Taste of Cherry ★★★★

A brooding, affluent man wants to end his life. We're given no backstory, no motivation, no tools to empathize with his anguish. Kiarostami has strategically effaced this information, kept it ambiguous, leaning on the viewer's intelligence to fill in the blanks. Half-films, he called them.

We drive with the sick man, Mr. Badii, through a harsh, almost allegorical landscape of the Iranian countryside, searching for allies to assist in his ritual brand of euthanasia. These dusty, apocalyptic hills, however, are filled with labour markets for the living, not shady rascals for the slaying. A soldier denies him. A security guard denies him. A seminarian chastises and denies him. 

Only the truly traumatized—the ones who've walked in his shoes, supped his pain —will have the needed balm to briefly soothe Badii’s ache. 

Could this desire for self-destruction really then be a desperate soliloquy for why he would want to live, not merely exist? Is his appetite for annihilation really a secret thirst for wanting to embrace life in all its subtle grandeur, even if he's forgotten how? Angels on these yellow roads bring ancient reminders: a beautiful sunset, a willow spring, the taste of cherry. These glories of the natural world are the great pleasures of life, reasons enough not to end the party prematurely. 

TASTE OF CHERRY is an excellent, Bergmanesque meditation by way of Kurosawa's IKIRU (1952) done Iranian style. The abrupt tonal shift of the ending unfortunately betrays so much of the poetic power that precedes it, becoming needlessly vague, self-reflexive and distancing. I think I understand it on an intellectual level, it just rang emotionally hollow. A risk that hurt the film on the whole. 

Still, it's a pretty graceful parable about life and death, living and existing, and one of Kiarostami's strongest films.


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