A hundred and fourteen famous Iranian theater and cinema actresses and a French star: mute spectators at a theatrical representation of Khosrow and Shirin, a Persian poem from the twelfth century, put on stage by Kiarostami. The development of the text — long a favorite in Persia and the Middle East — remains invisible to the viewer of the film, the whole story is told by the faces of the women watching the show. –Venice Film Festival
Abbas Kiarostami was born in Tehran, Iran, in 1940. He graduated from university with a degree in fine arts before starting work as a graphic designer. He then joined the Center for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, where he started a film section, and this started his career as a filmmaker at the age of 30. Since then he has made many movies and has become one of the most important figures in contemporary Iranian film. He is also a major figure in the arts world, and has had numerous gallery exhibitions of his photography, short films and poetry. He is an iconic figure for what he has done, and he has achieved it all by believing in the arts and the creativity of his mind. —World Cinema Foundation
Kiarostami’s Faces, or indeed, Close-Up once more - capturing not the performance but faces of its audience as it unfolds. A sort of inverted performance art, extending the barebones of Ten and Five with the former’s gender parable, as in Shirin’s focal text - save for disingenuous allegations of artifice in its resultant expressions. Nevertheless, there remains just a salient appreciation of the exercise, for its audacity and uniqueness, while revealing the distancing effects of its disparity between image and audio as surprisingly manifest, for either outlet.
One can assume that the story of Shirin would display Middle Eastern women yet how seeing someone like yourself on screen within an industry that so often denies your presence is tainted by Binoche's extra-emotional performance to an extent, to me, since it's never problematized, nor is the difference between a white woman and a non-white woman seeing these images discussed.
But then to reduce women to just women rather than women who deal with racism or islamophobia particularly in a post-9/11 context is simple, and indeed racist, and the basis of a lot of white feminism which is often the only feminism which gets a voice while other women dealing with the intersections of identity and social issues are erased or silenced.
But how can you suggest that women in Iran are dealing with racism or islamaphobia? They are dealing with a chauvinistic society and regime for sure, but it is a pretty much a monotheistic culture which is separate from Western society - by rule of the regime in Teheran. Also, this film is not silent! it portrays a strong and heroic central female character who easily matches the two men that love her and is clearly an inspiration to the women who sit mesmerised and moved. I find it odd that you would think that women have to be portrayed in any particular way due to their nationality, race or indeed religion. This is after all Kiarostami's film and not a document to define what an Iranian woman is or should be either in reality or perception.
ok, perhaps these women do not face it as much within iranian society. But when you look at the westerncentric, white supremacist tradition of cinema, the film is not doing anything. Kiarostami has been criticized for not dealing with gender issues in his films and this could be an address to that criticism, particularly as woman (esp. non-western women) are silenced and erased in the cinema. Yet he does nothing but show their gazes. Which is great within itself, but to me tainted by Binoche, whose gaze and emotion is so melodramatic that it draws attention to itself over the other women's looks, while to an international audience she would likely be more recognized than many of the other actors he has used, and so more noted. I am not saying the women have to be portrayed in a particular way, but that women are not a monolith and there is a huge difference between the white, western woman and the middle eastern woman (or indeed any women dealing with other intersections). And by adding Binoche, Kiarostami flattens women, to me, to just WOMEN, without examining the difference between western and non-western women. And while the film does have Shirin, she is never seen, only reacted to, and reacted again most strongly to by Binoche. So I am not saying that Kiarostami must portray Iranian women in a certain way, but that he does not actually do anything in this film to actually examine gender and its intersections. It is unusual to have only women in a film, and in one dealing with looks, it is significant. And I feel Kiarostami has done the bare minimum with this.
I don't see how this is misguided? Cinema is a misogynist institution that focuses mainly on men's perspectives. Kiarostami forces us to look at women's perspectives, inserting an oppositional gaze into his film. He does not examine this gaze or its complexities. And I think that in this he has done the bare minimun in showing a woman's gaze. He reduces all women to just gender without considering different modes of viewership when it comes to a not only misogynist art form but a wester centric, white supremacist one.
It's misguided because as an argument you are using wide ranging statements and then berating Kiarostami for not directing his specific film to oppose these views. Nowhere have I head Kiarostami suggest that the aim of his film was to portray Iranian women in any way - to show how different or alike they are from Western women or from eachother. Also you are ignoring a massive part of this film - the audio of the film Shirin which certainly portrays a forthright and confident woman. As for cinema being a misogynist institution, I disagree with this statement entirely. The reality, which is often male orientated for sure, is much more complex and a lot less standardised than you suggest.
Well, can you explain how cinema is not misogynist? Despite, as you admit, its privileging of a male gaze? My point is that, as you have just said, cinema privileges men, as protagonists, and as spectators. So it is hard to not consider a "feminist" angle when looking at a film that portrays women as characters AND spectators. So Kiarostami IS opposing the view of cinema as misogynist in doing this, yet does little else. My criticism, which is valid, as any race-, location-, or gender-based criticism is, is that Kiarostami is doing something which suggests a subversion of the misogyny of cinema, especially since this deals with women as spectators and protagonists. However he does not consider the intersections of what it means to be a woman, which, as I have said multiple times, cannot just be reduced to gender. And perhaps I am ignoring the role of Shirin. But she is a visibly erased character reduced to audio. Now I'm sure you'll disagree, but cinema is totally a white supremacist institution. So to erase the visual representation of a Middle Eastern woman, the only ACTIVE woman in the film, is also damaging. An interesting experiment in cinema, but that's it. She may be confident but that is the bare minimum for a "strong female character," and she is invisible. My criticism of this film is based on how Kiarostami deals with, or doesn't deal with, the intersections of gender, race, and location. I don't see how this is misguided.
I don't need you to put certain words in caps. It doesn't reinforce any point you make in any way and is akin to shouting. I absolutely reject this generalisation which you are using to perpetuate some feminist dictum that you assert Kiarostami has "failed" to dispell. My point is simple who says Kiarostami was ever interested in portraying these women as anything other than a collective audience. If you watch the documentary "Taste of Shirin" at no point does Kiarostami discuss anything you profess in your feminist reading. In fact Kiarostami has always rejected using any sort of manifesto in his film making other than creating an illusion of some description - often of film-making itself. In that way he also refuses to interpret his films for audiences. That only reinforces that your point lacks traction. Your dismissal of the Shirin character's impact as she is not visible in the film is just plain silly - the actress who portrayed her is no less an actress than any we see and she is the beating heart of this film. She is not erased or reduced in any way. Cinema is a visual medium, but it is also an aural medium. By your assertion would you then suggest that the audio of a film is less significant than the visuals? Should a film be dubbed for foreign audiences rather than using subtitles which may obscure an image? Lastly, and maybe not surprisingly, I think your definition of "cinema" is convenient - Cinema goes far beyond mainstream American fare as this site is such a showcase for. Sure no indigenous cinema has the reach or influence of mainstream American film, which is both white and male dominated. But I believe that is for commercial reasons more than it is an attempt to erase women or especially non-western women from the screen. Why should Kiarostami apply any manifesto to his film, which is after all highly stylized and performed illusion.
I do not see why a feminist critique of a film about women is so invalid to you. You say Kiarostami is not interested in portraying this women as anything other than a collective. I say that by focusing on individual women, many of whom would be recognized by an Iranian audience, and Binoche who would be recognized by an international audience, he does not allow for them to be collectivised. Instead he allows for identification with individuals, and with stars. And so I criticize him for doing this without thoroughly examining gender politics. He creates this situation and doesn't explore it. I do not see how this criticism is invalid. I additionally suggest that as Binoche would be recognized by an international audience while many of the other women would not, Kiarostami is privileging her, and I do not belive this argument is too far fetched, considering the criticism of Kiarostami pandering to a Western gaze. Perhaps it was not Kiarostami's intent to ever truly examine the woman spectator. But intent is a tricky thing, and can only make up for so much. Kiarostami has often been criticised for his representations of women, are those critiques similarly invalid to you? And I do think Shirin's role in the film is reduced. Especially considering how visual this film can be. And honestly, I don't even see a problem with dubbed films, if that is what one prefers, as reading subtitles takes away from the overall image; however that is an irrelevant point. What is relevant is that the melodramatic sobs of the white woman drown out Shirin's. And my definition of cinema is most definitely not simply a mainstream American one. When I refer to the misogynistic, white supremacist tradition of cinema, I am indeed referring to American film, but also other cinemas. This includes North American and European cinemas, as well as the influence Western Nations have held over African, Asian, and South American films, through colonialism and neocolonialism. I would also refer to the limitations of women in cinema, as actors or directors, with regards to cinematic misogyny, and similar problems with regards to race (limiting roles within the industry for people of colour, technologies made to capture only white skin, the limitations of technologies in colonized nations, and the control over infrastructure by colonizers or past colonizers). And I don't see why commercial reason for erasing people of colour and women makes it any less racist or misogynist. Obviously, I can't tell Kiarostami what to do. But like he can make whatever film he wants, I can criticize it, from whatever angle I chose. And I reject that it is unnecessary for me to capitalize certain words.
Indeed you can criticise it from any angle you you chose. You can assume to go unchecked when you are applying very specific and bogus gender-politics to this film yet completely dismissing other valid aspects that don't fit with your agenda. Indeed you can type in all caps if you chose. It doesn't lend you or your argument a scintilla of validity though. The assumption that women are the put-upon underdogs in every situation and aspect of existence is not an original concept, nor is it in any way accurate or valid in this context or indeed any other I can think of. It is an old fashioned relic from the 20th Century. My bed beckons right now, but I look forward to fully elaborating on this very soon.
There is no "agenda" in criticizing a film from a gendered angle, and I am not ignoring the "valid" aspects of the film, indeed, in this respect, I feel there are few valid aspects. The heart of this argument seems now to be whether gendered oppression exists. As you obviously don't believe it does, most likely because you are not a woman, there is nothing left to say. Convincing you that women are indeed oppressed would be an impossible task.
There absolutely is an agenda in all you've posted and it is seems to boil down to the application of an outmoded, failed and completely irrelevant brand of tired feminism. Your politic is didactic in the extreme and certainly not original. Like the feminist movement it is doomed to failure. The suggestion that my gender status influences my belief is a cheap albeit predictable ploy and undermines everything you've said. One doesn't have to be black to understand the implications of racism, or gay to comprehend what homopohia is like. Some women are indeed oppressed, but as a gender they are not.
Acting act as if they were watching a film. This is how this film would have been seen if it was not by a 3rd world filmmaker and a bunch of actresses that we don't know and we tend to believe that they are common people. It is like when you hear bad music from a place you don't know anything about, and then your political correctness urges you to say "WoW! primitive art is beautiful!!"
That's a cynical view - you don't allow for the fact that indigenous people may value their art in an entirely different way to us. It's almost oppressive to assume that if we perceive third world music as being bad that it is bad. We are more worldly, cultured and discerning after all.
"Illusion is created by the spectator not by the filmmaker". Absolutely not. Cinema is incredibly prosaic and is created by filmakers. The film exists separately to the audience. The audience is entirely passive which is surely the point of this film. The fact that the actresses are professional (and not all of them are!) is of no consequence to the value of this film or it's success.
Somebody should have filmed me watching this movie. It would have been an hour of curiosity followed by 15 minutes of dozing off followed by 15 minutes of bewilderment. Sad to say, this one falls in line with "Ten" as being a fascinating concept that just doesn't register cinematically.
A few previews are already in. At In Contention, Kristopher Tapley lists ten big budget roll-outs he's looking forward to in 2010; the New
Abbas Kiarostami's Shirin continues his journey into the avant-garde world of Five Dedicated to Ozu, his 2003 excursion into long take minimalist
Abbas Kiarostami's Shirin continues his journey into the avant-garde world of Five Dedicated to Ozu, his 2003 excursion into long take minimalist