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By Rich Cline | May 3, 2003

Almost like an experimental documentary, master Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami simply presents ten short vignettes, ten journeys around an Iranian city in a car driven by a woman (Mania Akbari). Her main passenger is her cheeky son (Amin Maher), a preteen full of attitude and angry that his parents have divorced and his mother has remarried. This mother-son dialogue is lively and sharp, argumentative and very funny, and forms a framework around other sequences involving an old religious woman, a hooker, the driver’s sister and a friend. All of these conversations bring to light the various positions and opinions about women in Iranian society, looking at the issues from a woman’s perspective.
It’s very strange to watch a film that essentially has two camera positions: facing the driver or the passenger from the center of the windscreen. You keep waiting for the film to open up, or in the case of the first segment, for the shot to cut so we can see the driver (we only see the son for the entire piece, the longest chapter in the film). But we soon forget about this limited approach, getting caught up in the lively conversations, which frequently examine themes of love, sex, family and religion with both frankness and humor, talking about choices people make.
For such a slight and essentially breezy film, Kiarostami grapples with some very hefty issues! Admittedly, there’s not much to watch besides a series of talking heads and passing cityscapes. And shooting so simply on video makes the whole thing feel like an experiment in improv, especially with such natural and bracing performances. For a wholly original look at Iranian society, this is a must-see.

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