Closed Curtain Screen 83 of 31 reviews

Closed Curtain

2013

Closed Curtain Poster
  • The film zigzags from the petrifying to the playful, turning on a dime from creepy, character-driven drama to subtle meta-theatrics featuring Panahi himself—yet the entire enterprise functions coherently as a film about emotional and creative limbo. Panahi has again proven that a great artist can make even confinement seem expansive.

  • Closed Curtain, in its deliberate irresolvability, may confirm the bleak argument made in This Is Not a Film. Panahi may not have the freedom to make the movies he’d like to be directing, but whatever he’s doing (working with collaborators under considerable constraints), the result is, at turns, confounding, challenging, and extraordinary. It might be _more_ of a film than This Is Not a Film, and it is certainly, like Panahi’s previous effort, an assured and powerful piece of filmmaking.

  • His first response was the acidly titled “This Is Not a Film,” a semi-documentary made in his own apartment... Panahi has now made a semi-narrative, filmed inside his Caspian Sea vacation house; it is a slower and even bleaker film... When Panahi himself walks quietly into the frame, it’s the visual equivalent of a crash of cymbals.

  • Peel the artichoke, beyond the visual doublings and textual enigmas... and you may come to wonder, as I did, if the fictionalized "realness" of Panahi's movie, and how it expresses his life's dilemma, isn't just more simulacra and self-publicity, as authentic or inauthentic as a bedroom YouTube spat or activist Twitter chain. If so, so what? The reality of Closed Curtain is entirely off-screen, in the grip of Sharia fanaticism, and no less vital for that.

  • So where This Is Not a Film was triumphant, a portrait of a man banned from creating continuing to do so in proud, uplifting fashion, Closed Curtain is its dark flip side, the trauma that ensues from a prisoner stuck with own inexpressible thoughts. Like the author-protagonist of Flann O'Brien's At Swim, Two Birds who's pestered and abused by his own creations, the Panahi avatar here is pressed into a confined space with the animated products of his own imagination.

  • Panahi once again appears as a version of himself, and his entrance is breathtaking in the way it both shatters and reconfigures the story we thought we were seeing. This is the tale of a man who lives so completely with his muses and characters that he slips between reality and fantasy without an anchor to hold him... The journey is often challenging, but the rewards—heady, emotional, provocative and invigorating—are endless.

  • The covert setting wreaks a nearly surrealistic transformation on the stuff of daily life; footfalls and flickers of light, the click of doors and the roar of cars carry the terror of arrest. But, when the filmmakers dare to open the curtains, they see another, unofficial Iran, one that eludes their persecutors, as imagination and reality flow together in surprising and exhilarating ways.

  • Some see Closed Curtain as a lesser footnote to This Is Not a Film or as some sort of disjointed coda. The new film does pick up where the previous one left off, but it is by no means a lesser work. It is a moving, perplexing record of a period of true crisis as experienced by two close collaborators as well as a tribute to friends and neighbors who defy risk to lend a helping hand to an artist in need.

  • The opening stretches emphasize suspense, when the writer hears voices and sirens outside, and unseen officials hammer against the door. The result is an image of the creative artist forced to conceal himself from forces of authority. With Panahi’s appearance, the film becomes more subjective than allegorical, and the abrupt juxtaposition of the two parts of the film create a puzzling whole. But that whole is rigorously filmed and arouses interest throughout.

  • The director-actor's demeanor, despite the sorrow, is as unflappable and open as always: a gentle, warm presence, the intimations of suicide seeming almost antithetical to the simple tone of the man's body, his aspect. Which is why the admission of such darkness, of such solitude and doubt comes across with such force. And I cannot tell if the closing image, free and jailed at once, is a hope or fact.

  • Closed Curtain uses Panahi's beach house to create a metaphysical reality in which he appears as much a political prisoner in his real life as he does within his creative world; the fantastical escape offered to him by his characters' diegesis seems both restrictive and enticing.

  • [Halfway through the film,] Panahi himself calmly walks across the screen, ushering in a dizzying mise en abîme which dominates the rest of the film. Jafar Panahi, in a way, is the Lionel Messi of the cinema: nothing could be less unexpected than for Panahi to pull such a move on the spectator, but no matter how well we prepare ourselves for the crucial moment, he still manages to leave us flat-footed, as he effortlessly dribbles the ball past us.

  • Though it may lack some of the urgent potency of This Is Not a Film's profound implications, both political and philosophical, Jafar Panahi's second "not-a-film" is more formally sophisticated and intricate, an elegantly and movingly directed confession of the director's declining morale.

  • Closed Curtain is like a prismatic refraction of This Is Not a Film, the truth of Panahi’s loss of freedom broken down into shards that sometimes overlap, frequently contradict one another, and ultimately refuse to cohere into a fully legible allegory... [It] enfolds its politics within what I believe will go down as one of cinema’s finest, most complex acts of self-portraiture.

  • +

    Sight & Sound: Hannah McGill
    July 31, 2015 | September 2015 Issue (p. 70)

    It's party a Godardian exposé of the pointlessness of artifice, partly a sorrowful gesture of creative indifference and partly an artsy version of one of those horror movies in which all the characters turn out to be elements of the same troubled consciousness. Only some moments shine through the general murk of a film whose very ineffectiveness might make its most important point, which is that a great artist is being damaged, his light dimmed, his very will to make things wekeaned.

  • Everything in the second part becomes a critique on the deficiencies of the first part. We see what it is like to be kneecapped at your prime, and Panahi suggests that the only thing you can do is to examine the wound and maybe pick at it. “I know times are really tough, but it’ll get better,” says Panahi’s friend. For his sake, and our benefit, we hope so too... [Closed Curtain is] a powerful meditation on creativity.

  • This Is Not a Film is superb, but Closed Curtain shows his inspiration unraveling when it’s required to feed on itself: it wouldn’t be too cruel to retitle it This Is Barely A Film. Still, the value of Closed Curtain is the very ineloquence of its cri de coeur. Where its predecessor defiantly showed that Panahi could take it, here the stresses show: they’re tearing him apart, and it shouldn’t happen to any artist.

  • While it has no budget, no sets and only one professional actor... it’s much closer to being a “real” Panahi movie than the 2011 “This Is Not a Film,” which was supposedly smuggled out of Iran on a thumb drive baked into a cake... “Closed Curtain,” on the other hand, combines elements of thriller, domestic comedy and frame-breaking documentary realism, and offers a loving portrayal of ordinary Iranian society, as it functions below the surface under the theocracy.

  • ...This startling moment recalls a similar one in the middle of Panahi’s "The Mirror" when the little girl playing the film’s main character suddenly declares she’s not acting any more and runs away from the film location, to be followed by other cameras. That “coup de cinema,” though, took us from fiction to something closer to documentary, whereas this one transitions to a kind of subjective surrealism—call it a documentary about the inside of Panahi’s head in recent years.

  • What follows is as moody and oracular a film as Panahi has ever made, and that’s saying something: he positions himself not as a prisoner of politics but rather as a man frozen in stasis, unable to change events around him. It’s a rich frame to hang around Panahi’s situation, showing—again—cinema sapped of its will to live, as a kind of numb gestalt for Panahi’s day-to-day experience of reality. But that said, the film is existentially suicidal: weak, opaque to a fault, and meandering.

  • The filmmaker’s entrance sweeps these characters into the realm of fiction, like the ghosts of films unmade rattling around his imagination. The film feels more like a sketch or an internal debate than a fully realized film, but it’s still remarkably effective, and it’s no coincidence that even as Panahi steps outside of his home, the camera never leaves the villa.

  • Closed Curtain is overloaded with ideas and twists and narrative levels that don’t always add up, and when they do, they feel forced. But this excess—born of a life in turmoil, for years now—is preferable to Tanovic’s false modesty or Netzer’s moral correctness.

  • Much like his previous This Is Not A Film, the documentary he shot on an iPhone and smuggled to Cannes in 2011, Closed Curtain is far too personal for those unfamiliar with Panahi’s real life story to appreciate. Even for those acquainted, it may at times prove too cryptic and slow a viewing experience, necessitating thorough post hoc analysis to grasp a lot of the import and symbolism.

  • Lacking the conceptual elegance and message-in-a-bottle novelty of “This Is Not a Film,” “Closed Curtain” is darker and messier, more discomfiting and doubt-filled. While its mere existence is a testament to Mr. Panahi’s courage, the sense of defiant triumph that animated the earlier film is largely gone. “Closed Curtain” plays as a confessional work from a depressive artist, trying to surmount the obvious limitations of his situation and... acknowledging the possible futility of that quest.

  • It’s not really clear what Panahi is trying to express with “Closed Curtain,” and to give the picture a pass because it was the best he could do under the circumstances would be more painful than trying to illuminate its faults... “Closed Curtain” is more a sketched-out essay than a fully fleshed-out film, an unshaped meditation on what happens to creativity when you try to shut it in a box. The answer, or as close as Panahi can get to it, isn’t particularly encouraging.

  • Intriguingly allegorical first half falls prey to one of Panahi's patented reflexive mid-film switcheroos, which (I'm sorry to say) primarily makes the second half seem kinda whiny. Granted, Panahi has justifiable cause to whine, but I was more into this before he showed up in the flesh and turned it into a full-bore Morality Play, with characters who might as well be called Creativity and Suicide.

  • More Kaufman than Lynch, y'all. I guess it was only a matter of time before Panahi went into full-on self-reflexive mode; I don't think he's refined enough a filmmaker to really pull this kind of thing off, though. Like the lesser parts of This is Not a Film, Panahi insists on literalizing his subtext and then trying to bury it again in a meandering non-narrative, allowing characters to appear/reappear/behave according to the whims of a writer character...

  • Panahi himself arrives later, though his relationship to the screenwriter is unclear: is the latter a product of the former’s imagination? Are they aware of their presences side by side? Who’s the specter and what’s real? Closed Curtain repeatedly worries and rearranges these relationships and ambiguities. It’s both dazzling and suffocating: as it becomes clear that what’s going on could be infinitely/indefinitely tweaked, it’s hard not to want Panahi to wrap it up and settle on a takeaway.

  • Its final half-hour meanders and sputters in order to prove that—even with access to equipment, actors, and a small crew—Panahi is too cut off from society to make a satisfying or cohesive film. It doesn’t work, because he can’t. In short, Closed Curtain is deliberately frustrating, especially because its early scenes showcase a filmmaker making the most of limited means.

  • ...Without the meta trickery of its predecessor, Closed Curtain just begins to feel like a lesser (though more handsomely shot) variation. It’s nice to see Panahi keeping busy, of course, especially given that the main drive of this one is his fear of not being able to work anymore. But the finished product feels a bit like a restless throwaway, a film he made of compulsion to just make _something_.

  • Closed Curtain... seems a step down from his first, the invigorating This Is Not a Film... The film turns characteristically self-reflexive in its second half and can’t help feeling like an unfulfilling rehashing of its predecessor from there on out.

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