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Journal Article

“The Face to Face Encounter of Art and Law”: Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up

Cristina Vatulescu
Law and Literature
Vol. 23, No. 2 (Summer 2011), pp. 173-194
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Cardozo School of Law
DOI: 10.1525/lal.2011.23.2.173
Stable URL:
Page Count: 22

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“The Face to Face Encounter of Art and Law”: Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up
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The title of this article is taken from Abbas Kiarostami's commentary on his 1990 film Close-Up (Nema-ye Nazdik), one of the most memorable meditations on the medium of film and its relationship to the law. Kiarostami's commentary posits cinema's approach to the human subject to be superior to that of the law in its ability to defer judgment while allowing a close-up approach to the subject—an approach that, he wagers, can ultimately not only just(ly) represent but also transform that subject. However, an attentive reading of the movie itself complicates the easy dichotomy between law and art, nuancing their differences and showing the legal and artistic approaches to the human subject to be entangled, nowhere more closely than in the charged stylistic and ethical choice of the close-up itself. This essay follows the movie's complex interrogation of that encounter between law, art, and its subject. In the process, we see Kiarostami redefine cinema as a medium whose primary task is precisely to mediate: between law and its subjects, as between people and their clashing fantasies. To be able to do this, however, the film itself is transformed by the encounter with the law and its subject, opening the way for a new type of documentary filmmaking—not just antimimetic, but blatantly interventionist, interpersonal, and interactive.

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