In Abbas Kiarostami’s newest beauty The Wind Will Carry Us, a thin aggravated man known only as the Engineer (Behzad Dourani) gets lost looking for a flyspeck Kurdish Irani village. A child shows him the way. The Engineer is a sophisticated man with a cell phone. He has come here to document…something, some secret ritual surrounding the death of an old lady.
What it is, we don’t know. All we know is that in order to get cellular reception, the Engineer has to drive to a higher elevation. And that while he waits impatiently for a stranger’s demise, the pulse of the village beats in its own eternal time, a rhythm of daily glory.
Children, landscapes, silence, death, faith, even a tangy scent of humor (that cell phone!): They’re the recurring images and themes in a stupendous recent explosion of potent Iranian cinema, of which Kiarostami is the preeminent master (his Taste of Cherry won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1997). And he’s in good company with artists including Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon) and Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Gabbeh).
The interest in all movies Iranian has been building for some time, but recent signs point to intensified appreciation. At Cannes this year, Samira Makhmalbaf — daughter of Mohsen — took the Jury Prize for her small allegory Blackboards, while Hassan Yektapanah and Bahman Ghobadi shared the Camera d’Or, awarded to directorial debuts, for their respective films, Djomeh and A Time for Drunken Horses (opening this fall). Meanwhile, money talks for The Color of Paradise, Majid Majidi’s sweet story about a blind boy who feels nature through his fingertips: With receipts exceeding $1.5 million, it’s now the top-grossing Iranian film in the U.S.
How to celebrate? Abbas Kiarostami gazes at the tough, rocky landscape of his homeland and rolls film. And life goes on. A