Abbas Kiarostami (Iran, 1990)
(Nama-ye nazdik). A newspaper article caught Kiarostami's eye: an unemployed young film buff had wormed his way into the home and hearts of a well-to-do family by impersonating the well-known director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. From this story Kiarostami made an offbeat film about cinema, the swindle and the dream. He enters the story cinema verité–style, recreating events leading up to the impostor's exposure and arrest, then following the actual court proceedings. In droll reenactments by obliging real-life protagonists, and in its pathetic hero, the film at times plays like Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run ("Let him have his lunch!" the mother says to the arresting gendarmes). Certainly, Hossein Sabzian's accusers attribute to him a craftiness he doesn't possess. His failing is a naiveté that is shared by many: Close-Up is a very moving and surprising film about anomie and the creative responses to it.
• Written by Kiarostami. Photographed by Ali Reza Zarrindast. With Hossein Sabzian, Hassan Frazmand, Abolfazi and Mehrdad Ahankhah. (100 mins, Color, 35mm, From Farabi Cinema Foundation)
Film School of Hossein Sabzian
(Azadeh Akhlaghi, Iran, 2005)
This follow-up to Close-Up continues the story of that film's then youthful con artist Hossein Sabzian, now tragically near death in a Tehran hospital. Interviews with Sabzian's friends and family reveal divided feelings ("He was a true poet!" "We were all ashamed of him!"), but the film finds greater truths in diversions, like a flirtatious conversation with a young woman, a reunion with an old friend, or a nocturnal visit to Sabzian's abandoned house, which he romantically dreamed of turning into a film school. The question, "What does it mean to be in love with cinema?" has never had a more heartbreaking answer.—Jason Sanders
• Written, Photographed by Akhlaghi. (52 mins, B&W, DVCam, From Azadeh Akhlaghi)
• (Total running time: 152 mins, In Farsi with English subtitles)