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Shirin

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami.
Iran, 2008, DCP, color, 92 min.
Persian with English subtitles.

Kiarostami finally made a melodramatic feature film using professional actors and following a classic narrative arc? Yes and no. In clever, unpredictable Kiarostami fashion, Shirin both fulfills and subverts those popular, time-honored parameters. As critic Jonathan Rosenbaum points out, he nearly succeeds in transforming the professionals into non-actors who, here, appear as women in a theater watching a dramatization of Khosrow and Shirin, the well-known, ancient Persian tale by Nizami Ganjavi. While the dramatic soundtrack plays, Kiarostami shows only the close-up faces of the female viewers as they react to the fictionalized tragedy about the real Armenian princess Shirin and the two men in love with her. The only images of the film the women are watching are created in the imaginations of the audience of Shirin, who receive cues from both the soundtrack, the women’s expressions and perhaps any other assumptions about the women themselves. In this regard, the film is an infinite number of films. Featuring many famous actresses and a celebrated tale not well known to Western audiences—with the exception of one—the film is also a markedly different experience to different cultures and, then again, to different sexes, and yet everyone must see some of themselves looking back at them as they gaze into Kiarostami’s magical mirror.

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