24 Frames

Take a single picture and build a four and a half minute film of what goes on before and after that single frame. The late Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, in his last film, uses this device to reflect his meditations in “24 Frames.”

Laura's Review: B+

In 2016, we lost a world class filmmaker with the passing of Iran's Abbas Kiarostami ("The Wind Will Carry Us," "Certified Copy"). In the three years before his death, he worked on what would become his last film, a marriage of his love for still photography and movie making originally conceived when he noted that a painting only shows an instant in time, leaving us to ponder what happened immediately before and afterwards. Jumping off from that idea, Kiarostami took one famous painting, Pieter Bruegel the Elder's 'The Hunters in the Snow,' and twenty-three of his own photographs and digitally animated them into four and a half minute films, imagining events not captured in his original "24 Frames." Kiarostami actually began with more and had whittled his options down to 30, leaving his son Ahmad to chose the final 24 that would match his chosen title. Almost all of them are mesmerizing in one way or another, evoking entirely different emotions even in very similar scenes. Continuing themes of snow and tides populated with birds (including two combative crows who make multiple appearances), horses, cows, wolves and deer give us a perception of the author's soul, the types of images which moved him. They make us slow down to observe the small miracles found in the seemingly ordinary. There is an interconnectedness among some of them, like the way we can surmise Frame 5 portrays a parallel scene to Frame 4 by the sound of a gunshot. In one, we are anxious, a young cow lying on sand seeming uninterested or unable to react to the incoming tide. We see that same cow later in a different environment, similarly disinterested in what is happening around it, but the effect is amusing. A scene of wolves in a snowy landscape recalls Frame 1's painting in its composition, the tree in its center the very model of naive folk art. Only one photograph features people, a static grouping at a bridge observing the Eiffel Tower as passers by and a busker wonder through the frame. "24 Frames" is a unique gift, a final meditation from a truly great filmmaker. Grade:

Robin's Review: B

Director-writer Alexandre Arcady, with co-scripters Emilie Freche and Antoine Lacomblez, tells the harrowing and, unfortunately, true story of hate for the sake of hate. Ilan did not know it but Emma was one of several “lures” working for the gang to find young Jewish men to be targeted for abduction and ransom. Much of the film is from Ilan’s mom’s POV as she must deal with the intrusion of the police and government rules in France that prohibits the paying of ransom, for any reason. Zabou Breitman is the emotional anchor of the film and you can feel her feel the pain her son is being put through at the hands of his tormentors, led by volatile (read: crazy) Youssouf “Django” Fofana (Tony Harrisson). Hers is the meatier role as ex-wife Ruth than that of Pascal Elbe as Didier, who must bear the brunt of dealing with Django as the intermediary in the puppet show being manipulated by his handlers, principally police psychologist Brigitte Farell (Sylvie Testud). Arcady tells the linear story of what happened during those terrible 24 days, using flashback to what to show events leading up to the kidnapping. The film deals with the family and how they cope (or not) with the tragedy and the unpublicized police investigation taking place in the background. Thankfully, the scenes of Ilan’s torture by his abductors are not as graphic as they could have been. (I suggest that, if you are squeamish, avoid reading about Ilan’s terrible plight.) One strong point “24 Days” hits home with is that the terror acts, such as Ilan’s, are the product of the rise of anti-Semitism in France, something that is outlawed but still exists. Another point the filmmakers make is that the police, only after the fact of Ilan’s abduction, torture and death, admitted that they did not treat the case as anti-Jewish. The result is a powerful family drama that has marked political and social overtones.