! Critic Judy Stone
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For fans of Abbas Kiarostami — and those perplexed by his films — fresh insight into the director is offered in a remarkable new DVD on "Five," a quiet, experimental and meditative film set on the shores of the Caspian Sea, along with his commentary. Combining his interest in poetry, photography and cinema, Kiarostami first confounds expectations with his initial surprising noisy shots. He then explores two different approaches to filming and uncovering the hidden story in a piece of wood cast up by the sea, the heretofore unsuspected motivations of dogs playing along the shore and the individuality of hundreds of ducks marching on the sand. As a director who always asks the audience to supply their own interpretations of his non-narrative films — such as "A Taste of Cherry", "Where is the Friend's House?" and "The Wind Will Carry Us"— Kiarostami here urges viewers to use their imagination to discover the mysteries of nature and life. With a sly sense of enjoyment, he recalls an anecdote about an Indian maharajah's invention of a chess game to present to an Iranian ruler whose wise advisor in turn invents a backgammon game that allows — unlike chess — for the power of destiny or fate in one's life and work. Indeed fate plays a part in the interplay of moon and clouds that took several months to shoot. Along with frequent poetic references, he mentions his kinship with Ozu's humanist simplicity and reveals his own fear of crowds and the need to protect his solitude. Contrasting the role of the director when he's also the audience, he tells about taking a nap while the camera rolled and the subsequent scene offered its surprise. And — "I'm not kidding," he says, urging his viewers to also take a nap.

This is an invaluable introduction to one of the greatest and most unpredictable of directors. It's available through the DVD distributor Kino Films, in New York.

Published by sf360.org, the on-line daily newspaper of the San Francisco Film Society.