The Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who died in Paris on Monday, was one of the most important figures in contemporary film. And like a lot of directors—whose jobs consist in large part of explaining the same things over and over to different people on different terms—he was an eloquent thinker. Wearing his trademark dark glasses (which he claimed to only take off in the shower) and speaking Farsi through an interpreter, he could appear detached, but always spoke lucidly and carefully in interviews.
That’s Kiarostami being speaking at the 1997 Cannes film festival, where he won the Palme D’Or for Taste Of Cherry. (The full version of the interview is here.) Many of Kiarostami’s best movies can be streamed in the United States through a Hulu subscription, including Taste Of Cherry, Close-Up, and Where Is The Friend’s Home?, the movie that first brought international attention to the filmmaker, who by then been directing for almost two decades. The boutique streaming service Fandor carries two of his later, experimental works—Shirin, which depicts an audience of women as they watch an unseen film, and Ten, which follows a taxi driver around Tehran—as well as the invaluable behind-the-scenes documentary 10 On Ten.
Kiarostami’s varied and complex body of work produced a wealth of critical literature. No major English-language critics wrote about his films as well (or as much) as Jonathan Rosenbaum did during his tenure at the Chicago Reader. You can dip in with his concise short reviews of The Wind Will Carry Us, Close-Up, Through The Olive Trees, Taste Of Cherry, and Life And Nothing More…. Those who want an enthusiastic and opinionated guide through the director’s early successes are hereby directed to Rosenbaum’s “From Iran With Love,” a helpful 1995 introduction to the then still-obscure Kiarostami, albeit one that’s preceded by some digs at the political discussions (namely, Newt Gingrich’s public crusade against arts funding) and Miramax-dominated arthouses of the time.
Those looking for an erudite overview can also check out Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa’s entry on the director for Senses Of Cinema’s Great Directors database. And here’s a bonus, taken from the same interview as the clip embedded above: Kiarostami breaking his usual rule of only speaking publicly in his native language to talk about Quentin Tarantino with the video crew.