Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990). Sometimes, my “method” for choosing what to watch is very rewarding. Close-Up arrived via Netflix … I’d placed it in my queue, although I barely remembered why (it is #218 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the Top 1000 films of all time). When I stuck the disc into the player, I knew little to nothing about the film … documentary, made in Iran, 1990. If you read any further, you’ll know more than I did, so you might want to turn your head, because even in a short paragraph, I can’t go on without explaining what the film is “about.” It’s all based on a true story, natch … a man impersonates a noted filmmaker, is caught and tried for fraud, and another filmmaker, Abbas Kiarostami, becomes fascinated by the story and films a documentary (Close-Up) as the trial takes place. There is footage from the actual trial (I think, anyway), but there are also re-creations of the events in the case. And in those re-creations, the actual people involved play themselves. You can’t help but notice that the man on trial is accused of acting the part of someone else, which may not be as far from playing yourself as we might think. I won’t give away the ending, but it adds another layer. Meanwhile, of course, there’s the matter of Kiarostami, who imposes his vision on events, real and re-created. Watching the movie, things move along quite smoothly, but five minutes after it’s over, as your mind twists around all of the implications of what it has just seen, things are no longer so smooth.
Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010). The sign atop the theater read “A Mike Leigh Joint,” which I thought was pretty clever. I liked this movie quite a lot, about which more in a bit, but I have to hand it to Karina Longworth, who truly hated it, for closing her review by noting, “I haven’t seen a film this year that so openly invited me to revile each and every one of its characters—and I reviewed The Human Centipede.” I found the characters to be human (not centipede). They had their foibles, and there are many uncomfortable scenes in Another Year where people act in socially inappropriate ways. But in most of the cases, we aren’t meant to revile them, but to appreciate the place from which they are coming. Lesley Manville is terrific as a middle-aged secretary who knows her life is going to shit, and she is given a lot of scenes that are guaranteed Oscar Moments. It’s a sign of how well she pulls off those scenes that she didn’t get an Oscar nomination … I guess she was too subtle. Imelda Staunton steals the picture, even though she’s only in a couple of scenes near the beginning. She’s the most miserable creature in movie history … asked to name the moment in her life when she was happiest, she stares into space without answering. She is, in fact, reluctant to saying anything other than “give me something to help me sleep.” Yet when she is asked where on a scale of 1 to 10 would she rank her level of happiness, she blurts out “ONE!” before the question has left the speaker’s lips. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.