Where Is My Friend’s House?

It’s entirely possible that Abbas Kiarostami, who’s been making films in Iran for almost three decades, is our greatest living filmmaker. The problem isn’t that his films are esoteric, simply that they’re different from Western and other Iranian films alike, in the way they’re put together (without scripts and in most cases without professional actors), in the way they address us, and in what Kiarostami includes and leaves out. Taste of Cherry, perhaps his crowning achievement, is his first feature to be widely distributed in the U.S.–it opens here on May 29–but its bleak story may not be an ideal introduction to his work. Fortunately the Music Box’s weekend matinee series will offer an invaluable opportunity to become acquainted with Kiarostami this month by presenting the trilogy that immediately preceded Taste of Cherry, features that can be seen individually or collectively, all set in the same rural section of northern Iran. Where Is My Friend’s House? (1987), showing this weekend and next, is a comic epic in miniature about a schoolboy trying to return a classmate’s notebook. Life and Nothing More (1992; also known as And Life Goes On) is my favorite of the trio; after a devastating earthquake hit the area, Kiarostami and his son went looking for the lead actor from the first film, and this second film restages their journey. Through the Olive Trees (1994) focuses on a comic courtship that took place between two minor actors in the second film. All three works are sustained meditations on singular landscapes and the way ordinary people live in them; obsessional quests that take on the contours of parables; concentrated inquiries that raise more questions than they answer; and comic as well as cosmic poems about dealing with personal and impersonal disaster. They’re about making discoveries and cherishing what’s in the world–including things that we can’t understand. Music Box, Saturday and Sunday, May 2 and 3.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.