A different lens

(shanghai daily)
Updated: 2007-02-16 10:01
Stark, beautiful and sometimes painful subjects are captured by famed Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami in an exhibition of photos and short documentaries at the Shanghai Art Museum, writes Wang Jie.
A different lens
Photo by Abbas Kiarostami (daily.greencine.com)
The arid beauty of the vast Iranian countryside is juxtaposed with a labyrinthine, multi-tiered village where a dwelling's roof is the floor of another dwelling. The view in Abbas Kiarostami's lens is stark and often oppressive.

Shanghai Art Museum is exhibiting 84 photos and short films documentaries by Kiarostami, the world-renowned Iranian director.

The photographs render an unshared solitude, echoing perfectly with those familiar shots in his movies. Obviously, the artist is not capturing a fleeting moment. Perhaps what he wants is a permanent and unforgettable "memory" reserved for himself.

Born in 1940 in Teheran, Kiarostami was interested in the arts from an early age. He won a painting competition at the age of 18, and left home to study at Teheran University's Faculty of Fine Arts. As a designer and illustrator, he worked throughout the 1960s in advertising, making commercials, designing posters, creating credit titles for films, and illustrating children's books.

In 1969 - the year that saw the birth of the Iranian New Wave with Dariush Mehrjui's seminal film "The Cow" - Kiarostami helped to set up a filmmaking department at the Institute for Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults.

Later the department became one of Iran's most famous film studios, producing not only Kiarostami's films, but also such modern Iranian classics as "The Runner" and "The Little Stranger."

But it was not until the late 1980s that his own films began to be shown outside Iran. In 1996, Kiarostami was honored with a retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York, and a year later, he went to the Cannes Film Festival and walked away with the Palme d'Or for his "Taste of Cherry." In 1999, his "The Wind Will Carry Us" won the grand jury prize at the Venice Film Festival.

His films have been called poetic, lyrical, meditative and self-reflexive, mixing fiction and documentary, often presenting fact as fiction and fiction as fact.

When viewing Kiarostami's photos, you may get a strong sense of the erosion of time. This exhibition screens his short movie "Ten," a short film that was finished by 14 other acclaimed directors around the world for the opening of the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

Kiarostami strikingly used his "10 minutes" to film a baby sleeping - it has no scenario, just the slow flowing of time.

Simplicity and plainness, whether in his photos or movies, make him more like a technician, but they mirror the stunning beauty and primitiveness of existing nature.

Snow-capped mountains, scattered foot prints, a lonely dog or horse against a black-and-white backdrop seem to be painful shadows of one's innermost feelings, even though they are without narrative.

"I can't appreciate the beautiful landscape with another person, otherwise it's a torture. I just want to turn those pleasant or sad moments into eternity," he once said.

Date: through February 28, 9am-5pm
Address: 325 Nanjing Rd W.
Admission: 20 yuan
Tel: 021-6327-2829