Abbas Kiarostami's CLOSE-UP Blu-Ray Review

The DVD and Blu-Ray of Abbas Kiarastomi's 1990 film Close-up serendipitously follows the premiere of his latest work, Certified Copy, at Cannes in 2010. Close-up is a subtle, complex film that demands multiple viewings in order to fully grasp its themes and the methods by which they are communicated.

Close-up is based on the true story of Hossein Sabzian, a man whose delusional love of cinema compelled him to impersonate filmmaker Moshen Makhmalbaf. Sabzian passed himself off in this manner to the members of the Ahankah family. He promised them roles in a film. He even rehearsed scenes with them. As a reward for his deeds, Sabzian was arrested and tried for fraud. Sounds like a simple story, right? Wrong.

Close-up employs various documentary and narrative techniques to transform an otherwise straightforward story into an exploration of the intersection of truth and fiction. Kiarostami, Makhmalbaf, and Sabzian play themselves as to do members of the Ahankah family. Much of the film was staged to replicate the events underlying Hossein Sabizan's activities. Some scenes were spontaneously captured while other scenes involved planned confrontations. Documentary signifiers (e.g., handheld camera work, grainy 16mm courtroom footage) provide a false sense of comfort about the nature of the some the scenes The assembly of this material is seamless, making it impossible to figure out what is real and what is not.

The Criterion release of Close-up is presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The transfer looks gorgeous. However, the 35mm source print, which was struck from the original negative, has a few imperfections. Slight color fades and occasional vertical scratches are noticeable at times. The Blu-Ray boasts an uncompressed mono audio track in Persian; subtitles are in English.

Extras include Kiarostami's first feature-length film The Traveller; an excellent documentary entitled "Close-up" Long Shot; an exclusive interview with the filmmaker; an audio commentary by Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa and Johnathan Rosenbaum; and a not-so-interesting documentary called Walk with Kiaorstami. Of all the extras, the audio commentary and "Close-up" Long Shot are the best. The audio commentators co-authored a book on Kiarostami and the depth of their knowledge is reflected in the commentary. As to "Close-up" Long Shot, the film digs deeply into Sabzian's background and solicits the opinions of his neighbors and associates about his actions as well as Kiarostami's film.
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