man is planning to take his own life, and he's looking for someone to help him with it... though really, the more I think about it, the more I tend to agree with Adam & Matty that he's rather looking for someone to talk him out of it, or at least to someone to talk to, to give more meaning to his gesture, to bear witness to it. The reasons are unclear and the main character is kept as mysterious as possible by Kiarostami, which works rather well, though from the context and the way he broached the subject of the Iran/Irak war a couple times made me think it might be connected to it, perhaps the loss of a son ? I suppose that line of thinking goes opposite Kiarostami's intent, and he's supposed to be a universal stand-in for any suicidal person, which I would venture most people have been at one point in their life, to some degree.
There are four encounters here, or five I suppose if you want to count the two Afghanis as separate encounters. They get longer each time, which makes sense on a script level of course as we get to know more about our main character every time, but it also means that the connection made between the two people talking is stronger every time. I'm not familiar enough with Iranian society to know the full relevance of everyone's origins, but it's noteworthy that they are all outsiders to some extent: from Kurdistan (persumably the Iranian part), Afghanistan or Turkey. There is something slightly too neat and too perfectly humanistic in the fact that the last one, the one who might succeed in talking him out of it, is the one making the simplest, most empathetic points, but it is a parable after all, and it's all rather well executed. After that last encounter, I was ready for the film to end whichever way it would, ambiguosuly or not, anything would work really... or so I thought.
It's been a while since I've been this taken aback by the ending of a film. The first that come to mind would be Enemy and Solyaris, but even in those cases, the ending felt of a piece with the films coming before them... not the case here. This felt like the cinematic equivalent of "Pull my finger" to me. It's, frankly, an infurating way to end a film, and I can't say that Adam & Matty's attempts at justifying it are convincing at all. Why would we need to be reminded that "it's just a movie" ? What kind of nonsense is that, why undermine your own film that way ? I can only assume it's something else, but my guesses are all in such contradiction with the rest of the film (nihilistic absurdism does not mesh well with thoughtful humanism) that I just can't see it as anything else than a total failure, which messes up what might have been a masterpiece otherwise... it doesn't entirely ruin the film for me, but it does sour me a fair bit what would have likely been a favorite.7/10