Close-Up (1990) Final Sequence- Abbas Kiarostami

Close-Up (1990) dir. Abbas Kiarostami

Film buff Hossain Sabzian pretends to be famous Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, and tells a family he intends to make a documentary about them.  They believe him at first, but soon the truth is uncovered.  Sabzian faces criminal charges.

Real-life Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami reads about Sabzian in a magazine.  He decides to make a (real) documentary about Sabzian and the family.

The resulting film doesn’t set down a clear line between fiction and fact, or between reenactment and historical event.  I learned only from articles about the film that the trial in the film was Sabzian’s real trial.  I’m still not sure which parts were reenactments.

This approach is wholly appropriate for the subject at hand.  Sabzian himself seems unsure as to what exactly his motives were or just how true his intentions were as to actually making a movie at some point.  The family also is inconsistent — until pressed — as to exactly when they stopped buying into his story.  As in most of life, ‘rational true belief” doesn’t often happen.

Kiarostami refuses the pretense of objectivity that other documentarians would take — rejecting the god-like view and role that viewers often give a “nonfiction” filmmaker and that the duped family gave Sabzian.  As with Jean Rouch, Kiarostami views the process as an interaction between the filmmaker and the ‘subjects’ of the film, becoming a subject himself.  This change in perspective also allows the family and Sabzian to become co-authors of the film — sort of a theosis through cinema.

Adam Call Roberts

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