TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, whose 1997 film “Taste of Cherry” won the prestigious Palme d’Or and who kept working despite government resistance, died Monday. He was 76.
Iran’s official news agency IRNA said Kiarostami died in Paris, where he had gone for cancer treatment last week after undergoing surgery in Iran earlier this year.
He wrote and directed dozens of films over a career spanning more than 40 years. “Taste of Cherry,” which told the story of an Iranian man looking for someone to bury him after he killed himself, won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival. Kiarostami also wrote and directed “Certified Copy,” a 2010 film starring Juliette Binoche.
He said at a 2014 appearance in Syracuse that “Taste of Cherry” was his only film he had not watched since he made it. He said it took him back to a period in his life he preferred not to think about. His film was banned in Iran for supposedly encouraging suicide.
“But in truth,” he said, “it is a suggestion to live.”
Among his other films was “Close-Up” from 1990, which told the true story of a man who impersonated a filmmaker and tricked a family into believing that he would put them in a film. His 1987 film “Where is the Friend’s Home” is a story of honor, about a boy who tries to return schoolwork to a friend. The 2000 film “The Wind Will Carry Us” is about journalists from a city who go to a village to write about the death of an old woman, but they have time to learn about and appreciate rural life as the woman lives longer than expected.
“Ten,” from 2002, features a female taxi driver in Tehran and her conversations with passengers. While it attracted some strong reviews, critic Roger Ebert wrote, “I am unable to grasp the greatness of Abbas Kiarostami.” He said the filmmaker’s critical reputation was unmatched, but his films “are meant not so much to be watched as to be written about; his reviews make his points better than he does.”
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese said some people referred to Kiarostami’s pictures as minimalist, but he thought it was the opposite. Every scene in “Taste of Cherry” and “Where is the Friend’s House” are overflowing with beauty and surprise, he said.
“I got to know Abbas over the last 10 or 15 years,” he said. “He was a very special human being: quiet, elegant, modest, articulate and quite observant. I don’t think he missed anything. Our paths crossed too seldom, and I was always glad when they did. He was a true gentleman and, truly, one of our great artists.”
In “Certified Copy,” Binoche plays a French woman who goes on what appears to be a first date with a British writer. Tensions quickly erupt between the two, and eventually viewers start to suspect that these two may actually know each other — and perhaps had once been married.
For that film and others, Kiarostami had to work outside Iran because of the difficulties in making movies there.
“For a long time, the Iranian government has put a spoke in the wheel of independent filmmakers,” he said at a 2010 news conference.
Kiarostami is survived by two sons, Ahmad and Bahman Kiarostami, who work in multimedia and documentary film.
Story: Nasser Karimi