Does Abbas Kiarostami make bad films? Well, if you don't like movies which largely consist of people driving around talking in cars, you may think so. But I thoroughly enjoyed his minimalist masterpieces The Wind Will Carry Us and Taste of Cherry, so 10 just seems like another entry in his impeccable canon to me.
10 consists purely of 10 conversations shot in the same car, driven by the same Iranian woman. All the actors were non-professional, as Kiarostami explains in the excellent, instructive documentary cum film-making lesson inclused on the DVD, which also is divided into 10 chapters.
There's little or no "action" in this movie. Everything we learn we learn from conversation, inflection, body language. We learn that the driver--in her mid 30s--has gotten a divorce the only way an Iranian woman can, by either saying she was beaten or by claiming (in this case fallaciously) that her husband is a drug addict. Her son--portrayed by her real life son, who looks somewhat like George Clooney as a young Iranian boy--despises his mother for the divorce. Four of the scenes involve their interaction, from the fiurst, in which we do not see her, only him. So, as Kiarostami points out, any woman watching can imagine herself as the mother. Her son is the only male passenger. His father appears briefly twice as a figure in a old Land Rover as the former couple converse from their respective car windows across two lanes of traffic.
The other passengers include a couple of female friends (or sisters?), an elderly relgious woman (the driver seems relatively secular) and a prostitute whose face is never shown.
The acting from these "nonactors" is nothing short of astonishing. It's difficult to imagine the young boy is acting, so vivid is his rage and his annoyance with his mother's preachy conversation. The is somewhat of a lightly surprising ending, which includes a woman's poignant alteration of her appearance. When the woman begins laughing and weeping simultaneously with a sort of relief at the discovery of her change, it's again difficult to remember that this is a work of fiction. The discussion of sexuality--and the inclusion of a prostitute--which is frank but not explicit, and the periodic but brief criticism of the government also surprised me. That may just indicate my ignorance of what's permissable in Iranian cinema, but it may also simply indicate Kiarostami's stature as a filmmaker. In the documentary he mentions that the government no longer requires detailed scripts from him, since they know he won't stick to them anyway.
10 details the very modern concerns of Iranian woman, whilst simulteneously, as ever proving a tender, and rigidly realistic portrayal of the human condition.
Here's a review I wrote on Kiarostami's Taste of Cherry a few years ago.