By Daniel Barnes
*Opens Friday, March 16, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.
Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami passed away in July 2016, but this experimental passion project, which apparently occupied the last several years of his life, premiered at Cannes the following year and now gets a brief Bay Area run.
Fixated on the idea that still images have a past and a future, Kiarostami subtly extends the stories of twenty-four paintings and photographs through the use of sound effects, digital manipulation and other forms of cinematic trickery. Most of the twenty-four shots are starkly beautiful static images of lonely beaches, snowy forests and noble wildlife, with a narrative button that tends to revolve around an animal either suddenly dying or suddenly getting saved from death.
Including twenty-four of these “frames” offers a neat symmetry to the philosophical dialect between photography and cinema (24 frames a second, don’t you know), but I ate my fill around Frame 14 or 15, after which the experience became fairly punishing. By the time a caterwauling French busker wanders into a shot of the Eiffel Tower, I felt like I was watching Kiarostami’s failed experiments rather than his successes.