The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, April 13-19

close-up kiarostami

Close-Up (1990)
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Thank goodness Kiarostami is reportedly in satisfactory health after a recent scare. Cinephiles can’t help but bemoan the loss, potential or otherwise, of their filmmaking idols, but considering the kind of films he’s made, Kiarostami’s loss would especially be a blow. Who else has regularly managed to combine formal and intellectual rigor with warm humanism as well as he? Sure, one could certainly look at his masterpiece Close-Up as simply another meta-cinematic experiment, using the true story of Hossein Sabzian—a poor man who was arrested for impersonating Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf in front of a middle-class family—as a springboard for a dizzyingly multilayered meditation on illusion, reality, and art’s ability to articulate deeper truths through artifice, featuring Kiarostami himself and employing the real people involved to reenact certain events. But empathy, not gamesmanship, is the real core of the film: Kiarostami’s curiosity about the personal and social forces that led Sabzian—a vocal wide-eyed admirer of Makhmalbaf’s films, and of cinema’s general ability to speak directly to people of all walks of life—to keep up this ruse in the first place. The film’s final sequence remains one of cinema’s most moving depictions of an artist bridging the gap between fiction and real-life in a spirit of solidarity. May Kiarostami continue to bring forth such humane gestures to the cinematic world, as long as his health will allow it. Kenji Fujishima (April 18, 7:30pm at the Film Society of Lincoln Center; followed by a discussion with author Jacob Wren)

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