Quick recap: Close-Up is a semi-documentary about a man who pretended to be famed Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf and was later arrested for it.
Fun (?) fact: All people involved in the case play themselves, although many of the scenes are recreated.
My thoughts: If you are looking for a documentary with twists and turns, this isn’t it. It’s simply about a man pretending to be someone else. I knew this going into the film but a small piece of me still expected there to be something shocking at the end, like Sabzian murdering everyone or actually being the director Makhmalbaf. It always annoys me when directors take creative license with the truth (*ahem* Foxcatcher) by exaggerating or making up events, but in this case I could’ve handled a bit more suspense.
That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Close-Up. Being a bit underwhelmed with the case made it possible for me to instead focus on the people involved. As I’m sure the director intended, I felt sorry for Sabzian from the moment he entered the screen. From his story, we learn that he is just a poor man with a minimal wage job who ran with the chance to be seen as a famed director because he wanted respect. His mother is also in the film and she is even more sad than Sabzian. They seemed like good people, even though he was caught up in a case like this. There were many times that the family implied there were ulterior motives to take money and burgle the house, but that doesn’t seem likely. As one of the family members put it, Sabzian was a sick man, the sickness being poverty, and the only way to get better and stop doing illegal things would be to get a decent job and find something to do with his life.
The family’s account of the deception seemed straightforward enough, yet I found it hard to believe that they were really all that hurt by Sabzian. They seemed like decent enough people but there were times, especially when the father became suspicious, that it felt more like they were just being cruel instead of turning him into the authorities. In a couple of the scenes it felt like Sabzian was being mocked, although that could also be because he really wasn’t that good of a fake and gave himself away so easily.
The most powerful part of the film arrives at the end as Sabzian meets up with the director he impersonated. After buying a plant for the Ahankhah family, Makhmalbaf and Sabzian ride to the family’s house where the director becomes the mediator between the two parties. The apology felt real and gave me hope that everything turned out ok.
Final review: 3/5. An intriguing film about truth but not really something that kept my attention for long.
Up next: Amores Perros