Close-Up (1990) (Not Rated)
"Close-Up" is a movie about truth and lies. It can be so staggeringly audacious that it leaves the viewers with many questions...which is also the problem with it. While it tries to nail down the elusive truth, if that is ever managed to be conveyed, the complexity of the picture overwhelms it.
When the movie begins, the camera follows a reporter from a police station to a family's house, accompanied by the police and the cab driver. As they drive, he can't shut up about this story he's about to break.
There is a man who has been posing as a semi-famous director, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and he's about to be arrested for fraud. The reporter is certain that this will be the moment that his name will go down in the history books of journalists.
The narrative, which has many different styles, often keeps the viewer away from the action only to show a new vantage point later that will illuminate moments from the beginning of the film.
After the impostor is arrested and taken to the police station, the reporter runs around, looking for a portable table recorder...cue main titles.
"Close-Up" is filmed as close to a documentary as possible while still keeping its viewers in the dark. It appears that the director Abbas Kiarostami—who appears in the film, off-screen for the most-part, as an interrogator—tries his very best to be mysterious.
The impersonator, who is now known as Hossain Sabzian, talks to Kiarostami about why he mimicked the director and why he wanted to do it.
Kiarostami takes the camera into the courtroom and plays a large role in the trial. He often interrupts the judge and starts a line of questioning for himself, to enlighten the viewer.
Amidst the shots of the trial, we have flashbacks of the events leading up. Each character is playing themselves and Makhmalbaf makes an appearance himself...it adds to the ambiguity of the movie, its mystique.
Is it a real documentary or some elaborate recreation of the facts? Kiarostami alleges that the movie is based on a true story. The questions he himself asks are enough to make us question the movie's truthfulness...which, in of itself, is what he wanted.
By using reenactments with the real people, Kiarostami tries to erase the camera from the narrative, which is an impossible feat in his case.
There is an odd following that "Close-Up" has. Its optimistic critics consider it to be one of the greatest movies ever made, landing it a place on Sight & Sound's top 50 films. Its pessimistic critics are somewhat nonchalant about the movie...it's just average.
To me, it's neither a brilliant masterpiece nor a piece that should be ignored. Its complexity is enough for its necessity to be seen. This is the kind of movie that is low on plot and high on characters and devices.
Kiarostami is a clever man and his intelligence shows in every frame of "Close-Up.
It is a revealing work, one that never really reaches finality...then again, should it have?
It's an ambitious film and it demands respect even if it is nothing spectacular.
Posted by Micah Jones