329 Great Directors: Mohsen Makhmalbaf

“Rumi, who is one of the greatest Persian poets, said that the truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It fell, and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”


Why This Director?: Iranian cinema’s meta tendencies fascinate me, and this and Closeup are the mothers of them all.

My Last Experience Was…: Nope.

What Did I Watch: A Moment of Innocence.

Where Does He Fit: Okay, so: SPOILERS AHEAD DO NOT READ THIS IF UNSPOILED.

Hoo lord, this is a dense movie and a total masterpiece at that. I might be too generous with my five star ratings but this, Offside, and You the Living are undeniable, with this going for the jugular straight from the clappers in the opening credits, followed by the woman who answers the door as nothing more than a chador:

So there is literally no way to talk about this film without delving into the multiple layers of insanity in the premise: first, you have the real life stabbing of a policeman that Makhmalbaf committed, who he later met up with on the set of Hello Cinema. But what is depicted on screen are the actors playing him and the officer…who are then shown picking out their own actors that they will be directing for a film version of the incident. So, essentially, there are three layers connected by…something or other. And we are seeing the middle layer that leads to the most untrue layer in terms of the fictionalization, and I forgot to mention that the real life Makhmalbaf plays himself while the cop does not.

I don’t wish to make this sound like a miserable conceptual headfuck, though. Just the latter two words in that description, because not only is this challenging in a fun way, it is also quite beautiful, and deeply clever in a fun way. Who does not enjoy the officer telling his younger self that he wants to direct him, and who could forget the gorgeously static shot of the snow falling on the trees? It all insists upon its artificiality even when being documented (and for the record, there isn’t really a way I could see this being considered a documentary if you care about that sort of thing).

And then a young girl enters the picture, literally, by providing just what these two…four?…men need in their respective scenes, lives, whatever. It all ends with the most sublime final shot in a long time that I can think of, a happy ending that somehow is not, an intermission that never ends. It is also, in a sense, a homage to The 400 Blows, but it is so much more difficult to pintpoint what makes this final freeze frame such a delirious high as a moviegoer. Bread and flower are finally brought together where they should be.

a-moment-of-innocence

Most Valuable Asset: His obsession with reality.
Buzzword: Layers.
Most Excited For: Kandahar, Hello Cinema, and so on. Lots to work with.

Coming Up Next: James Gray, who has a small filmography that appears to be mostly moodpieces.

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