24 Frames

24 Frames

2018, NR, 114 min. Directed by Abbas Kiarostami.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Feb. 23, 2018

The final film by Iran’s master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry, Certified Copy) is the experimental endeavor 24 Frames, which had been underway for three years prior to Kiarostami’s death from cancer in 2016. As such, since Kiarostami knew this was likely to be his last movie, there is an inescapably elegiac quality to 24 Frames’ concentrated meditation on image-making. Yet the film is less a final statement than a focused study of how we make meaning from images. The effect it creates in the viewer is sometimes contemplative and sometimes somniferous. Moments of revelation and delight are punctuated by stretches of seemingly repetitive exercises. 24 Frames is a classically Kiarostami work, indicative of his life’s curiosities and trademark inquiries, but far short of a culminating utterance.

24 Frames is a compilation of 24 vignettes based on 23 photographs taken by Kiarostami and one famous painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. (Although he is best known as a filmmaker, Kiarostami was also an accomplished photographer, painter, and poet.) Each section lasts approximately 4½ minutes, and as Kiarostami states in the film’s preface, his goal is to re-create “what I imagined might have taken place before or after each image that I had captured.” (Curiously, this bucks the conventional notion that photography’s essence is a freeze-framed distillation of a particular moment in time.) Most of the photographs are black-and-white images of nature, often observed through a window or some other framing device. To these images, digital birds, horses, goats, cows, and foxes are inserted, along with rolling waves on beaches, passing vehicles on streetscapes, lots of snow and rain, and all their attendant sounds. Occasionally, themes of companionship, death, and love emerge – but not always. Kiarostami’s lifelong professional concern with the separation between the real and the unreal also comes into play. His digitization process is often evident, creating a constant awareness in the viewer that the images have been manipulated. Birds come and go on tree branches or windowsills (there are a lot of birds!). They squawk, stare, bicker, and flock. That’s about the extent of their activity. Only two “frames” include images of live human beings, and birds (notwithstanding the Hitchcock film) are not usually terribly exciting protagonists. Sometimes, a bird is shot from the sky, horses copulate, a cat magnificently emerges from out of frame to catch an unwary bird, and you find yourself catching your breath from the pastoral before and deathly after. The opening scene of the Bruegel painting includes smoke that provides a sense of an entire village scene, and Kiarostami’s concluding sequence is a truly glorious thing – and the closest the film comes to a personal declaration – and completely worth the price of muddling through the other 23 “frames.”

24 Frames is a must for longtime Kiarostami observers (and that should include all cinephiles), although unlikely to inspire any new converts. Amid the rustle of the trees and bird caws, I imagined I heard a sound in the dim distance calling for “more cowbell.”

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Abbas Kiarostami Films
Like Someone in Love
The latest film from Iranian filmmaking legend Abbas Kiarostami is set in Japan and looks at some characters playing out approximations of love.

Leah Churner, March 15, 2013

Certified Copy
Juliette Binoche stars in this romantic drama about the value of originality by Abbas Kiarostami.

Marjorie Baumgarten, April 29, 2011

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
SXSW Film Review: The Greatest Hits
SXSW Film Review: The Greatest Hits
Love means never having to flip to the B side

March 16, 2024

SXSW Film Review: The Uninvited
SXSW Film Review: The Uninvited
A Hollywood garden party unearths certain truths

March 12, 2024


24 Frames, Abbas Kiarostami

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle