Close-Up is a 1990 Iranian docu-fiction (combination of documented note and fictional story respectively) written, directed and edited by Abbas Kiarostami. This movie is directed in a radically drab cinema-verite style that helps blur any difference between what is real and what is reconstructed. The movie is not always easy to watch. In one scene, the camera follows the course of a kicked piece of trash for a few seconds that seem nearly endless.
The film tells the story of the real-life trial of a man who impersonated film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, conning a family into believing they would star in his new film. It features the people involved, acting as themselves. A film about human identity, it helped to increase recognition of Kiarostami in the West. In the 2012 Sight & Sound poll, it was voted by critics into ‘The Top 50 Greatest Films of All Time’ list
The film introduces Hossain Sabzian as a film lover and huge fan of popular Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. One day Sabzian ride the bus reading a copy of the novel The Cyclist when he meets Mrs. Ahankhah, a fan of the film. Sabzian tells her that he is Makhmalbaf, the author of the book and film. She’s a bit surprised that a famous director is riding public transportation, but Sabzian explains that this is how he finds his subjects for film and that art must spring from life. Posing as Makhmalbaf, Sabzian visits the Ahankhah family several times over the next couple of weeks. He flatters them by saying he wants to use their house for his next film and their sons as his actors. He even obtains a substantial amount of money from them, ostensibly to prepare for the film. Mr. Ahankhah has his suspicions though, especially when a magazine photo shows a younger darker-haired Makhmalbaf. He invites an ambitious journalist friend (Hossain Farazmand) over, who confirms that Sabzian is indeed an impostor. The police come to arrest Sabzian, while Farazmand takes several pictures for his upcoming article: “Bogus Makhmalbaf Arrested.” Kiarostami intersperses these scenes throughout the film, which does not progress chronologically. They are re-enactments.
Close-Up is based on real events that occurred in Northern Tehran in the late 1980s. Kiarostami first heard about Sabzian in 1989 after reading about the incident in an article in the Iranian magazine Sorush by journalist Hassan Farazmand. Kiarostami immediately suspended work on the film project that he was in pre-production of and began making a documentary on Sabzian. Kiarostami was allowed to film Sabzian’s trial and also got Sabzian, the Ahankhahs and Farazmand to agree to participate in the film and to re-enact incidents from the past. Kiarostami also arranged for Mohsen Makhmalbaf to meet Sabzian and help facilitate forgiveness between Sabzian and the Ahankhahs
Close-Up much more than a clever reflection on film-versus-life as an endless hall of mirrors. A transcendent humanist in the tradition of the Italian neo-realists and the Indian director Satyajit Ray, Mr. Kiarostami has made a film that looks into the heart of a man accused of a crime and, instead of evil, discovers only sweetness, longing and a sad confusion.
Close-Up shows how movies can affect our everyday lives. Sabzian’s original impersonation was sparked by his love of film, and his intentions as Makhmalbaf were to make a film. The trial was affected by the filming taking place–certain revelations were brought about through Kiarostami’s presence. The story is awesome and scripting the combo of real incidents to the documented evidence make much more gripping and in a way, the difference between shots is hardly visible and certainly this can be a work of genius alone… I was moved watching this movie- made me laugh and it also brought me to tears. Absolutely mind bogglingly.
This is not a film about cinema Kiarostami staged categorically, “it is portrait of a man who is searching, erratically but desperately, for his place in the world. It is only because his passion, the object of his desire and his source of comfort is the cinema that the Close-Up is also about cinema.”…..Abbas Kiarostami stands tall for all the aspiring film makers globally. A salute indeed
- Written, edited and directed by Abbas Kiarostami
- Director of photography: Ali Reza Zarrin-Dast
- Produced by the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults
- Released by Zeitgeist Films
- Running time: 90 minutes.
- Casting: Hossain Sabzian, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abbas Kiarostami (Themselves), Abolfazl Ahankhah (Father), Mehrdad Ahankhah and Manoochehr Ahankhah (Sons), Mahrokh Ahankhah and Nayer Mohseni Zonoozi (Daughters), Ahmed Reza Moayed Mohseni (Friend) and Hossain Farazmand (Reporter)