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A dense and subtle masterpiece from Iran (1989, 97 min.) by the highly talented Abbas Kiarostami (Taste of Cherry), this documentary--or is it pseudodocumentary?--follows the trial of an unemployed film buff in Tehran who impersonated acclaimed filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Marriage of the Blessed, Gabbeh, Kandahar) and became intimate with a well-to-do family while pretending to prepare a film that was to feature them. To complicate matters further, Kiarostami persuades all the major people involved to reenact what happened, finally bringing the real Makhmalbaf together with his impersonator for a highly emotional exchange. A great deal of the implicit comedy here comes from the way "cinema" changes and inflects the value and nature of everything taking place--the original scam, the trial, the documentary Kiarostami is making, and so on. Much acclaimed in France for its fascinating take on the cinematic apparatus, the film combines fiction with nonfiction in a novel and provocative manner: Werner Herzog has called this the greatest of all documentaries about filmmaking, and he may not be far off--if only because no other film does more to interrogate certain aspects of the documentary form itself. In Farsi with subtitles; a 35-millimeter print will be shown. Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, Friday, July 19, 6:15; Sunday, July 21, 4:15; and Thursday, July 25, 6:15; 312-846-2800.

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