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Taste of Cherry ( , Ta'm-e gīlās) is a 1997 film by Iranianmarker filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. It is a minimalist film about a man who drives through a city suburb looking for someone who can fulfill the disturbing task of burying his dead body.

Plot

Mr Badii (Homayon Ershadi), a middle-aged man, drives through Tehranmarker looking for someone to do a job for him and offering a large amount of money in return. It is gradually revealed that he plans to kill himself and has already dug the grave, but needs someone to throw earth on his body afterwards. In his car, Badii talks to three men in turn. The first is a young, shy Kurdish soldier who refuses to do the job. The second is an Afghan seminarist who has religious objections against suicide. The third is a university professor who is willing to help Badii, but tries to talk him out of it; he reveals that he wanted to commit suicide himself a long time ago, but chose to live when he tasted mulberries. The professor promises to throw earth on Badii if he finds him dead in the morning. That night, Badii lies in his grave while a thunderstorm begins. It is not revealed whether he dies, or the reasons for his wish to commit suicide. After a long blackout, the film ends with camcorder footage of Kiarostami and the film crew shooting Taste of Cherry.

Cast



Style

The film is minimalist in that it is shot primarily with long takes; the pace is leisurely and there are long periods of silence. Mr. Badii is rarely shown in the same shot as the person he is talking to (this is partly because in reality, director Kiarostami was always sitting in the car's passenger seat).

Kiarostami's style in the film notable for the use of such usage of long shots, such as in the closing sequences where the audience is intentionally distanced physically from the characters in order to stimulate reflection on their fate. Taste of Cherry is punctuated throughout by shots of this kind, including distant overhead shots of the suicidal Badii's car moving across the hills, usually while he is conversing with a passenger. However, the visual distancing techniques stand in juxtaposition to the sound of the dialog, which always remains in the foreground. Like the coexistence of private and public space, or the frequent framing of landscapes through car windows, this fusion of distance with proximity can be seen as a way of generating suspense in the most mundane of moments.

Music

The film doesn't include a background score, except for the ending titles which features a trumpet piece, Louis Armstrong's adaptation of "St. James Infirmary." The only song the film features is "Khuda Bowad Yaret" (May God be your protector) by Afghan singer Ahmad Zaher.

Responses

Kiarostami's film was awarded the Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival in the year of its release, tied with Shohei Imamura's The Eel. The film enjoyed much praise from international critics; the website Rotten Tomatoes, which collects film reviews, found that it scored an average of 80%. The Criterion Collection entered Taste of Cherry into their exclusive film collection on June 1, 1999.

However, the film was not universally praised. Roger Ebert wrote:
I am not impatiently asking for action or incident.
What I do feel, however, is that Kiarostami's style here is an affectation; the subject matter does not make it necessary, and is not benefited by it.
If we're to feel sympathy for Badhi, wouldn't it help to know more about him?
To know, in fact, anything at all about him?
What purpose does it serve to suggest at first he may be a homosexual?
(Not what purpose for the audience--what purpose for Badhi himself?
Surely he must be aware his intentions are being misinterpreted.) And why must we see Kiarostami's camera crew--a tiresome distancing strategy to remind us we are seeing a movie?
If there is one thing "Taste of Cherry" does not need, it is such a reminder: The film is such a lifeless drone that we experience it only as a movie.[141270]


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