Sunday 13th October, 8.30pm – Vue West End, Screen 5
Wednesday 16th October, 6.15pm – Curzon Renoir, Screen 1
A writer holes up in a Caspian Sea villa to finish his screenplay, when one night a girl barges in, hiding from the police after attending an illegal beach party nearby. Unable to get rid of her, the writer is pestered with all sorts of questions – until director Jafar Panahi (who owns the villa) enters the scene playing himself. Ignorant of the existence of the girl or the writer, Panahi just goes about his daily business in a complex house of mirrors that feels increasingly like a self-referential prison.
There may be some sort of allegory going on in Closed Curtain, and if you concentrate really hard you might just identify a brace of high-flung and serious ideas, but unfortunately all ideas and no story make for a very dull film.
Panahi’s screenplay won the Silver Bear for Best Script at this year’s Berlin Film Festival, but it’s tough not to agree with the girl’s sentiment when she asks the writer: “Why keep writing? Who’ll turn it into a movie?”
This self-referential quip actually refers to director Jafar Panahi’s 20 year ban on filmmaking, a sentence handed down in 2009 by the Iranian government. That Closed Curtain is Panahi’s second movie since sentencing demonstrates what sort of character he is: idealistic, stubborn and belligerently artistic. These are adjectives that adequately describe Closed Curtain, too. But without knowing this biographical detail there is no way of piecing any sort of meaning together from this disjointed mess.
Of course there are practicalities to consider. For example, Panahi’s filmmaking ban is very real and he had to make this movie without attracting any suspicion. A large cast was out of the question, as were outside locations or a lengthy production schedule.
However, history is littered with examples where limitations bring the best out of filmmakers; Panahi’s own This is Not a Film is testament to that. As it was his first film since the ban, he shot some scenes on his mobile phone and smuggled the end product out of the country in a cake. But more than that, he made a smart protest film about the strictures being placed on his creativity.
In contrast, Closed Curtain focuses so much on being very smart that it forgets everything else. It ends up flatly-acted, pretentious and – that worst of all cinematic crimes – not at all entertaining.
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Watch the trailer for Closed Curtain here: