Close-Up: Iranian New Wave’s Seminal Creation


Although Abbas Kiarostami seems to be receding into a Godardian cave of late, this must-see 1990 artichoke—in many ways, the Iranian New Wave’s seminal creation—will never age out. Last decade, it seemed as if nobody made movies with such mundane majesty. Close-Up begins, though not for us, with a court case against Sabzian, an out-of-work Iranian man who, posing as controversial director-celebrity Mohsen Makhmalbaf, insinuates himself into an upper-class Tehrani family’s life under the pretense of using them in a film. He doesn’t, of course, but in a kind of proto-reality show sleight-of-hand, Kiarostami does—entire segments of Sabzian’s strange little history with the family are re-enacted for the camera, and we’re never clear on exactly how much of what we see is true and how much is fiction. The courtroom footage is authentically “real,” but that means little as the cameras become active meddling forces in Sabzian’s fate. The hall of mirrors is deep, but they all reflect, humanely, on both Sabzian and his prey’s intoxication with movie-world fame. Like nearly every other Kiarostami film, Close-Up takes questions about movies and makes them feel like questions of life and death.