They say cinema flourishes in adversity and nowhere is that more apparent than in Iran. Since the revolution in 1979, the now Islamic republic has produced some of the best cinema in the world. It’s a remarkable accomplishment under often severe restrictions. Arguably the greatest director of this era was the late Abbas Kiarostami. Whilst he made such great films as The Wind Will Carry Us and The White Balloon, his most influential film remains the Palme d’Or winning Taste of Cherry.
Mr Badii (Homayoun Ershadi), a seemingly innocuous middle-aged man, is very unhappy with life and wishes to die. He’s dug his own grave but needs someone to cover him with soil after the deed is done. To find a co-conspirator, he drives around Tehran looking for someone willing to do the job. Along the way he picks up an anxious Kurdish soldier, an Afghani seminarist and an Azeri taxidermist. The latter agrees to help him out as he needs the money for his sick child.
Taste of Cherry is an assured and studied meditation on the question of whether life is worth living. As Mr Badii wends his way around the dusty streets, this narrative fable ambles alongside him. Introducing a number of architypes into the mix and gentle probing their lives. It’s easy to see why Taste of Cherry is often cited as one of the greatest modern films. The style Kiarostami employs is strangely compelling, running in stark contrast to what we’ve become accustomed to in Western cinema. It’s a wonderfully confounding and arresting tale.
- New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
- Project, Abbas Kiarostami’s 39-minute 1997 sketch film for Taste of Cherry, made with the director’s son Bahman Kiarostami
- New interview with Iranian film scholar Hamid Naficy
- Rare 1997 interview with Abbas Kiarostami, conducted by Iranian film scholar Jamsheed Akrami
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by critic A. S. Hamrah
A Taste of Cherry is released on Blu-ray by Sony Pictures as part of the Criterion Collection on 24 August.