Close Up

9 April 2016: Take Two: I Hired a Contract Killer / Taste of Cherry

I Hired a Contract Killer
Aki Kaurismäki
1990 | 79 min | Colour | DCP

"This droll thriller displays the same melancholy vision as Kaurismäki's brilliant Ariel. After 15 years as a London waterworks clerk, French émigré Henri (Léaud) is made redundant. Lonely and friendless, he hires a hit-man to put him out of his misery; but after meeting flower-seller Margaret (Clarke) in a pub, he tries to cancel the contract. Shot in English on barely recognisable London locations, the film's oblique camera angles, moody colours and short, sharp scenes create a stylised world which still has the feel of everyday life. Kaurismäki's plots and dialogue often give the impression of having been improvised at the last moment, but his framing and narrative concision are extremely rigorous. He also allows lots of space for some sympathetic performances, in particular the laconic Léaud, Colley as the hangdog assassin, Tesco and Cork as a pair of small-time villains. Meanwhile, Timo Salminen's atmospheric images once again catch the seedy ambience of a B movie world where talk is cheap but love is precious. In short, it plays like an Ealing comedy on downers." – Time Out

Taste of Cherry
Abbas Kiarostami
1997 | 99 min | Colour | 35mm

"In his dust-covered Range Rover, Mr. Badii (Homayon Ershadi) winds up and down the rocky mountain passes in Tehran’s outskirts. He is searching for someone to perform a simple task – to come to a specified location the following morning and throw 12 spades of dirt on top of a shallow grave in which he will be lying. It is a job, in a country where religion and politics are so delicately interwoven, for which there are few eager applicants. From this deceptively simple scenario, Kiarostami creates a remarkable contemplation on the small miracles of everyday life and the elusive nature of happiness – a patient, poetic and profoundly beautiful work that confirmed its director as one of the masters of modern world cinema." – Film Society Lincoln Center

"Mr. Kiarostami, like no other filmmaker, has a vision of human scale that is simultaneously epic and precisely minuscule… The camera continually draws back for long shots of soldiers marching in formation over the harsh landscape and of workers moving enormous piles of red dirt and rock with heavy equipment. Dogs bark in the distance, the wind blows, flocks of crows circle and descend and rise. You feel the pulse and rhythms of earthly life on a grand scale." – Stephen Holden, The New York Times