Close-Up Screen 12 articles

Close-Up

1990

Close-Up Poster
  • Much acclaimed in France for its fascinating take on the cinematic apparatus, the film combines fiction with nonfiction in a novel and provocative manner: Werner Herzog has called this the greatest of all documentaries about filmmaking, and he may not be far off–if only because no other film does more to interrogate certain aspects of the documentary form itself.

  • This film is incredibly moving. Listening to Sabzian talk about his life, the breakup of his marriage due to his inability to provide for his family, his frequent escapes into movies, and finally, a deception that may have looked sinister to the younger Ahankhahs but really amounted to little more than a vacation from reality for everyone involved, well, it’s a riveting human drama.

  • Kiarostami has zero interest in sensationalism or self-serving psychotherapy. His aims are more inquisitive and probing — to represent multiple perspectives over any rigidly declared truth, something he accomplishes with utter, astonishing simplicity.

  • The ironic reflexivity of Kiarostami’s clear, self-possessed method revels in the cinema’s inescapable blend of documentary attentiveness and the irrepressible need for self-dramatization—the free play of imagination and the free range of vision, which, from the high stool of the courtroom’s clerical overseer, are crushed in Iran.

  • This setup—an apt word—is the real-false thing, the sort that's hard to replicate with the same subtlety and wit. The effortless-seeming build-up to enlightening confusion is achieved through obsessive attention to detail, from scrambled editing to rampant sound wizardry to, astonishingly, Kiarostami's co-directing the trial with the consent of a judge obviously interested in the philosophical break from routine.

  • Lighthearted and entertaining throughout, Close-Up is cinema as reconciliation—human reconciliation as well as the reconciliation of incongruous realities. The making of the film is an act of forgiveness: The reenactments bring together culprit and victims to negotiate their differences outside the epistemology of the courtroom.

  • Close-Up's genius is not that it suggests that there's no legal and/or moral justification for Sabzian's actions, but that Sabzian's defense is impossible to fathom unless the spectator can share the man's passion for art as cultural and intellectual emancipator.

  • ...Close-Up (1990), in a new, smokin' Criterion edition, may be the [Iranian New Wave's] signature statement. This must-see artichoke is simple yet inexhaustible, a head-scratcher that takes as its business the very question of what movies are. At the same time, Kiarostami's meta-movie mysteries never obscure his deep, aching concern for people.

  • Close-up is neither a documentary nor a drama but a provocative, unconventional merging of the two, a meditation on perplexities of justice, social inequity, and personal identity that also subtly interrogates the processes and purposes of cinema.

  • [Kiarostami] became famous for open-ended movies that must be completed by the viewer's imagination, and this film--which opens itself up to greater suspicion with every turn--comes closest to providing a raison d'etre for his innovations. Instead of merely following a movie obsessive's transformation of life into cinema, CLOSE-UP sees a wave of imagination spread out over everything it touches.

  • The film is easily one of the genius feats of construction in lower-case modernist cinema. It may be a witness, its own witness at that, in complicated ways, but its need for an audience is simple charity: you will know your own level of compassion depending on how you react to this tale of ingenuity, daring, humility and mind-boggling legal complications.

  • Empathy, not gamesmanship, is the real core of the film: Kiarostami’s curiosity about the personal and social forces that led Sabzian to keep up this ruse in the first place. The film’s final sequence remains one of cinema’s most moving depictions of an artist bridging the gap between fiction and real-life in a spirit of solidarity.

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