Iran/France, 2017, DCP, color and b&w, 114 min.
Completed after his death by his son Ahmed, Kiarostami’s final film is a hypnotic swan song that connects his photography and painting to his filmmaking by elegantly animating a series of still images. Including “about four and a half minutes of what I imagined might have taken place before or after each image that I captured,” the director begins with a picture not his own: Pieter Bruegel’s The Hunters in the Snow, and counts down from there with similarly composed tableaux foregrounding nature and animals, with the occasional human intervention. Resembling the visual haikus of his earlier experiment Five, these minimalist landscapes of activity within stillness seem whittled down to their essential elements—often aided by the whitening, isolating magic of snowfall. Strangely situated in a place both real and unreal, the quiet dramas that unfold sometimes seem like exercises in detachment or, perhaps, illustrations of the emotional investment that close observation compels. The culminating frame encapsulates the serenity, unpredictability, humor, restlessness, and occasional sentimentality of Kiarostami’s art as well as the mysterious, contradictory powers of the image captured and framed; it is a beautiful farewell, eerily anticipating the filmmaker’s coming death and the immortal, penetrating tracks he would leave behind.