Saturday, June 8, 2013

On the Edge Between Truth and a Lie: Close-Up

Sabizan, the deceiver 
Close-Up (1990) could also have been called, "This is not a documentary."  Although based on true events, and the central act actually is a filmed courtroom trial, Kiarostami directed all the events of the film, creating a fictional, at times poetic account of a man in love with art.

Yet the direction on the fly (the film was invented and filmed in a month) proves Kiarostami's genius, for it is focused, touching and full of small touches that make this film brilliant.

Kiarostami, the storyteller
I don't know who I will remember more: The sensitive Sabizan who presented himself as a famous director in order, for a while, to not be the poor, unemployed divorcee, but a man with artistic vision and power;  or Kiarostami, who manipulates every event for his own artistic vision-- whether a courtroom or the very subject of his story.

In the end, Iranian cinema is balanced on the precipice of truth.  We are presented with a photograph, but it is clear that it has been shopped.  We are left with many questions:  Why was it shopped?  What was the original like?  Why did they want us to know it was shopped?  What is the truth we are supposed to see?  Or do any of these questions really matter?

I can't help but wonder if the Iranian fixation on truth and lie, hypocrisy in art, has something to do with the state of the nation they live in.  Every day millions of people are forced to live a lifestyle.   Even if people agree with this lifestyle, the fact that it is forced upon the populace means that everyone feels like a hypocrite, as if they are only living a hyper-religious life because there is societal pressure to do so.  Is this really hypocrisy?  Does it matter, since everyone is living out certain principles, whether they agree with them or not?  In the end, just how important is sincerity?  Perhaps it is enough to say that we are how we live, even if how we live isn't how we intended to.

Even so, Close-Up is a humane portrait of a man fixated with art.  Yes, there are layers here, but perhaps, in the end, the layers mean nothing.   4.5/5

An excellent article on the making of Close-Up (please read only after having watched the film) can be found here

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