(SCREENED AT THE 2003 PALM SPRINGS INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL.) TEN (Iran) was coldly received by the audience at Palm Springs—the absence of applause at the end told all—but I for one liked it, and I think others might too. Taking place entirely inside a car, shot with (I think) only two cameras, it charts the everyday travails of an ordinary Iranian woman as she drives various passengers around her hometown. It’s an excellent example of minimalist filmmaking. If that sounds boring to you—well, unfortunately, it probably would be.The film benefits from a kind of no-frills authenticity: the debates our heroine off-handedly engages in—with her son, a prostitute, a female friend, others—seem utterly real, the sort of shoptalk that real people occupy themselves with while stuck in traffic. Acting is suitably unobtrusive—all the characters carry themselves so naturally that I have no idea how much of this, if any, was improvised. Director Abbas Kiarostami does not strain for effect, and yet the feminist undercurrent is unmistakable; I have to wonder how this film went over with the Iranian authorities.
The only problem, I think, is that a large portion of the moviegoing public tends to equate plotlessness with pointlessness. No one demands to know what the “point” might have been of, for instance, that Michael Bay bang-bang epic playing down the road—but a movie with no conventional storyline invariably provokes howls of protest. It’s offensive to a lot of folks, somehow.
TEN requires the ability to appreciate subtleties, and also a bit of patience—the opening shot lasts over ten minutes before a noticeable cut. But if you can hang with it, the film takes on a hypnotic quality. It deftly illustrates the tiny tragedies of life.A very respectable piece of work, it deserves a broader audience than, from what I can tell, it has gotten so far.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2003 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.