Or: How the whole world can fit into an Our Gang episode. The iron door later disparaged by the aged carpenter is the first image, rusty and swaying to the spirited chatter of the schoolboys behind it. Mohamedís (Ahmed Ahmed Poor) sloppy work incites the wrath of the punitive teacher, who gives the boy a final warning. Class is over, the kids playfully mount the blue tractor stalled in the schoolyard, a white horse watches in the background as Ahmed (Babek Ahmed Poor) dabs his friendís scraped knee with water from a faucet. At home, Ahmed is petrified to realize he has Mohamedís homework in his bag. Tracing the boyís scrambling journey to return the book, Abbas Kiarostami matches Ozu and Tati as a metaphysical gagman. The Z-shaped path out of Koker (a mountain with a single withered tree at the top) is a grand joke, the slanting steps into Poshteh suggest an old castleís gateway. Shot after shot, the frame is composed for discovery -- the villager who disappears under the bundles of wheat he carries on his back, the herd of goats that squeeze by the street as night falls, the door that slams open to reveal the mother by the clothesline as the wind howls outside. A sublimely crooked line: The camera thatís been rushing along with Ahmed sits on the porch to hear the grandfatherís tale of paternal discipline, a blacksmith drops by to offer doors "to last your whole life" (Ahmedís eyes dart gravely as a page is ripped out of the notebook). It takes maturity to understand the simplicity of childhood, and genius to grasp the morality that transcends it. Ahmedís impatient walk with the shuffling window-carver at night is a Buson haiku ("Moon in the skyís top / Clearly passes through / This dead town street"); the old man is left behind, yet his floral gift lies between the pages of the triumphant notebook. The foundation for Kiarostamiís trilogy (Life and Nothing More..., Through the Olive Trees), but replete and perfect by itself. With Kheda Barech Defai, Iran Outari, Rafia Difai, Akbar Mouradi, and Hamdallah Askar Poor.
--- Fernando F. Croce