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Five Dedicated to Ozu
Kiarostami's Five Dedicated to Ozu is a series of short films, each one consisting of a single shot of a shoreline. There's no narrative per se in any of these, just a series of moments, attempts to capture life and the natural world as they occur. A small piece of wood is battered about by the waves; a bunch of senior citizens congregate for a few minutes and then disperse; in a particularly action-packed segment, a bunch of ducks noisily barrel through the bottom of the frame.
Its a sort of cliché to describe Asian art-cinema style as slow: long takes, real-time unfolding of actions, nature scenes. Kiarostami and other Iranian directors have utilized these in these films, as have recent movies from Japan, China, South Korea and other parts of Southeast Asia. Five is sort of a compendium of those clichés, taken to some kind of extreme. Shorn of the moving and funny observations of humanity of his narrative films, Kiarostami's work here plays (especially on a television) like some kind of therapeutic video designed to relieve stress, or a trendier kind of video fireplace.
Furthermore, if this has been conceived as a tribute to Ozu's style, then I question Kiarostami's reading of the Japanese master. Ozu certainly wasn't afraid of long takes or wilderness, but its important to remember that he was primarily a commercial filmmaker, every bit as much as Ford, Hawks or Hitchcock. His melodramas and light comedies were miles away from this rather pretentious offering.
All of Kiarostami - even pretty minor stuff like this - is worth seeing. Five is fine, I guess, if maybe only necessary for the completist (which I am). But what stuck in my mind during these shorts - when I suppose I should've been meditating or working myself up into a properly contemplative mood - was a sort of bemused sadness at the fact that Kiarostami's reputation is now formidable enough that even self-indulgent one-off like these will get a proper video release, but that his earlier masterpieces of the late 1980s and 1990s - most notably Where Is the Friend's Home? and Through the Olive Trees - languish in some Weinstein-owned warehouse. So I'm put in the rather odd position of recommending that you, if you must, rent this release, even though its perfectly fine in and of itself. Fans of the two name checked directors would be better off settling in for a weekend with the superb Criterion editions of their more famous works.
This disc is in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. All five of the shorts seem to have been shot on video, and the quality of the image reflects that. The image is sharp, the colors look as good as professional video allows these days and there are no major problems.
The audio sounds a slight bit tinny and hissy, but this undoubtedly has more to do with the no-frills conditions under which it was recorded than it does with the disc. The simplest equipment was deliberately chosen for this project, so I wouldn't expect it to look or sound any better than this. At any rate, the only sound here is the noise of the waves, which the disc reproduces faithfully.
Included is an informative and thoughtful 54-minute documentary on the making of Five.
Anything with Kiarostami's name on it is usually an automatic purchase for me; I probably would've even shelled out for this, to be honest. However, I doubt that most of you would be interested in a compilation of plotless short films about the seashore, even from one of cinema's contemporary masters. Those of you who do know who you are and should proceed accordingly; the rest of you can probably skip this. I'll average the score and give this one a generous Rent It.