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Friday, March 28, 2003

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

On one level, "Ten," the latest movie by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami ("The Wind Will Carry Us," "The White Balloon"), serves as the filmmaker's first experiment with digital video.



Not rated


He bolts a camera to the dashboard of an SUV and aims it at either the driver, a middle-aged woman (Mania Akbari), or her passenger. When she is not driving around her smart-mouthed pre-teen son (Amin Maher), she is giving rides to a series of women -- some of them acquaintances, a few complete strangers.

One could view the resulting confinement as a comment on the status of women in Iran, although females seem to be freer here than in many Muslim countries. One could also view it as stultifying -- this is not the most visually interesting film ever made. There is a sense that Kiarostami is playing with the new toy of digital video more than he is trying to make a real movie. He's hardly the only filmmaker to fall into that trap.

The title refers to the number of scenes in the film, which is bookended with scenes in which the driver's son is the passenger. At first, he is rude and almost insulting to her. By film's end, she seems less submissive and he seems more understanding.

The other women include the driver's sister, a streetwalker, an old lady going to pray, a woman distraught by a lover's desertion. All the while, the movie gives us tantalizing glimpses of the city whizzing by outside the vehicle.

Remarkably, Kiarostami does manage to develop a somewhat coherent study out of what looks like a series of disconnected scenes. The movie becomes a contemplation upon the place of women in Iranian society and how the reality does not yet match their aspirations. In the context of an Amnesty International film festival, it becomes easier to see the film's human aspect than its experimental form.

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