Both a companion piece to This Is Not a Film and a cinematic break from it, Closed Curtain at first seems to mark a return to “fiction” filmmaking for Panahi—to whatever extent categories like “fiction” and “nonfiction” even apply to his cinematic practice—and so it also invites a certain recalibration.
The gambit of Spielberg’s Lincoln is to humanize this almost mythic figure. Its triumph, thanks largely to an erudite and ambitious screenplay that places utter faith in the intelligence of its audience, authored by the playwright Tony Kushner, is to do so without trying to deconstruct his greatness.
Much of Cabin’s delight stems from the many intricate reveals that comprise the narrative’s structure, but the film is far from gimmicky or contrived, relying on the audience’s fluency in the language of horror films to simultaneously revel in and interrogate the established pleasures of the genre.
Perhaps no other film in his oeuvre reflects so many of his preoccupations, both superficial (1940s, Nazis, boyhood, movie history) and substantive (absent fathers, fractured masculinity, the intersection between domestic strife and the threat of large-scale annihilation).
This Is Not a Film—which Panahi made while under house arrest awaiting sentencing, collaborating with his friend, the documentarian Motjaba Mirtahmasb—is more than a great, devastating piece of moviemaking; the movie is something of a cinematic miracle.
Barry Lyndon, an 18th-century picaresque adapted from a 19th-century novel by William Thackeray, certainly does have a painterly quality to it. It is static and studied, to the point that it often feels as though it were less made of moving images than a series of tableaux frozen in time.