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Close-Up (2023)

Lonely Hassain Sabzian tells a lie to a stranger that turns into a much larger story about fraud, identity, and playing a role.

The Story

On a public bus one day, Hassain Sabzian talks with the woman sitting next to him about the copy of the printed screenplay he is holding. It’s a screenplay for The Cycist, a movie directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. When the woman, Mrs. Ahankhah says she’s a fan of the film, Sabzian tells her that he is in fact Makhmalbaf. He visits her home a few times under the guise of possibly incorporating her family in an upcoming film, and after he borrows money from her son for cab fare, she starts to wonder if she’s being conned.

Sabzian is arrested for fraud, but the family takes pity on him and agrees to drop the charges if he promised to live an honest life and become a productive member of society. In the end, the real Makhmalbaf gives Sabzian a ride to the Ahankhah house and says, “I hope he’ll be good now and make us proud of him.”

The Deets

Rating: NR
Concerns: n/a
Runtime: 1h 38m
Genre: Drama, Biography
Original Language: Persian
Alternate Title: کلوزآپ نمای دور, Klūzāp nemā-ye dūr
Release Date (US Theaters): 1990; Dec 31, 1999  Limited

Main Cast

Hossain Sabzian as himself
Mohsen Makhmalbaf as himself
Abbas Kiarostami as himself
Abolfazl Ahankhah as himself
Mehrdad Ahankhah as himself
Monoochehr Ahankhah as himself
Mahrokh Ahankhah as herself
Haj Ali Reza Ahmadi as himself, the Judge

Production & Crew

Distributor: The Criterion Collection, Janus Pictures, Celluloid Dreams
Production Co: Kanoon 
Director(s): Abbas Kiarostami
Writer(s): Abbas Kiarostami
Music: n/a
Editor: n/a
Hair/Makeup Lead: n/a
Costumes: n/a

Initial Thoughts

Being as the cast are all acting as themselves in the film, the story is scripted and real at the same time. The speakers talk from their heart, describing their own experience of being frauded. 

The filming style was unique at the time, and still would be novel today. In the final scene, being filmed as the scene when Sabzian is released though in fact it is 40 days since being found out, the filmmakers have planned for Makhmalbaf to meet Sabzian and drive him to the Ahankhah home. The filmmakers talk over their footage, commenting on how Makhmalbaf parked somewhere different than they agreed, and to stop filming, but luckily they didn’t and captured the heartwarming first encounter between Sabzian and his idol. The filmmakers follow the pair while they ride on a motorbike through the city street and stop to buy flowers at a garden nursery. Viewers only hear part of their conversation, leaving most of their words private between the men. Not everything has to be in the public eye.

The movie is narrative but documentary and “alive” at the same time. The movie shows that we have the capacity to show others compassion and understanding, even those who have hurt or upset us. 

By the way, this movie is available in its entirety on YouTube. 

for Further Reading

Other Movies Like This

  • Hello Cinema (1995) – an Iranian docufiction film directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf that shows various everyday people being auditioned and explaining their reason for wanting to act in a film.
  • Colour Me Kubrick (2005) – a British film directed by Brian W. Cook about the true story of a man who pretended to be director Stanley Kubrick, a similar premise to this film.

The Trailer