Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
I am unable to grasp the greatness of Abbas Kiarostami. His critical reputation is unmatched: His "A Taste of Cherry" (1997) won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, and "The Wind Will Carry Us" (1999) won the Golden Lion at Venice. And yet his films--for example his latest work, "Ten"--are meant not so much to be watched as to be written about; his reviews make his points better than he does.
Any review must begin with simple description. "Ten" consists of 10 scenes set in the front seat of a car. The driver is always the same. Her passengers include her son, her sister, a friend, an old woman and a prostitute. The film is shot in digital video, using two cameras, one focused on the driver, the other on the passenger. The cameras are fixed. The film has been described as both fiction and documentary, and is both: What we see is really happening, but some of it has obviously been planned.
Kiarostami's method, I learn from Geoff Andrew's review in the British magazine Sight & Sound, was to audition real people, choose his actors, talk at length with them about their characters and dialogue, and then send them out in the car without him, to play their characters (or perhaps themselves) as they drove the streets and the camera watched. Beginning with 23 hours of footage, he ended with this 94-minute film.
Now you might agree that is a provocative and original way to make a movie. Then I might tell you that "A Taste of Cherry" was also set entirely in the front seat of a car--only in that film Kiarostami held the camera and sat alternatively in the seat of the driver and the passenger. And that "The Wind Will Carry Us" was about a man driving around trying to find a place where his cell phone would work. You might observe that his method has become more daring, but you would still be left with movies about people driving and talking.