24 Frames

24 Frames ★★★½


A.V. Club review. Had I seen this with zero foreknowledge (minus the initial, proof-of-concept frame using "The Hunters in the Snow"), odds are I would have moderately enjoyed it at face value, as Kiarostami's version of something like Benning's 13 Lakes (which I did in fact moderately enjoy). Each shot is beautifully composed, and while I might have marveled at how frequently animals seem to spontaneously provide a mini-narrative, or noticed that some of their movements don't look entirely natural, the degree of manipulation involved almost certainly would not have occurred to me. Once you know what's going on, though—and Kiarostami (or someone, anyway) makes a point of telling you up front—elements that would otherwise have been merely pleasing become exhilarating. Frame 12, for example, expertly simulates the sensation of clouds intermittently blocking the sun, even though the sky isn't visible; instead of thinking "Wow, gorgeous effect, he got lucky there," I found myself pondering how many similar digital tweaks escape my (conscious) notice, simply because they aren't foregrounded the way they are here. Other frames found me playing a fascinating game of Spot The Original Photo, as they're so gratifyingly busy and/or so apparently focused on moving objects that a compelling still-life version is hard to discern. (By contrast, Frame 15—the tourists viewing the Eiffel Tower—was the least interesting to me, precisely because its pre-manipulated state is so obvious.) The amount of work that must have gone into this seems insane—it's like sitting down for years of post-production and fashioning a Roy Andersson movie from a nature doc. I confess that the idea began to feel exhausted for me by around Frame 20, and that for some reason I didn't have the overwhelming emotional response to the final frame that many others have. (Maybe Andrew Lloyd Webber is just too kitschy for me.) But seeing Kiarostami still way out on the cutting edge, some five decades into his extraordinary career, makes his passing hurt all the more. He clearly had plenty left to give us.