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Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)
Art Uouse Rating



I watched this film because it was in Harry Lime's Top 100. It tells the bizarre true-life story of Ali Sabzian, a poor Irani, who poses as prize-winning writer/director Mohsen Makhmalbaf to "infiltrate" the home and family of a Tehran businessman and basically attempt to make a movie. Although he's found out rather quickly and charged with petty fraud, Makhmalbaf's fellow director Abbas Kiarostami makes a film of the entire episode, recreating scenes and filming Sabzian's actual trial. What it all adds up to is an interesting look at the Irani justice system and a portrait of a poor man who loves art so much that he'll do anything to try to give to others what films have given to him.

This film has been acclaimed from around the world, and its simple artistry allows the "character"'s humanity to shine through. It does make you think about what constitutes reality, not only in life but in movies. I especially liked the way the trial proceeded in that it was much more informal than our trials. Here the accused sits directly in front of the plaintiffs. I don't know if that was standard practice in Iran or if it's used as a cinematic gimmick, but it works well. In fact, although much of the film works well, the jagged nature of the storytelling and the recreations of what allegedly happened tend to diffuse the power of Close-Up for me. I realize that this isn't that much different than many of the most-honored documentaries of the last decade, but I'm still left here wondering if I'm watching a documentary or somebody taking advantage of a situation to make a "unique" movie in a unique manner. I would recommend Close-Up to everyone here who believes that it will appeal to them based on this write-up. On the other hand, if this doesn't seem like your cup of tea, you're probably correct, but it is an entryway into the interesting world of Iranian film and probably should be seen just for being so unusual.