Abbas Kiarostami’s great evocation of movie-watching comes right before the opening credits: a boy dozing off in the backseat of a moving car, the window a small frame for the landscapes passing by, lights out for a tunnel. (Satyajit Ray in Sonar Kella offers something similar, a crossroads of location vérités and the reality of dreams.) "Whole towns have gone downhill" in the Manjil-Rudbar earthquake, Koker is one of them, the director who filmed Where is the Friend’s Home? there travels back to check on his young stars. The detour from the traffic-clogged main road gives the cineaste (Farhad Kheradmand) and his son (Buba Bayour) a full picture of the devastation, and also of resilience and humor. Catastrophe cannot halt the flow of things, a young couple’s wedding will go as planned, trees grow on a fractured terrain. The elderly carpenter who acted in the earlier film turns up as a good-natured passenger and something of a critic, his plainspoken definition of art ("to rejuvenate people, to continue being alive") rasps over the rubble. Mounted on a windshield, the camera composes continuously and remarkably by movement; honking horns and jackhammers give way to running faucets and stirred murmurs in an exceptionally attentive soundtrack. In utter control of this complex mise en scène, Kiarostami nevertheless understands the filmmaker’s role as a good observer and listener, ceding the spotlight so a local can explain how, even in the face of grievous misfortune, people might still want to watch a soccer match. "Yes, life goes on..." Keats’ cradle in the woods (Endymion) figures tellingly in this lambent, spacious meta-comedy, its yoke as deep as the mountain crevasses and yet as light as the young laundress’ diffident smile. The final climb is a Keaton gag, turned Mozartian in Through the Olive Trees. Cinematography by Homayun Payvar.
--- Fernando F. Croce