Lisa Schwarzbaum
April 03, 1998 AT 05:00 AM EST

Taste of Cherry

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
Unrated
performer
Homayoun Ershadi
director
Abbas Kiarostami
genre
Foreign Language, Drama

We gave it an A

Abbas Kiarostami has come up with a simple plot for a profound subject in Taste of Cherry (Zeitgeist): An affluent man (Homayoun Ershadi) drives around the outskirts of Tehran looking for a stranger who, for a fee, will bury him the next day if he succeeds in his plan to kill himself, or help him to his feet if he fails. The driver interviews a soldier, a security guard, an Islamic seminarian, and, finally, an old taxidermist, who confesses that he himself once attempted suicide. The men talk. (In the background, soldiers drill, and heavy machinery digs into the dry brown hills.) And in the talking, as well as in the eloquent silences, life takes on precious appeal.

Kiarostami (Through the Olive Trees), Iran’s most acclaimed filmmaker, won the grand prize at Cannes last year for this piercing drama, although it was touch-and-go until the last minute whether Iranian officials would allow a film about the taboo subject of suicide to enter the festival. (The pro forma kiss the writer-director exchanged with award presenter Catherine Deneuve outraged Islamic fundamentalists anew.) But this outstanding work — so meditative — is clearly an affirmation of life (and never more provocatively than in the film’s unusual coda, in which moviemaking itself becomes part of the discussion). It’s also so grounded in the real emotional scope of ordinary people that the magnitude of the subject is answered in the most mysteriously matter-of-fact way. A

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