The Age of Innocence is as brutal a film as anything in Scorsese’s filmography—and it is also just as kinetic. His camera is constantly in motion, insinuating itself between characters, panning, tilting, and tracking from faces to walls to plates of food to silverware to fine china.
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.
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).
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.
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.