All from Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE –
That’s little Hana Makhmalbaf at top, now a director herself (not yet as famous as her sister Samira).
The little I’ve read about this remarkable film — one scene, where characters suddenly become characters in a film within the film, in mid-gesture and with no framework for doing so, reminded a student of mine of Lynch’s INLAND EMPIRE, and the way the narrative folds back on itself so that one scene unexpectedly collides with a previous one still strikes me as mindblowing and almost unprecedented, although it’s a bit like that bit in JACKIE BROWN — suggests that Makhmalbaf, having assaulted a policeman during his rebellious student days, teamed up with the cop years later to make this movie. That is the plot of this film, but it is far from certain how much of it may be true. The policeman doesn’t seem like an actor: nobody does. But this isn’t documentary, everything has clearly been staged. The scenes that unfold before us, staged by the Makhmalbaf outside the movie, have a low-affect naturalism somewhere between documentary and amateur dramatics. The scenes we see being staged by the Makhmalbaf within the movie, who positions his actors and briefs them on their actions, are much less convincing (they could hardly be otherwise, when we can see the camera and hear the director’s voice). The very funny sequences which create comedy out of sheer duration (the realistic humour of somebody asking ten times if their cousin wants a cup of tea) make me wonder if MM is a fan of Jerry Lewis the way Kiarostami is a fan of Chaplin.
I remain uncertain how much of the story in the film (a kind of fake making-of documentary which contains the film being made) is based on truth, and how much pure invention. I don’t need to know: I like feeling curious.
Also, I preceded my screening of the film for students with Kiarostami’s tiny short TWO SOLUTIONS TO ONE PROBLEM, a school programme in which fighting children are shown an alternative way to handle a dispute. A miniature drama about staying friends with the boy who tore your homework jotter which suddenly expands to be about the whole problem of modern civilization. And after watching A MOMENT OF INNOCENCE again, it strikes me that in this sense, it has exactly the same story.
(Thanks to Mark Cousins for forcing this movie upon me.)