Close-Up ★★★★½

As Close-Up proceeded, I immediately thought of Color Me Kubrick, another true story about someone impersonating a famous, but somewhat reclusive director. While Color Me Kubrick was an amusing film, made especially absurd by John Malkovich’s portrayal, it wasn't really anything to write home about. One thing that did strike me with Close-Up was the opening credits, where everyone was listed as playing ‘themselves’. Now that’s novel. Is this a prank?

Those thoughts quickly vanished as I began to get sucked deeper and deeper into this beguilingly simple re-enacted quasi documentary. As I was watching, I simply couldn't rationalize why it captivated me so. Absent was dramatic tension, traditional plot beats, court room emotional histrionics, anger, or tears. Just calm, measured, believable ‘performances’(?) It conjured similar feelings to those I had when I watched A Separation, another Iranian masterpiece.

In slow films like Close-Up, I usually start analyzing as I’m watching. Not in this case. I was just taken in by watching it unfold, and happy to let it just wash over me. I was moved by the proceedings of the civil trial. It was just so, .. civil! The judge asking before the proceedings if their differences could be settled amicably amongst themselves, and then asking again after the proceedings were finished. I was particularly taken by the final scene, where the ‘documentary’ crew is capturing the imposter meeting the one he impersonated. Director Abbas Kiarostami used the brilliant device of an intermittent wireless sound link. You could hear the tonal expression in the voices, but you can’t hear what they’re saying. Having this dialogue shrouded was the icing on the cake, as knowing what their exchange was could only lessen the real emotion the scene portrayed.

In the hour or so after finishing watching, and before going to bed, I still had not formulated my thoughts, but my admiration for Close-Up was growing and growing .. and I didn't really know why. Somehow it touched me. As my mind drifted back to it throughout today, it began to come into sharper focus. Kiarostami was making a brilliant comment on the power of art and film, and what it brings to all of our lives. It didn't matter that the characters were from disparate social classes; they were all disenfranchised in some way, and struggled daily with the obstacles that life has placed before them. Their common bond is that they can identify and empathize with the characters and stories they read about and watch on the silver screen. Through this empathy, it makes it easier to understand one another.

I've never seen a film quite like Close-Up. It is a truly unique and original gem.