Another movie for "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is out of order. Week 24 is called "Masters of the (Middle) East Week".
Twisting the rules of this one as well, as we usually showcase East Asian filmmakers here, but this time around, we're taking a trip to the Middle East. Specifically, we're going to take a look at two modern Iranian filmmakers, both of whom create challenging and critically acclaimed cinema.
This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film directed by either Abbas Kiarostami or Asghar Farhadi.
This was an odd one. I could have sworn I'd seen it before. Being obsessive/compulsive, I have a variety of methods for keeping track of what I've seen, most obviously by writing about the movies here on this blog. Well, I've never before written about Where Is the Friend's House?, I've never marked it as watched on any sites, so I decided maybe I hadn't seen it, and I thus chose it for my movie for this week's Challenge. Having watched it, I feel certain I did indeed see it before.
I loved Kiarostami's Close-Up, perhaps the most meta film of all time. I've also seen Certified Copy, which I liked without finding it a classic. But I was frustrated by Where Is the Friend's House?, and it didn't really help that I think Kiarostami wanted that reaction. The story is of a young boy who accidentally takes home the school notebook of a classmate. It is established that the classmate will be expelled if he doesn't come to class with his notebook and his homework. So the young boy decides he must take the notebook to the classmate. But he doesn't know where the friend lives, and when he tries to explain to his mother that he needs to return the notebook, she tells him to do his homework, watch the baby, get bread at the story, basically everything except return the notebook. The boy struggles to express the importance of his mission, and he is frustrated that none of the adults are actually listening to him. He sneaks off, walking from one small town to another, trying to find the friend's house.
It's not an easy trip, because he keeps running into adults who won't listen to him or understand him. Babek Ahmed Poor, an amateur who plays the boy, does a great job of showing frustration. In fact, it's almost too great a job ... I shared his frustration, but not only did I think the adults were too dismissive, I wanted to strangle the tyke for his persistence in bugging everyone. Kiarostami wants us to understand the boy's frustration, and we do, but added to that is my frustration with the boy, which I doubt is what Kiarostami wants us to feel.
Still, my reservations are clearly my own, and your mileage may vary. I'd say I'll watch it again sometime to see if I react differently, except I think this was the "again". #294 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of all time.