UPDATED Director Martin Scorsese released this statement on the death of Abbas Kiarostami: “I was deeply shocked and saddened when I heard the news of Abbas Kiarostami’s death. He was one of those rare artists with a special knowledge of the world, put into words by the great Jean Renoir: ‘Reality is always magic.’ For me, that statement sums up Kiarostami’s extraordinary body of work. Some refer to his pictures as ‘minimal’ or ‘minimalist,’ but it’s actually the opposite: every scene in Taste of Cherry or Where Is the Friend’s House? is overflowing with beauty and surprise, patiently and exquisitely captured. I got to know Abbas over the last 10 or 15 years. He was a very special human being: quiet, elegant, modest, articulate, and quite observant – I don’t think he missed anything. Our paths crossed too seldom, and I was always glad when they did. He was a true gentleman, and, truly, one of our great artists.”
PREVIOUS Abbas Kiarostami, the Palme D’Or-winning Iranian director of 1997’s Taste of Cherry, has died in Paris at 76. The death was first reported by Iranian news agencies.
According to Iran’s Isna news agency, Kiarostami had travelled to France for treatment of gastrointestinal cancer. He’d undergone a series of surgeries since his diagnosis this past March.
His death comes less than a week after he’d been invited by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences to join its ranks. The invitation was one of 683 issued by the Academy in an attempt to diversify its membership.
With more than 40 films to his credit, most filmed in Iran, Kiarostami is best known for his so-called Koker trilogy from ’87 to ’94 (Where is the Friend’s Home?, Life, and Nothing More…, and Through the Olive Trees), 1990’s Close-Up, 1999’s The Wind Will Carry Us and Taste of Cherry, the 1997 film that won the Palme d’Or at that year’s Cannes Film Festival.
His 2002 film Ten, a New York Film Festival selection that chronicled a woman’s drive through Tehran over several days and the conversations she has with various female passengers, was praised by The New York Times as “a work of inspired simplicity,” a review that went on to call Kiarostami “perhaps the most internationally admired Iranian filmmaker of the past decade.”
Born in Tehran, Kiarostami became a central figure of the Iranian New Wave cinema that grew out of the 1960s and ’70s. Legend has it that Jean-Luc Godard said, “Film begins with DW Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami.”
Kiarostami spent nearly his entire career working in Iran, even after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, though his most recent films – 2010’s Certified Copy (starring Juliette Binoche in a Cannes award-winning role) and 2012’s Like Someone in Love were filmed in Italy and Japan, respectively.
Oscar-winning Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi told the Guardian from Tehran today that he’d intended to visit Kiarostami in Paris tonight. “He wasn’t just a filmmaker,” Farhadi said, “he was a modern mystic, both in his cinema and his private life. He definitely paved ways for others and influenced a great deal of people. It’s not just the world of cinema that has lost a great man; the whole world has lost someone really great.”
Kiarostami is survived by sons Ahmad and Bahman.
The Tribeca Film Festival tweeted its respects today: