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New Release Review - CLOSED CURTAIN

Jafar Panahi defies his imposed film-making ban once more.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jafar Panahi, Kambuzia Partovi

Starring: Kambuzia Partovi, Maryam Moqadam, Jafar Panahi




"The movie's second half plays out in mundane fashion. It's far from entertaining, but it certainly hammers home the cultural castration imposed on the filmmaker by those who insist on living in the dark ages."






'Brave' is a word that's often bandied about all too liberally in relation to film-making, but for many Middle Eastern filmmakers, it applies all too literally. Take Jafar Panahi. Having wound up the Iranian authorities with a series of films labelled as anti-Islamic propaganda, Panahi was arrested in 2010 and banned from both filmmaking and leaving his country. This didn't stop him making 2011's This Is Not a Film, which was smuggled out of Iran on a USB drive inside a cake. While that movie was a video diary of his housebound life, his followup Closed Curtain is his first post-ban attempt at narrative filmmaking. Well, to a degree.
Panahi's latest is split into two very distinct halves, both occurring in a secluded home. The first introduces us to a writer (Kambozia Partovi, who is listed as co-director as a means of helping Panahi flout his ban), who arrives at the home carrying a sports bag. Opening up the bag, he reveals its contents - a small dog. As a crudely injected TV news clip explains, a recent law in Iran has banned the custom of keeping dogs as pets, as Islamic law considers man's best friends "unclean". Desperate to keep his live contraband a secret from prying eyes, the writer blacks out his home with heavy curtains. That night, he is threatened with exposure by the arrival of a young brother and sister, themselves seemingly on the run from the authorities.
The scene is set for a tense standoff, but just when we've become invested in what seems like a relatively straightforward narrative, Panahi pulls his Persian rug out from under our feet, appearing as himself and revealing the three figures we've become invested in as merely characters in a script he is struggling to put together. It feels like a cruel trick, and it's incredibly frustrating, but I suspect this is Panahi's point, cutting short his own film to echo the halting of his career.
The movie's second half plays out in mundane fashion, with Panahi wandering the confines of his home in frustration, while his fictional characters ponder his thoughts. It's far from entertaining, but it certainly hammers home the cultural castration imposed on the filmmaker by those who insist on living in the dark ages. Perhaps some day Panahi will be afforded an officially sanctioned return to his craft and we'll see the intriguing setup of the writer and his dog completed. Don't hold your breath though.



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