Notes on Kiarostami

Pascal Bonitzer, in his writings on film, argues that the cinema imbues us, not with a Bazinian ontological ‘total’ object; but a partial object which hides from us as much as it unveils. This unveiling is precisely of a world outside the frame. The life impulse leads to a sexual reading of cinema, which celebrates the sacral as in Mani Kaul’s Uski Roti. Kiarostami does the opposite by making the entire field the blind spot (le champ aveglue). If Cocteau’s dictum of cinema “filming death at work” is true, Kiarostami is the most cinematographic of all directors: his films are a celebration of the death drive (the subject of A Taste of Cherry). In other words, the champ aveglue or blind spot is in the centre of the divine grace that reflects the Self. The face in itself is denied (the face of the beloved in Through The Olive Trees) in the same way that becoming (sthayi bhav) is denied (the glass breaking in his The Report)

The central dialectic in Kiarostami is between the nudity of morality and the violence of the everyday. This forms a climactic perspective in his films from Where is the Friend’s Home? to A Taste of Cherry, until this perspective is ruptured in Wind Will Carry Us. The latter destroys the sensory-motor movement-image so that once a limit-image is reached where the protagonist has no access to his cinema machine (i.e. the car that functions against force of history; like all art) and cell phone coverage, so that he is forced to regress to the pleasure of the two wheeler, a keen Lacanian jouissance.

The question posed in Through the Olive Trees, can the cinema transform the lives of those it films (a question Godard raised earlier) Once the fornication of the gaze is arrested, there is no substituted reality other than cinema. Life must be stopped for the filming to continue: a kind of dialogue of the deaf (Godard’s “questions are more important than the answers.”)

The dialectic between ordinary violence and a social texture on the verge of collapsing: the absence of sthayi bhav is cinema’s disturbance of life; as it tried to be an epistemic apparatus to transform the lives of those it films. Doubt enters in Life and Nothing More, making the spectator a Cartesian subject which disappears in Wind Will Carry Us so as to fulfil the symbolic, indexical and  iconic functions of a cine-language that collapses on its own apparatus.

Cinema, in the case of Kiarostami becomes a motion of what is real: “a little bit of motion in its pure state.” Cinema itself is a record of writing:an indexical way of looking at the cinematograph. But what is this look: “looking with new eyes” that is impregnated with evidence i.e. the motion that looking is. In other words, one witnesses a substitution of images and signs with the gaze i.e. the withdrawal of the divine in the absent-presence that sharpens our expectation as we gaze towards the real. The double dialectic is between appearance and reality and presence and absence, such that life and death are mutually impregnating. Images make present the masculine energy, in modern day Tehran as a symbol of life, whilst the feminine energy, ancient Iran and death are off screen. The real is only arrived at with a respectful gaze: the evidence is the frame and cut-out that decontextualise space i.e. subtracts itself from context. The absence of sthayi bhav is this “multiplicity of breaks ,matching the gaze as the pauses give it a rhythm. World is formed by truth and its enigma (and not solution) which becomes real i.e. the truth of the enigma. The gaze produces world formation such that there is really no out of frame, ut is a condition more than a representation. The method as content as in Bresson, is that the truth is the way itself, the path, the journey such that method and such give way to presence that give way to a gaze once evidence realises itself.

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