Although this film was made almost two decades ago, there is an odd feeling one gets while watching Sabzuian, for he looks very much like Iran's current wacko President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, although he is antipodal from that man in nature and demeanor. Not that this was apparent at the time, wgen Sabzian had his moment in the sun, and the President was a nobody, but it emphasizes just how human a character Sabzian is. Sabzian, incidentally, is easily the best 'actor' in the film; the others (especially the rich family members, seem amateurs, which adds to the 'realism' as well as highlighting the dissonance between the real and near real. Closeup occupies an odd spot in a pantheon of films that includes the whole of Michael Moore's quasi-documentaries, as well as Orson Welles' brilliant F For Fake. Yet, this film feels 'realer,' and all the credit must go to Kiarostami for, technically, the film is shot very simply and plainly- no fancy shots nor editing by cinematographer Ali Reza Zarrin-Dast. Just the facts, and its what Kiarostami includes and excludes that makes this film, rather than breaks it. And, in a case of what may be 'poetic justice,' the film worshipping Sabzian actually does become the star of his own film- not one he made- as he dreamt of doing, but one which was made about him and his dream's destruction.
Ultimately, the film plays out like one of those old nested folk dolls within a folk doll, within a folk doll, etc. in that films led to a real life situation which led to another real life experience which led to a film. It is not quite a great film, but far closer to it than one might conceive such a bare bones film, with such a simple premise, could archive. And all the credit for this must go to Kiarostami- a man whose art clearly is a synergy of lesser things. It will be interesting to see just how high his work can reach, if he was just able to get a bit more to work with. Close-Up is a film any lover of cinema should see, and even those who are vapid, because Hossain Sabzian is likely the best mirror those sorts will ever get.