24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Perhaps Kiarostami's best work -- but you have to be patient,
This review is from: Close-Up (DVD)A man on a bus gets mistaken for the famous Iranian filmmaker Mohssen Makhmalbaf, and he pretends to be him for a while, ingratiating himself into the life of a family by speaking of a project he is working on. He's not in it for the money, though he borrows taxi fare and is given food. It's the sense of being someone, someone who matters, someone who these people he has come to care about will look up to. When another Iranian filmmaker hears about the trial for this alleged conman, he asks permission to film it and follows up by reconstructing elements of the case, using the actual perpetrator as his main actor.
I don't want to give away more of the situation, captured here in a unique blend of documentary and fiction. What I do want to give is a personal account of my experience with this film, that I hope will motivate a few to take a look -- and to be patient. The film doesn't work its magic right away -- and in fact the beginning of the film can be somewhat disorienting.
Kiarostami has a way of finding the fantastic in the mundane. Somehow, he sets up his films in such a way that I can find myself for the most part merely interested wondering what it is all about, and then suddenly surprised to find myself overwhelmed, surprised by an emotional response that was not manipulated from me with music but somehow, mysteriously. This happened to me while watching ABC Africa, and even more powerfully during this film. His style, the way he achieves this, can almost be thought of as an anti-style -- I know that may not make a lot of sense, but it would take longer than I have here to make clear what I am thinking when I say this. It seems like he is doing very little, but the effect is (in my experience) magical, unexplainable and overwhelming. (For those familiar with Paul Schrader's provocative work on "transcendental style" in Bresson, Ozu and Dreyer, I'd suggest Kiarostami as another who works in this vein -- but whose work is quite distinct from these three).
I'll admit, I'm biased. I've become fascinated by the work of Kiarostami in the past few years. Plus, I am very much drawn to films where reality and fiction intersect and overlap in interesting ways. Still, I'm convinced that with a bit of patience -- if you just give yourself the time to let the film work on you without bringing to it expectations that it won't fulfil -- anyone would be overwhelmed by the marvelous simplicity of this film.
I'm very excited to hear that Criterion is re-releasing this film, and hope that it manages to receive wider attention and acclaim. Here's what to expect on the Criterion dvd release:
-a new, restored high-definition digital transfer
-an audio commentary by Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa and Jonathan Rosenbaum, authors of Abbas Kiarostami
-The Traveler, a notable early feature by director Abbas Kiarostami
-"Close-up" Long Shot, a forty-five-minute documentary on Close-up's central figure, Hossein Sabzian, five years after Kiarostami's film
-a new video interview with Kiarostami
-A Walk with Kiarostami (2003), a thirty-two-minute documentary portrait of the director by Iranian film professor Jamsheed Akrami
-a new and improved English subtitle translation
-and a booklet featuring an essay by film scholar Godfrey Cheshire