After it first came out, “Taste of Cherry” was given both the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and one out of four stars from Roger Ebert, who infamously called it “excruciatingly boring” and “a lifeless drone.” Despite the film’s dichotomy of reception, today it is considered one of Abbas Kiarostami’s most notable works and an important canon in the second Iranian New Wave.
Following a middle-aged man (Homayoun Ershadi) on his quest to find someone who can bury him after he commits suicide, “Taste of Cherry” is definitely a slow burn. One could call it excruciatingly long and mistake it for being boring. Many scenes in the film are lengthy and quiet, which invites the audience to either reflect or zone out. It is not a film where you are engaged and entertained throughout — rather one where, after fully watching it, you sit and think about the overall message.
Despite the darker premise of the film, “Taste of Cherry” surprisingly celebrates life and its little joys. The title itself is a celebration of life, a nod toward a secondary character who admits to almost taking their own life before deciding not to after tasting mulberries. There is humanity to be appreciated in the film’s long takes. Almost as much as you are reflecting on the scenes, you are reflecting on yourself and your reaction to the man’s dark quest. The ambiguity of the film’s final scene, which has the movie breaking the fourth wall and acknowledging its own production, is representative of every film class fantasy. With reflexivity reminiscent of the French New Wave, Kiarostami gives his film plenty of room for analysis and interpretation.
When it comes to “Taste of Cherry” patience is key, but good things come to those who wait. Almost paradoxically, it is deserving of both the Palme d’Or and Ebert’s criticisms, which are two sides of the same coin, as both are reactions to the film’s monotony. Such as in a lot of art, however, there is beauty to be found in monotony, and Kiarostami excels at slowly unearthing it in “Taste of Cherry.”
Julie Lim covers film. Contact her at [email protected].