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Close Up [DVD] 
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Kiarostami's masterpiece. A young man introduces himself as celebrated Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf and, under the pretext of working on a film project, enters the private life of a well-to-do Teheran family. Extras: Opening night of Close Up -Short film Nanni Moretti. Close Up in Close Up, by film critics and programmer Geoff Andrew.
A complex and witty deconstruction of film form, playing with the notions of drama and documentary, reality and fiction. --The Guardian
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I recommend highly the Criterion American release - essential commentary track, picture quality and extras.
Tehran is the backdrop, with the social dvisions resulting in pain that goes beyond the material, almost Dickensian.
As is typical of Kiarostami's films, the majority of the roles are played by non-actors, in this case by the actual persons involved in the true life tale . From the family that our pretend filmaker tries to con, to the real filmaker in person, Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
A touching journey of desire, fabrication and remorse.
Of course, this is a Kiarostami film – slow-moving, episodic, very wordy and one where the audience is invited to think for themselves. The closest Close-Up gets to anything like standard commercial cinema fare is perhaps the tense sequence where Sabzian begins to realise that the family, into whose life (and home) he has managed to ensconce himself on the pretext of casting them in his new film, are 'onto him’ and the net begins to close. Where Kiarostami’s film really scores, though, is in the naturalistic (and remarkably convincing) way in which his non-professional cast deliver their performances, particularly Sabzian. The conviction and coherence of the 'disadvantaged idealist’s’ plea to be treated with dignity, respect and some degree of recognition serves to exert an inexorable force on his accusers/prosecutors, leading to a powerfully moving denouement.
Throughout, Kiarostami and cinematographer Ali Reza Zarrindast’s visual style is relatively unfussy, perhaps the most memorable shots being those close-ups (in line with the film’s title) of Sabzian’s pensive and regretful face. The film also seems quite light on symbolism, allusions (perhaps) to much sought-after artistic freedom being restricted to Hossain Farazmand’s journalist lifting his eyes skyward to a soaring jet and then dislodging an aerosol can, to allow it to roll, unrestricted, down the road. The film’s final sequence, uniting Sabzian and his 'hero’, the real Makhmalbaf, does, however, provide a memorably poignant and thought-provoking conclusion to Kiarostami’s highly original slice of cinema.
Doubtless a remarkable achievement, Close Up should nevertheless be placed on the 'challenging' rather than 'entertaining' pile. The short but waffling analysis given by Geoff Andrew is telling for its quote of Godard: 'Film began with D. W. Griffiths and ended with Abbas Kiarostami.' - much of the appeal is academic, and without learning a lot about the film beforehand you may find it does not live up to the superlative criticism on the cover.
Thankfully, Kiarostami's bookish inversion of cinematic conventions never degenerates to Godard's often irritating oeuvre which (in my opinion) relentlessly deconstructs the medium whilst rarely producing good films-in-themselves. This is mainly because there is so much humanity in the film - by using real documentary footage and reconstructions of key events (using the real people playing themselves) we feel a bizarrely intimate knowledge of each of the main characters which would be lost in a straight documentary. But at the same time each of the characters ARE acting and concealing something to save face - perhaps it is this ambiguity of human relationships which is so intriguing.
The DVD itself is nicely packaged, the transfer is clean, and the subtitles sufficient. Moretti's short is an added bonus (since it led me to the film in the first place).
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