I watched Abbas Kiarostami’s brilliant 1990 film Close-Up the other night.
I saw this probably 20 years ago and wasn’t in a place to get it I guess. I thought it was kind of boring, as I recall. But I figured it was time to rewatch this and I am so glad I did. It’s such a bizarre, unusual, and powerful film. It’s not just the strangeness of the story–a poor man who loves movies poses as a famous director to get respect from people–it’s that Kiarostami is allowed to film the trial and ask questions of the man! I don’t know much about the Iranian justice system of the late 80s, but this seems…irregular? Then he gets everyone involved–the fraud, the newspaper reporter, the people he attempted to fool–to recreate all the key scenes! And finally, he gets Mohsen Makhmalbaf, the famous director who the guy was pretending to be, to get everyone back together as an act of reconciliation.
It’s really just a remarkable film about art and poverty and longing to be someone else.
I’ve heard that the Iranian film scene that was so artistically at the forefront of the world in the 80s and 90s has mostly fallen apart as the amazing work of people such as Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf has been replaced with the dumb comedies and action movies that audiences around the world prefer. I can’t really say that’s surprising. But that moment of Iranian film was really quite something, especially given the circumstances in which it was produced.