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With: Hossein Rezai, Tahereh Ladanian, Mohamad Ali Keshavarz, Farhad Kheradmand, Zarifeh Shiva, Hocine Redai
Written by: Abbas Kiarostami
Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami
MPAA Rating: G
Language: Persian, with English subtitles
Running Time: 103
Date: 05/01/1994

Through the Olive Trees (1994)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Life and Art

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The third part in Abbas Kiarostami's masterful Koker trilogy (sometimes called the "earthquake trilogy"), Through the Olive Trees tells a fictionalized story of the shooting of the previous film, Life and Nothing More.... A young man, Hossein (Hossein Rezai), and a young woman, Tahereh (Tahereh Ladanian), are filming a scene together. When the camera is not rolling, the young man, an illiterate stonemason, tries to propose to the young woman, who has been orphaned after the region's devastating (real-life) earthquake. She rebuffs him off-camera, and -- apparently unclear on the space between acting and life -- in the film as well. Mohamad Ali Keshavarz plays the Kiarostami-like film director who tries to sort it all out.

The film ends with an astounding, very lengthy wide shot as the girl walks through a field of olive trees, pursued by the young man. They talk, and he presumably gets his answer, but Kiarostami leaves it as a private matter, not for our prying ears. Patient and observant, with a brilliant awareness of various layers of creation and creativity, it's a great film.

According to the critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, the Weinsteins picked this up as part of a package deal with the awful film Muriel's Wedding. The thinking was that the Weinsteins would have the power to get this great masterwork seen by the public. Instead, they promoted the heck out of Muriel's Wedding, turned a profit, and then buried Through the Olive Trees. A few years later, the San Francisco International Film Festival was unable to even locate an actual print of it. It can be found on imported or bootleg DVDs of varying quality, but it has yet to receive a proper U.S. release.

Please see also my review of the Criterion Collection's The Koker Trilogy Blu-ray box set, which happily rectifies the aforementioned situation.

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