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Ten

March 14, 2011

Ten (2002)
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Actors: Mania Akbari, Amin Maher, Katayoun Taleidzadeh

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Synopsis: Ten conversations in the car of a female Tehrani resident.

Review: Though I may be committing cinematic heresy in saying so, I actually found Abbas Kiarostami’s critically acclaimed Ten surprisingly prosaic and unrevelatory. I can’t help but wonder if critics aren’t a little too respectful to Kiarostami – something tells me if this was a piece of British or French cinema, we’d be much more comfortable writing it off as a bit of pretentious old waffle. What most surprised me about Ten is how its conceit (ten conversations in a car with the same female driver) is used for fairly meagre dramatic and psychological insight. Perhaps because the arena is Iran and Islam, some commentators have been a little reverent with the subject matter, when the ingredients could quite easily be transferred to that of a Beverly Hills divorcee carrying out her private affairs in her car with pretty much the same dialogue and end-result. The only vital conversation is between the driver and a prostitute – with the prostitute nicely satirising the driver’s bourgeois values, and critiquing how she (the driver) continually defines herself by the male figures in her life, despite being a supposed figure of female empowerment. And yes, Kiarostami clearly revels in exposing the patriarchy of Iranian society – especially in the form of the driver’s argumentative young son – but even this has fairly limited dramatic value. Beyond the conceit of having a nice round number of ten conversations (and even then it’s only with about five different characters), Ten‘s flaw is in drawing attention to its own flimsiness as a device. (March 2011)

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