Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, whose 1997 film “Taste of Cherry” won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, has died in Paris. He was 76.
Iran’s Isna news agency confirmed his death. He had been receiving treatment for gastrointestinal cancer and had traveled to France for a series of operations.
Often applying a non-narrative and experimental approach, the poetic and highly visual filmmaker was revered by cineastes around the world. “Film begins with DW Griffith and ends with Abbas Kiarostami,” director Jean-Luc Godard, with whom he shared a devotion to breaking cinematic rules, once said.
Born in Tehran, he started the film department at Kanun, Iran’s Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults. He made his first film, “Bread and Alley” while running the institute.
Kiarostami stayed in Iran after the revolution, while other filmmakers of the Iranian New Wave left the country to seek more creative freedom. The 1990 “Close-Up,” which mixes fact and fiction and jumbles chronology, is considered to be one of his masterpieces.
He first made an impression outside his home country with the Koker trilogy including “Where is the Friend’s Home?,” “Life, and Nothing More…” and “Through the Olive Trees.”
He also wrote and produced Jafar Panahi’s directing debut “The White Balloon.” “Taste of Cherry” was his seventh feature and shared the Cannes prize with Shohei Imamura’s “The Eel.” Variety called it “One of the director’s darkest and most personal movies.”
His 1999 “The Wind Will Carry Us” incorporated more humor, but continued his elliptical, poetic approach.
After political challenges drove him to work outside of Iran, he made “Certified Copy” in Italy, starring Juliette Binoche, who won best actress at Cannes for her role.
In a Variety interview about “Certified Copy,” he quipped “Gilles Jacob told me that you should never say that you had fun shooting a movie. You should say that you’ve been suffering, that it was hard work, otherwise people will think that the film is not worth seeing. If you haven’t suffered they should not have to pay a ticket to go see it.”
His last full-length feature, 2012’s “Like Someone in Love,” was made in Japan and screened in official competition in Cannes.
Kiarostami and his films had a special relationship with the Busan festival in South Korea. “One of the brightest stars of world cinema has fallen,” Busan co-founder and programmer Kim Ji-seok told Variety. “His films were distinguished from those of any others in the past, and will be remembered in the history of cinema.” Kiarostami first appeared in Busan in 1997 with “Like Summer.” He returned repeatedly with other titles including “The Taste of Cherry,” The Wind Will Carry Us,” and ABC Africa.” He was president of the festival’s main competition jury in 2005 and was a founding faculty member of Busan’s proposed Asian Film Academy.
“Saddened by the loss of Abbas Kiarostami, one of cinema’s true greats,” added the Asia Pacific Screen Awards Academy on Twitter.