Friday 14 December 2012

Close-Up [1990]

Sometime in 1989, Kiarostami chanced upon an article, titled ‘Bogus Makhmalbaf Arrested’, about a man called Sabzian facing trial for impersonating the famous Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. As soon as he read the story, he put on hold the project he was working on then, and jumped straight into this, as he could sense the human, social and cinematic angles of this seemingly trivial incident. And thus was born the Iranian masterpiece Close-Up – part documentary and part fiction shot on a low-fidelity 16-mm camera. Kiarostami didn’t just get permission from the bemused judge presiding over the case to film its proceedings, he also convinced all those involved to play themselves in the recreation of the events. Thus we see Sabzian, a poor, divorced and largely unemployed Makhmalbaf aficionado, jokingly introducing himself as the famed filmmaker to an aged lady, and then, when invited to their house, mentioning to her family his plans to use the place as the location for his next film. Oblivious of his innocent prank, the family happily plays along; but, as soon as the hoax gets revealed, they accuse him of wanting to rob their house. Using this simple set-up Kiarostami painted a deeply sympathetic portrait of the good-natured cinephile and his desire to escape his colourless life, and in parallel, provided an incisive commentary on society’s reactions to celebrities vis-à-vis common men. He also provided us a humorous peek into the country’s legal system. The memorable moment of catharsis,  when the fictitious Makhmalbaf finally gets to meet his real counterpart, further enriched this humanistic, affecting and quietly powerful docu-drama.

Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Genre: Drama/Social Satire/Courtroom Drama/Documentary
Country: Iran


Jon said...

Very nice write-up Shubhajit. I found this one last year and was totally blown away by it. I think it's one of the best films of the 1990's....and would probably make my own list of the 100 best films ever made. It is powerful, powerful filmmaking.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks Jon. Yes, this is a fascinating example of what cinema is capable of - the ability to seamlessly mix fiction with real emotions, and vice-varsa.

I'd love to see which all films make it to your Top 100 list - so, now that you've mentioned it, I shall be eagerly waiting for it :)