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191 - Close Up (1989) 
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Post 191 - Close Up (1989)
I am no expert on Iranian cinema but I had heard of Abbas Kiarostami. This is his masterpiece and held up to be the greatest Iranian film of all time. The fact that it makes the top 200 films of all time is a remarkable achievement.


This is a unique film in that you are left to wonder if it's a film about a documentary or a documentary about a film. It blurs fiction with reality and becomes this fascinating melting pot about a very odd story. It winds down a strange path.

What starts out as a simple lie at a chance meeting grows into a huge fraud. A young film maker in Iran tricks a wealthy family into believing that they will star in his next film. they become suspicious, call the police and the film maker is arrested. A court case follows.


This is a true story. So now insert the film makers who attend the trial, interview the people involved, or do they? it all looks so amazingly real, you genuinely feel that you are in a real Iranian court room. But how can it be?

Filmed in 1.33 aspect ratio and often feeling like a home movie this is a remarkable film.

I am biased because I have an affinity towards films that portray human culture that I am not familiar with. This can be historic or geographic. After all, this is why we love to travel. I have never been to Iran, so this was an eye opener.

The structure of the film is like nothing I have seen. I can only wonder about how people felt seeing it 20 years ago. You are like a voyeur into what seems like a very real situation.

It's not my favorite film of all time, but it's a perfect example of why I love this journey and why I increasingly prefer classic movies to the weekly output from the studios. This film entertains and makes you think. It takes you to places you have never been and opens your eyes to things you've never seen.

Bottom line - I have now seen almost 600 of the top 1000 and this a complete one off


Sat Jun 04, 2011 12:22 am
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Post Re: 191 - Close Up (1989)
Has moved down to #220 since 2009.

Close Up (1990, Kiarostami) - ***1/2

Wonderfully creative and sympathetic semi-docudrama revolving around Hossain Sabzian, a man who imagines life would be markedly improved if he were a film director (and, later, an actor) and so one day, while riding public transportation, begins a brief career of impersonating young up-and-coming filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf. His audience is the Ahankhah family and they are willing believers in Sabzian until his enthusiasm and needs eventually give him away as an impostor.

The film is fairly tremendous: based on a real story, all characters in the film are played by the non-actors (and directors) that directly participated. If I had the enthusiasm I once had, I'd go on for 1000 words and beg at least a couple of people to take a look. I'll leave it at a polite enthusiastic recommendation. The last ten minutes alone are breathtaking enough for 5 movies.

EDIT: Rob's review claims that the person who wishes to film the family is a young filmmaker. Had this been true, a movie called Close Up wouldn't exist. Sabzian is a part-time employee at a print shop and states this several times throughout the trial which, though it may seem to be a re-enactment, is in fact actual documentation of the trial. One of the many themes of the film is how outcomes are altered when the process is observed so it's remarkable, truly, to think that Sabzian may have faced a much harsher punishment had it not been for Kiarostami making this movie. That sort of lifts it above "quirky, creative" to "gee, you really should probably consider actually putting down the Doritos and watching this movie". And it wasn't even the film that exonerated him! It was the process of making the film and the camera-friendly best behavior of those in the courtroom! My god!

The movie is endlessly fascinating, obviously.

"The Internet has given everybody in America a voice. For some reason, everybody decides to use that voice to bitch about movies." - Holden McNeil

Tue Nov 20, 2012 2:12 am
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Post Re: 191 - Close Up (1989)
Close-Up is an interesting film. Imagine if someone pretended to be P. T. Anderson, convincing a family that he's going to make a film starring them, is caught a couple of weeks later, and Clint Eastwood decides to do a semi-documentary on it, filming the trial and getting everybody to play themselves in the recreated scenes, including ones starring the hoaxster and family in their own house.

In this Iranian film, the impersonated director is Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the semi-documentarian is Abbas Kiarostami, and the hoaxster was Hossain Sabzian, who's actually pretty sympathetic, although he may just be a good actor. The trial scenes are real, with Kiarostami getting permission from everyone. Sabzian agrees because of his love of cinema, which was what caused him to launch the impersonation in the first place--well, that and the hope of a hot meal. This is one of my two favorite scenes in the movie; the other is Mr. Sabzian's capture. We actually see this from two perspectives. At the beginning of the film, we see it from the street outside the family's house. The second time we are in the house and seeing it from Sabzian's point of view. It's the second one that impressed me, with Sabzian pacing around realizing he's about to be caught and not willing to do a thing about it.

This film makes in into some 50-best film lists, and is sometimes voted the best Iranian film of all time. That's an honor I expect A Separation to take over in the near future, and there are several other Iranian films I like better. The other Kiarostami film I've seen, A Taste of Cherry, is much more polished, but I like this oddity more. Part of what's odd is this incident has nothing particularly to do with Iran. I could imagine something like this happening in any country with a vibrant cinema. Kiarostami was fortunate it happened in his, and perceptive enough to see there was a good story to be told.

Evil does not wear a bonnet!--Mr. Tinkles

Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:18 am
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