Shot in 40 days, using courtroom footage and reenactments with people playing themselves, this "new wave" film by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami is an absorbing journey into the nature of identity. What does an ordinary man become when he is assumed to be someone famous? The answer can be poignant, as it is in this film, and surprisingly complex.
Moved by director Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film "The Cyclist," a divorced and unemployed printer's assistant pretends for a moment to a fellow bus passenger that he is the director himself. Suddenly becoming the object of respect and admiration, he allows himself to be drawn into a ruse involving an entire family, who believe that he wants to make a movie about them.
Legally, he admits in court, he is guilty of fraud. But morally, he argues, he has not done and never intended any harm. He has the heart and soul of an artist, which the limited circumstances of his life have never permitted him to be. Respected and admired, taken seriously maybe for the first time in his life, he is lifted out of his suffering. How this is all played out before the cameras makes for a fascinating study of art, imagination, and self. This film is both wise and touching and a worthy addition to the Criterion collection.