24 Frames

24 Frames ★★★½

The first segment of Abbas Kiarostami’s final, posthumously completed video piece, 24 Frames, is a simple rendering of Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s 1565 painting The Hunters in the Snow. Staring, for a Cageian four-and-a-half minutes, at the familiar wintery scene—its composition exemplary of the Dutch master’s decentred, multitiered narrative designs—we witness Kiarostami’s methodical application of various animated motion effects: snow begins to fall, crows swoop across the frame, smoke billows from a chimney, and a dog pisses on a tree. It’s cute and clever, effortlessly watchable, more than a bit kitschy, and somewhat calming (even as it evokes Lars von Trier’s not dissimilar, yet exceptionally more ominous appropriation of the same painting in Melancholia [2011]). This is the only one of the film’s two dozen “frames” to not be based on an original Kiarostami photograph (though he reportedly made several other scenes from paintings that didn’t make the cut, including Jean-François Millet’s The Gleaners), and thus its inclusion feels instructive. Bruegel, like Kiarostami, gave landscape and nature their due in an art form that generally gave primacy to the human body and face, presenting a familiar world in images that expressed a democratic reverence for all things and beings.

Plus five more paragraphs, for Cinema Scope magazine.