24 Frames

One of Iran’s greatest filmmakers imagines what happened before and after the shutter closed.

Self-indulgence in art gets a bad rap. After all, if the artist isn’t enjoying themselves, then how can the viewer be expected to? Case in point is the late Abbas Kiarostami’s 24 Frames, which is both deeply self-indulgent and one of the best films of the year so far. Kiarostami’s final work consists of — wait for it — 24 still frames to which he digitally added movement and sound, creating four-and-a-half-minute vignettes that imagine what may have happened before and after the original image was captured.

It starts with Bruegel’s The Hunters in the Snow, featured in such beautiful but portentous films as Tarkovsky’s Solaris and von Trier’s Melancholia, and among the animations Kiarostami adds is a dog pissing on a tree. But rather than continuing to take the piss out of other masterworks, the rest are striking photos Kiarostami took over the years, many being wintry nature scenes viewed through either natural or man-made frames. Frame 21 in particular feels like the opening act of David Lynch’s Lost Highway, if the camera stayed pointed at a single window. Meanwhile, Frame 9 features digital lions fucking, if that’s your thing. With 24 Frames, Kiarostami is both having a laugh and considering the nature of cinema, and that’s something we can all indulge in.

Not rated.
Opens Friday at the Roxie Theater.

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