Close-up, the first of Abbas Kiarostami’s films to make the list, is certainly an anomaly in the director’s career, as far as the films I’ve seen. There’s a certain mood, a temper, a feeling of peacefulness and calm, coupled with a stoic look at the fictional tale being told. Close-up is none of those things. Aside from the muted mindset of reality, there isn’t really a peace or calm about it, the mood that oozes from his other films is not present here, and neither is this film a fictional one. Well, it kinda is; it’s technically a re-staging of factual events, so one could make a case for either side. One thing’s for sure; unless his earlier filmography is any different from his later work, this sure didn’t feel like a Kiarostami film at first, and maybe that’s why I ended up liking this a little more than his other films, as much as I did appreciate those.
As I mentioned, Close-up is a filming of re-enacted events that actually took place (though there is some documentary footage of the trial of the main guy involved). It’s the story of how one man, Hossein Sabzian, tried to fool a Tehranian family into believing he was a famous Iranian director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and that he would use their house and their family in his next film, ostensibly gaining their trust and even some of their finances. The film is really unique, however, in that not only is it a re-filming of the actual events that occurred, but it even uses the actual people involved in the re-enactments, making this one of the most meta films I have ever witnessed. Not only that, it was surprisingly entertaining. I had prepared myself to experience another Kiarostami films like the later ones on the list that I’ve seen, but as I mentioned in the opener, this is different. It is much more interested in the events that took place, and prefers to let the story tell itself, rather than trying to tell a story. There’s still sequences inside cars and other vehicles, though; something I’ve come to expect from any Kiarostami film. The man seems to have a particular obsession with these types of scenes.
One other thing to mention: the film is not told in chronological order. It opens, for instance, with Sabzian’s arrest, then intersperses the re-enacted scenes of what he did with the documentary footage of his trial. This type of narrative somehow manages to make the film that much more interesting; I assume because we are seeing the end result while we are seeing how it came to be, adding a layer of “How did he get here?” and “What did he do?” to the film. It’s not exactly mysterious, but it is quite entertaining, and easily held my interest through to the end. I can see why critics really responded to this film; it is so self-referential that it would be a wonder if critics as a whole didn’t take to it. Plus, it tells a heck of a story, and even manages to squeeze in some heartwarming moments into the end of the film. This was by far my favorite Kiarostami film, but don’t go into this expecting another one by him. This is too different to just write it off as “just another Kiarostami film”, and it’s too good to write off in any other way.
Arbitrary Rating: 9/10