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Aydin Aghdashloo: “Naderi’s ‘Water, Wind, Dust’ and Kiarostami’s ‘Ten’ are the outstanding works of post revolution cinema.”

Aydin Aghdashloo: “Naderi’s ‘Water, Wind, Dust’ and Kiarostami’s ‘Ten’ are the outstanding works of post revolution cinema.”

At the House of Cinema on August 19th, Aydin Aghdashloo described Naderi’s ‘Water, Wind, Dust’ and Kiarostami’s ‘Ten’ as significant, outstanding works of Iranian cinema in the post revolution era.

According to ISNA, in a gathering of actors from different generations, painter and art researcher Aydin Aghdashloo attended to deliver a speech on the subject of “My favorite actors”.

Introducing the guest speaker, moderator Davoud Rashidi said: “Aydin Aghdashloo comes from my generation; I wish him a long life dedicated to the culture of our beloved country.”
Opening his talks on his subject matter, “My favorite actors”, Aghdashloo said: “I really wanted to be in a place among actors to say how much I admire and love them, and repeat how important they are. Their importance is partly concealed by the public, surface gloss of it. I see this as an injustice, and I take this opportunity to pay my debt and emphasize that the actors might not know how much they matter.”

Pointing out that in some cinematic observations the actor’s importance in the author’s cinema is not considered a major factor, he said: “As someone who has spent years studying the issue, I can now relay the result of my research. The importance and place of actors has been a major issue since the time of the ancient Greece. The position of an actor as a celebrity is very glamorous and alluring, but it is nothing compared to the real importance it holds.”

Aghdashloo said: “The result is a sort of a contradiction in this challenge; Actors try to be recognized and achieve their special, exalted cultural position, and it might be important to call attention to the impact of this position on history.

I had the opportunity to get to know actors up close and personal. My ex-wife was an actress and so I am familiar with the ups and downs of several actors in social and personal life.”

He continued: “In the 7 years that we lived together, there were times when I told her that when we argue, I can never tell if she’s really upset or if she’s acting. In such shift of roles portraying anger or joy, which can be seen on stage or up on the screen, people too reach the contradiction, frustration and confusion that arise from the acting profession.”

Aghdashloo stressed: “The importance of actors has always been a historical fact; important social and political personalities have emerged from among the actors in ancient Greece and Rome.

I admire actors and acting, and let me remind you that these actors, old and young, famous or unknown, might not know what an amazing influence they have on the lives of those around them, and on people in general.”

He further added: “I mentioned injustice in motion picture business. With the attention given to the author’s cinema by the French cinema of the 50s and later, the share and importance of directors increased and that of actors, decreased.

Hitchcock was known to say, ‘It doesn’t matter at all who my actors are,’ but just watch ‘North by Northwest’ and you know no one could have played the part of Cary Grant.

This is an exaggeration on the part of Hitchcock. The generalization that the actor is a mere medium, or actors can be made out of wood -which does not seem right and we can see that it is not true- becomes such a trend that even the actors themselves believe it, and my fear is that it will come up again and again until the actors wholly accept the concept.”

Aghdashloo maintained: “If we define a relative equation between the medium and the message and specify their positions, we can see that during the development of the author’s cinema the medium took a smaller place and relinquished its position to the message.

We may reach the conclusion that, according to a comprehensive and general definition, the medium can sometimes become the very message, and the message cannot find its real meaning. With the great influence attributed to the author’s cinema, the medium has been dragged down from its real position.
Many of us know cinema through actors and have received the message through its mediums. To understand it, we only need to see the works of Buster Keaton or Laurel and Hardy, or see where we can find this contradiction between Chaplin’s author’s cinema and his physical presence as an actor to bring down the share of the actor as an “author’s” factor. Take Buster Keaton out of his works and the work’s worldview focus will lose its significance. No one can take his place.”

Aghdashloo continued: “There is a point in acting where the actor carries the whole message. Looking at my favorite actors, I see two groups of them; those with flexibility who appeared in a variety of roles and delivered the message, and those that the message was written to fit them. In cinema, the message has been repeatedly shaped to fit the medium.

There are actors who are always who they are, like Sir Laurence Olivier. On the other hand, my favorite actors have at times appeared in another mold. For example, Humphrey Bogart was always Humphrey Bogart. Another example is Marlon Brando, who rarely changed in different movies. Even toward the end of his life it was enough for the audience to watch him only for a moment to have a lasting impression of him at heart.”

Aghdashloo said: “Obviously, my favorite actors are too many to count. The director does not hold the whole author’s share. The writer has always been a very important factor to me.

It’s only right to look again at the whole arrangement, structure and the making of a film to see who has what share in it.

Referring to the book “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, he said: “Zarathustra comes down a mountain and sees a ropewalker. Everyone is sitting around, watching him, until the ropewalker falls down. At his death bed, Zarathustra nursed him and said, I will burry you with my own hands, for you chose life in danger.

Actors choose to live dangerously, and this danger is always there for them. I have always watched this ropewalking in amazement. The actor can do wonders, and if he’s not careful, even his fall will be glorious. And we are the Zarathustra here, and I have to say we always knew that he risked his life for us and chose to live in danger.”

On nonprofessional actors in cinema, Aghdashloo said: “I always told Kiarostami, jokingly, why don’t you use professional actors. Kiarostami made a habit of working with non-actors. This cinema is reaching total obscurity, because it is diminishing itself with non-actors, non-music, non-writers and non-designers. Here is where the place of actors gains importance, and if we do not understand it, we will lose part of the mankind’s history of civilization.”

He added: “Another one of the actors I love is Khosro Shakibai. His amazing sensitivity made his job more and more dangerous. He had no fear of self-beating, and this is what was replaced with self-destruction in the case of Parviz Fannizadeh.

Many of the actors I have seen in 45 years feel the danger of being forgotten. The danger of getting old is no less. The danger of being part of the bad job done by someone not good enough at his job, whether it’s the writer or director.”

On motion picture actresses, Aghdashloo said: “Cinema has numerous first ladies. I have watched Susan Taslimi during the past years, a woman who -for me- represents an excellent Iranian actress. She never takes part in anything cheap, and is always brilliant in brilliant works, and when she gets to a point when she feels something must be changed, she evolves into a cultural figure, never allows herself to go wrong in anything.  

My favorite actors never go near anything inferior and cheap, they knew where they were and what they did, and after the last act they went out with grace and dignity, as August left the stage of life, hoping that he had entertained his audience.”

Aghdashloo remarked: “If we see the peak as a moment, it’s very dramatic to die at the peak, like Molière did. But look at the life of any actor in retrospect; if we see the peak as a wing of a castle, sometimes it continues to go up, and sometimes it falls.

Even Brando worked in some cheap projects. I think the lifetime achievements of an artist or a cultural figure is not evaluated when he is at his peak. His whole life should be taken into account. But it’s the peaks that will remain in the minds of people. Dying at the peak is too sentimental for me to take. There are a lot of artists who extend their peak beyond a mere point in their career.’

On the noted works of the post revolution 30 years, Aghdashloo said; “There have been some which I have found moving. They told me that this river is still flowing ahead. My self-chosen isolation provided me with the opportunity to just sit and watch the brilliant works that were made. Amir Naderi’s “Water, Wind, Dust” was an amazing film, and I thought here’s a movie polished in every aspect. Kiarostami’s “Ten” was also very fascinating to me; it was like I was watching someone who has pulled off a job with a neutral front, intelligence and hard work. He has always tried to put on a neutral front to cover the turmoil inside.”

About his ex-wife, Aghdashloo said: “I have great respect for her, and I believe she has shown brilliant talent especially in the Theater Workshops. Shohreh was a bold and immensely clever girl. She had not done any artistic work prior to our marriage. After we got married, she participated in a fashion show and then a director friend of mine invited her to appear in a short film. Later, Ali Hatami cast her in a feature film, and it went on from there.”

Answering a question on whether or not artists are guaranteed to maintain a steady workflow, he stressed: “There is no guarantee for any artist in any moment in time. What guarantee could there be, except for risky moments in some high and lofty place when he does a good job, and the point when he leaves all things cheap behind. It depends on what he sees as cheap. Cheap is what Bahram Beizai calls cheap.”

Aghdashloo added: “The fake performance of an artist in any given time is like the fake smile of a salesman at a supermarket, those who smile in hope of earning a living. These fake smiles will not last for long, and history will completely ignore and forget such people.” 

Asked about his reasons for not acting in movies during the past years and especially not appearing in Bahman Farmanara’s movie, he said: “My son, who was 14 at the time, didn’t give me the permission to do it.” 


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