Thu. Apr 18th, 2024

Framing the Imposter

After knowing a case about Hossain Sabzian and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, quickly, Abbas Kiarostami started efforts to make a film about both. While the events were still taking place, the trial had not yet decided Sabzian’s fate as the impostor. Setting aside preparations for another film, Kiarostami sought the actors’ participation, including the real Makhmalbaf and the Ahankhahs. Apart from approaching the court’s clerical judges and Sabzian, he obtained permission to film the trial.

In reality, Kiarostami’s camera and himself act as active participants; it is not neutral observers. He filmed Sabzian’s release from prison after the trial withdrew the complaint. His emotional encounter with an imposter leads Kiarostami to record the first part of the story. By persuading Ahankhahs and Sabzian, others played themselves in staging the events. The Iranian magazine Sorush published an unusual plot about the crime in 1989.

Authorities arrested a poor man for posing as Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an Iranian film director. To a middle-class family in northern Tehran, Sabzian has received some money from the Ahankhah family regardless of the charges. His primary motivation for the gimmick is his love of cinema. After an initial impulsive lie about his identity during a chance meeting, it is not about his financial problems.

Iranian New Wave

On its success, his deception continues to promise family members in his next film. He trained them for their roles. At such a moment, the Iranian news media reported an event about Ahankhah’s suspicions. When Makhmalbaf wasn’t aware that he had won a film festival award in India, they informed the authorities. Hassan Farazmand, a reporter, witnessed the arrest. At the police station, he conducted an extensive interview with Sabzian.

Notably, the report manages to emerge as a strange case of impostor Makhmalbaf. When considering Close-Up‘s status as a film to redefine Iranian cinema, people are more destined for the superlative to survive. Despite being often child-centered after the government’s resurgence in state-sponsored cinema in 1983, it shifted the film from a work of compassion. One is Kiarostami’s Where Is the Friend’s House? and the other is Bahram Beyzai’s Bashu, the Little Stranger.

Both not only became a forerunner of the Iranian New Wave but became cerebral self-expressions of traditional privileges such as the French New Wave. On the other hand, Close-Up is far more complex because it incorporates social concerns of Italian neorealism. While projecting the intact vital context of post-revolutionary Islamic culture, the major innovations have sure precedents.

Post-revolutionary Iranian Cinema

In Iranian culture and world cinema, the film mixes fiction and documentary in an unorthodox way. It becomes a reflexive reflection on the impact of cinema and cinema itself. Questions and auteur exaltation jointly combine the film in an originality yet new way. Thus, Close-Up is not only a drama or documentary film. However, it combines both in an unconventional yet provocative way.

As well as being a meditation on personal identity and social injustice, it interrogates cinema’s goals and processes. Indeed, the film received mixed reactions in Iran in 1990. Abroad, it was a resounding success. It did an extraordinary job with audiences and critics alike, paving the way for Kiarostami to appear at Cannes and other film festivals. In the late 1990s, he became the most vital director among American critics.

Otherwise, no film has been more dramatic in defining the international artistic arrival of post-revolutionary Iranian cinema. Dozens of Iranian and international film experts in the magazine Iran Film International called the film one of the best Iranian films ever made. At first, the opening scene shows two soldiers getting into a taxi and Farazmand. The film confuses expectations because it subtly undermines standard movie rules.

A Sense of Disorientation

As happens in many of Kiarostami’s films, he often involves the super taxi repeatedly stopping to ask directions. Aside from involving car rides, he also often creates a sense of disorientation in reflecting the audience’s feelings. During the trip, they go to Akankhah’s house. The reporter explains to the driver the strange case of a Makhmalbaf impersonator. In addition, he also explained how his excitement was in covering the instance.

When Farazmand and the soldiers burgle the house to catch the imposter, the camera does not follow the object. Not only in what the film unveils but the film’s way displays of the victim. In reverse, it stays on the driver. He turned his cab and looked up at the tailpipe of the twin jets cutting through the sky. After leaving, he took a small bouquet from the trash heap. Observed in Kiarostami’s camera for the same long time, he took out an aerosol can on the street.

Close-Up‘s philosophical complexity and formal sophistication stem unexpectedly from an authoritarian theocracy. Indeed, it is more inventive than what American and European cinema have come up with at the time. In the early 1990s, the film surprised Western audiences in many ways and scopes.


It is an Iran where a poor man and comfortable householders share a genuine love of cinema. An Islamic judge can use fondness to bring about a loving reconciliation between legal antagonists in conflict. Apart from offering a glimpse of the Islamic republic, it is much shadier than an explosion in a Western movie. Finally, the film announces the filmmaker’s antics with a clever but incredibly defiant formal approach.

When discussing metafilm questions, it matters that the film is relentlessly deceptive. Other than contrary to popular belief by novice viewers, no single scene is a literal documentary. The film is not a documentary film with fictional spices. It’s not just a reenactment of all the others. In addition, Kiarostami creates and writes films in complex fiction. It has material realism in dealing with two objects at once.

Instead of focusing on unimportant characters and their involvement in pranks, Kiarostami holds back critical events. We often refer to the sequence as one of the most striking in Kiarostami’s films. It reminds the director’s intention in making a film half finished by the imagination of the audience. Codes of ethics and standard journalistic narratives make the technique poetic. Thus, invisible arrests, especially the random bouquets, create a closing rhyme at the film’s end.

The Iranian Revolution

The aerosol can rotate, which Farazmand reactivates after the taxi leaves. On the other hand, Kiarostami engages questions about the film’s contents. It’s not just about the event but the oddly multivalent blur symbol at every turn. In an interview in 1997, Makhmalbaf said he brought the magazine to the office. He had the idea to make the film himself. However, Kiarostami said he should not direct it.

For another reason, he is a character in the story. Alternatively, Kiarostami recalls that the magazine is already in the office. He started talking about his ideas for making a film about the case. However, Makhmalbaf made him nervous. After such, both men borrowed a car to visit Ahankhah’s family. The families and directors stayed up late chatting and drinking tea. By the night’s end, Kiarostami had tricked everyone into participating in the film.

With himself as director, Kiarostami was 49 years old when he made the Close-Up. Raised in a middle-class family to become an artist, he enjoyed success before and after the Iranian Revolution. His opponent, Makhmalbaf, was in all respects at the time only 30 years old. He is a product of the misfortunes of south Tehran, has participated in anti-Shah terrorist acts, and has been in prison for many years.


Makhmalbaf started as a radical Islamist. As a filmmaker in the 1980s, he publicly denounced pre-revolutionary directors like Kiarostami. As the decade progressed, his doubts about the revolution’s fate made him a hero to Iran’s underclass legions. Like Sabzian, he left Islamism for humanism to atone for his mistakes. The week Sabzian’s article appeared, he built a bridge to bring him to Kiarostami.

Close-Up offers a solid piece of evidence for various scams. It surrounds the Sabzian trial. If one of Kiarostami’s goals is to show the strange wobbling of cinema at this juncture in Iran’s history, he would have convinced the judge mullah’s friendliness. In scheduling the sessions according to the filming, he staged the film as a large-scale film trial. Kiarostami received permission to participate in the trial.

He positioned himself beside Sabzian. Apart from joining the judges, he also asked questions to the accused. Indeed, the audience never saw Kiarostami but often heard his voice. He brought two cameras into the courtroom to tell Sabzian about cameras with wide-angle lenses. The camera will record legal proceedings if the settings are not strange. On the other hand, the close-up camera will stay on it so that the camera records the object’s appearance.

The Cyclist

For aesthetic and economic reasons, Kiarostami shot the courtroom scenes in 16 mm and the rest of the film in 35 mm. As a law against art, Kiarostami also devised a two-camera scheme to reflect Sabzian’s view of his suffering. Law accused him, admitting he violated his letter. However, he refused on grounds related to art regardless of reasonable witnesses to reckon with him.

Despite basing it on what Sabzian said, Kiarostami wrote most of Sabzian’s speech at the trial. However, he opens the story with Sabzian tricking Mrs. Ahankhah on the bus. When Sabzian tells her Sabzian is the writer of the screenplay she is currently reading, namely The Cyclist, the prank is essential to Close-Up in many ways. Sabzian continued when he posed as Makhmalbaf with his family.

Simultaneously, Farazmand gets into the weirdness of a criminal case. It ends with front-page coverage. Such a goal is that Kiarostami can trick all participants into appearing in his film. However, the leading source of deception is the cinema itself. His power in bewitching is evident every time Kiarostami turns on his camera. The medium’s strange magic sweeps away all, whether soldiers, reporters, or Ahankhahs.


When other forms of public art suppress cinema in reviving its privileges, directors emerge as cultural figures. In particular, such emerging powers in the Islamic self-rule where the revolution inspired many big dreams have dwindled. Sabzian’s deception imprisoned him literally and figuratively. Directors and theaters still offer him the usual way of escape. According to him, whenever he felt overwhelmed, he would feel the urge to scream out to the world with his suffering soul.

No one wants to hear his grief. A man comes. He portrayed his suffering in his films; he could watch them again. They put on an evil look and trade with others; the rich don’t pay attention to the simple material needs of the poor. Such a situation is artificial and offers the perfect frame for what Kiarostami has to say. It forced him to make a film about Sabzian’s personality. Ahankhah’s side fiercely watched and accused Sabzian, claiming to suffer an insult for feeling stupid.

A bearded cinephile compares himself to the hapless hero of the director’s first feature. With a serious attitude, Sabzian explains his deception in terms of poverty, control, and hardship. No one will obey him because he is just a poor man.

The Flowers

Since he was pretending to be famous, they would do whatever he said. He would return to his old self every time he left their home. Even so, he realized that he was the same old Sabzian in the night. He would go to sleep, wake up, and think about going again to play a role for them. We must decide how the ending compromises Kiarostami in persuading the judge to hand down his sentence.

Instead, Ahankhahs is very angry and wants the law to punish Sabzian. When Sabzian went to complain to the judge, he said he was sure that somehow Kiarostami had tricked him. Cinema contains few statements of power about social and psychological good. In addition, it affects Sabzian’s testimony in torture. We should appreciate Sabian’s fascination with art. Judge asks Ahankhah to pardon their offenders.

Generously but quietly present, they reluctantly agreed. Sabzian then got out of prison. He met with Makhmalbaf after fainting while crying in his hero’s arms. Both boarded a motorcycle and set off across Tehran. Despite being an issue with the Makhmalbaf microphone, it prevented the audience from hearing most of what they were saying. With the excitement of Sabzian emerging in the embrace of his idol, both stopped to buy flowers.

Blurring the Line

After Close-Up, Taste of Cherry became the first Iranian film to win the Palme d’Or at Cannes. In 2009, Makhmalbaf became a supporter of the Paris-based Iranian Green Movement. Internationally, the revival of Iranian cinema reached its peak with several festival wins from 1995 to 2000. Despite continuing innovative and passionate filmmaking, the last decade in Iran has centralized cinema to a lesser extent with the advent of new media.

Kiarostami himself continued to be rich. Time was not kind to Sabzian after he died following a heart attack at 52 years old in 2006. Explicitly identifying close-ups of what is real and what are actors is Kiarostami’s style of choice in helping the audience find the initial sequence. With the presence of an explicit filmmaker, fiction-style sequences close Sabzian’s release from prison. Sabzian’s emotional meeting with his hero is, in the end, like watching a fictional movie.

The audience could hear a shooting term as if Kiarostami didn’t have a good microphone to record flawless scenes. By all accounts, it represents a true story, but a work of art. Close-Up is neither pure fiction nor a sterling documentary because its blend of aesthetics blurs the line between the two.


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