Michael Powell’s The Thief of Bagdad and Abbas Kiarostami’s A Taste of Cherry: Two Faces of Orientalism

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Abstract

British director Michael Powell (1905-1990) and Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami (1940-) share several technical similarities in their filmmaking, most notably an interest in the visual language of still photography, painting and other visual arts, specifically light and colour. They also often comment on the art of film-making and the subject position of the audience as voyeur within their films. With respect to Orientalism - the philosophical and cultural construction that the West overlaid on the East - Powell and Kiarostami can be profitably compared. Powell appears to have accepted uncritically the notion that the East could be characterized by exotic and sensuous otherness, an attitude that is revealed in his approach to The Thief of Bagdad (1940) as escapist fantasy and Black Narcissus (1946) as a farewell to India. Kiarostami, on the other hand, a “real Oriental,” not only rejected the Orientalist paradigm (while simultaneously drawing on its original language and symbols), but also refused to respond to it in the way that other Muslim artists, particularly in the post-Iranian Revolution period, consciously attempted to build a nonwestern cinematic art. His Taste of Cherry (1997), however, does draw on some of the same cultural elements that were borrowed and distorted by the European intellectuals who promulgated the Orientalist and postcolonial world-view

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Acta Universitatis Sapientiae, Film and Media Studies

The Journal of "Sapientia" Hungarian University of Transylvania

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