Some dead filmmakers we miss not for the emotional delivery systems they can no longer manufacture, but for their company, sweet and simple. Abbas Kiarostami, the great, modest Gandalf of the Iranian New Wave, didn't make works so much as have conversations with your forebrain, and his thoughtful chitchat was always sly, generous, elastic and humane. You didn't need a more complicated or hipper reason to be his devoted viewer and to think he was, for a few decades, the great living film artist.
About a year and a half after his death, here comes a feature that can be thought of as an experiment with time, an ambient essay on the act of watching, an attempt to entirely Buddhist-ize digital cinema. Or, if you're an impatient philistine, you might think of it as 24 of the greatest screensavers ever crafted. 24 Frames is what it says it is -- 24 "frames," images digitally extrapolated out into 4 1/2-minute unconnected, unmoving set-piece shots. Sometimes an image is cadged from an outside source -- No. 1 is Pieter Bruegel's "The Hunters in the Snow," augmented with actively falling snow, live crows and dogs, and chimney smoke. No. 2 watches two wild horses court in the snow through an open car window. No. 10 watches sheep huddling headfirst around a tree in another snowstorm, a herd dog dozing beside them, with wolves showing up in the distance as we fade to black. Each micro-movie is its own koan, Kiarostami's phenomenological presence turning every image or camera posture into a question about living, seeing, empathy and essence.