Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Close-Up




Written, edited, and directed by Abbas Kiarostami, Nema Ye Nazdik (Close-Up) is the story about a man who pretends to be a filmmaker only to cause trouble as he involves a family to be part of his scheme. The film is an exploration into identity as well as existence as it is presented in a mixture of documentary and narrative filmmaking. Starring Hossein Sabzian and Mohsen Makhmalbaf. The result is an intriguing yet very provocative film about identity and the love for art.

The film is based on this real-life incident in which Hossein Sabzian pretends to be revered Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf in his hopes to become a filmmaker by convincing a rich Iranian family that he is Makhmalbaf. He is eventually caught by a journalist where Sabzian goes to trial to reveal why he did this where a lot of questions are raised about Sabzian’s intentions. Yet, what Sabzian does reveal in the course of this film showcase a world in which how cinema can impact someone’s life and maybe have this individual really aspire to do something though he didn’t intend to manipulate anyone. Even as it is presented by filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami as a mixture of documentary and dramatic re-creations as the people involved in this incident replay their roles for this film.

While there isn’t much of a script as it allows many of the film’s participants including Kiarostami to essentially act out in the dramatic re-creations. It is about the idea of how art can drive a man to do such a thing in order to become a filmmaker. Sabzian is revealed to be a big fan of Makhmalbaf’s work as well as the work of Kiarostami who is often seen behind the camera talking to Sabzian in a few scenes while filming the actual trial in which Sabzian is the subject of this incident. For many of the film’s dramatic re-creations including the opening scene of this journalist arriving on a taxi with two soldiers and a cab driver to the home of the family in order to expose Sabzian. Kiarostami presents a lot of these dramatic re-creations in a film stock that is clear and pristine to establish that this is a dramatization of these events though it does still blur the idea of fiction and reality.

For the scenes at the trial, Kiarostami and cinematographer Ali-Reza Zarrindast go for a more grainy film stock to capture the trial where it is all happening just as it is. It has Kiarostami going for a documentary approach to capture the events of the trial where he uses a lot of close-ups to capture Sabzian’s confession to the court. In the dramatic scenes, there is that element of cinema verite as well as the idea of the fourth wall breaking where Kiarostami and his crew are trying to capture something that is happening as Kiarostami creates these images that are really exotic and full of life. Notably in the film’s final moments where the real Mohsen Makhmalbaf appears as Kiarostami is trying to capture this moment as he, Zarrindast and his sound men in Ahmad Asgari and Mahammad Haghighi are intent on capturing it on film. Yet, there is something wrong with the boom mic as it plays to that blur of reality and fiction.

With Kiarostami creating a film that is about identity and how art can play into a man’s existence, he takes this mixture of fiction and documentary into telling a story about why this man did such a thing? There are no real answers but more revelations into the impact of art. Everyone wants to create something that can be meaningful including the people in this film as they all give very remarkable performances whether they’re just acting or being themselves. Even if it’s through some effective yet rhythmic editing, Kiarostami does keep things simple to capture some idea of reality. While there isn’t a traditional score that appears for most of the film except in the end as it’s a music piece from Kambiz Roushanavan that is this serene yet melancholic violin cut from Kiarostami’s The Traveler. It is still an effective moment that plays to everything that Sabzian goes through as the overall result is a fascinating and captivating film about art and the effects it has on humanity.

The 2-disc (1 disc Blu-ray) Region 1 DVD presents the film in a newly restored, high-definition digital transfer in its 1:33:1 theatrical aspect ratio with new and improved English subtitles as well as Dolby Digital Mono for the film. The first disc of the DVD presents the film as well as two special features relating to the film. The first of which is an audio commentary track by American film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum and Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa as they’re both authors on a book about Kiarostami. Rosenbaum and Saeed-Vafa both reveal the importance of the film’s impact on not just for Kiarostami but also for Iranian cinema which was coming out of the Iranian Revolution and the Iraq-Iran war of the 1980s.

Saeed-Vafa reveals a lot about Kiarostami’s background in Iran as well as a lot of insight into the history of Iranian cinema before the Iranian Revolution of the late 70s and its aftermath. Notably as both Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf were the premier filmmakers of that time. There was a mutual respect between the two filmmakers but after this film, they became bitter rivals. Rosenbaum talks about Kiarostami’s impact outside of Iran as well as how he was able to infuse ideas of Italian neo-realism into his work but make it his own. There are also discussions about his films in the commentary as well as some humorous anecdotes about the film itself as it’s a very enjoyable commentary from Saeed-Vafa and Rosenbaum.

The second big special feature in the first disc is Kiarostami’s first full-length feature film in The Traveler. It is a mesmerizing story about a boy’s desire to go to a football game in Tehran as he schemes friends and family in order to make the trip from his small town to Tehran. Yet, he learns about the meaning of right and wrong as it is one of Kiarostami’s finest films as it features elements of French New Wave in Kiarostami’s presentation for the film.

From the second disc of the DVD, there’s a 45-minute documentary called “Close-up” Long Shot about Hossein Sabzian. The documentary is shot six years after the film in which friends and family talk about Sabzian and the impact the film had on him. Sabzian himself also talks where he reveals his love for cinema and his desire to enter the world of film. It’s a very compelling documentary that explore a man’s passion for cinema and how much trouble it got him dating back to childhood and how it also ruined him as an adult.

The 27-and-a-half minute interview with Kiarostami shot in 2009 at the Marrakech Film Festival is about the filmmaker talking about the film and how it impacted his career. Kiarostami reveals that the film was definitely a major change in his career in not just how he would make films but also the impact it would have in his career. He also talks about Hossein Sabzian and admits, there were some troubles in the production though Sabzian became sort of famous after the film. Yet, Kiarostami wanted to make a follow-up to the film with Sabzian but Sabzian’s death in 2006 forced Kiarostami to scrap the idea. It’s an intriguing interview about the film and the filmmaker himself who reveals a lot about some of the secrets of the film.

The 31-minute A Walk with Kiarostami by Iranian film professor Jamsheed Akrami is a documentary shot in 2001 where Kiarostami is attending a film festival in Ireland. Shot in two days, Kiarostami talks about his views on the world and cinema while reveling in some of the beauty of Ireland. It’s a very fascinating short that has Kiarostami taking photos of a river while walking on a trail with Akrami where Kiarostami also provides some funny ideas about life itself.

The DVD also includes a booklet that features an essay by film critic Godfrey Cheshire entitled Prison and Escape. Cheshire’s essay revels in the film’s importance in not just for Iranian cinema and for Abbas Kiarostami but also in how it showcased a man whose crime was just pretending to be someone in order to make a film. Cheshire notes that the film’s importance for Iran in this post-Ayatollah Khomeini period is that it showed Iran from a very different light that was new to Western audiences. Since this film blurred fiction and reality, it was something new and different which brought Kiarostami lots of international attention and help plant the seeds for a new wave of Iranian cinema that was to emerge in the mid-1990s. It’s a terrific essay that serves as a great accompaniment to a brilliant DVD release.

Nema Ye Nazdik is an extraordinary film from Abbas Kiarostami about a man’s devotion to cinema and the action that he creates that nearly gets him in trouble. It’s a film that is truly unlike anything as it raises lots of questions about identity and existence as well as passion for something like cinema. For those who are new to Kiarostami, this film is a great introduction to the filmmaker. In the end, Nema Ye Nazdik is a marvelous film from Abbas Kiarostami.7

Abbas Kiarostami Films: (The Experience) - The Traveler - (A Wedding Suit) - The Report - (First Case, Second Case) - (Fellow Citizens) - (First Graders) - (Where is the Friend’s Home?) - (Homework) - (Life, and Nothing More…) - (Through the Olive Trees) - Taste of Cherry - (The Wind Will Carry Us) - (ABC Africa) - (Ten) - (Five) - (10 on Ten) - (Shirin) - Certified Copy - (Like Someone in Love)

© thevoid99 2013

2 comments:

Chip Lary said...

I happened to see this just a couple of days ago. It's probably my favorite of Kiarostami's (sp?) films that I've seen. I like the whole "what is reality?" aspect of it.

thevoid99 said...

It's a film that definitely blurs reality but doesn't in a very good way. So far, Taste of Cherry is my favorite Kiarostami film. There's still a couple of films I do have on DVD that I need to see but one of them will be seen in May for the Cannes Film Festival Marathon.