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Kandahar Review


Very Good
Paved with humanistic intentions, Kandahar can't quite see beyond its literal depiction of Afghan horrors. Prolific Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf documents an annihilated nation blown into the stone age by war, more interested in social reform, cultural education, or presenting a bleak travelogue than attaining the pure cinema his contemporary Abbas Kiarostami has been honing for over a decade. (Kiarostami is best known for his haunting suicide parable A Taste of Cherry; his sublime semi-documentary Close-Up features Makhmalbaf himself as a heroic figure/motorcycle driving screen icon.)

As Kiarostami entrenches in esoteric philosophical questions, wrapped in poetic imagery and near-mystical iconography, Makhmalbaf aims for realism (poorly filmed, but on the front lines) and political point-by-point dogma. Kandahar is the culmination of those interests, for better or for worse. As a former Islamic fundamentalist, he's slowly been rebelling against formalistic film technique and even Iran's popular art-house auteurism. In breaking down those conventions, Kandahar seems to be about what's happening in front of the camera more than the operation of the camera itself. A book of photographs may have been just as effective, but Makhmalbaf sticks to what he knows.

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