A Moment of Innocence - B+
Viewed November 20, 1999 at the Walter Reade Theater

A metacinematic joy; Makhmalbaf's A Moment of Innocence is (deep breath) a mockumentary about a film that recreates a moment from Makhmalbaf's actual youth when he stabbed a policeman and was inspired by the actual policeman who approached Makhmalbaf for a part in one of his movies. Thinking about the convolutions and layers of meaning inherent in such a premise is enough to give one headaches and Moment manages to cover an extraordinarily high number of them, from the regrets of youth; how cinema can redefine life, and the possibilites of reconcilation. This does make it sound like a film that's interesting on a subtextual level, but deeply boring otherwise; but it's not. Makhmalbaf's work rests on the sublime pleasures of watching the director and the policeman (not played by the actual policeman) bond and tutor the young actors playing them, especially since the youngsters are mirror images of them as youngsters. Like Makhmalbaf, the pseudo-Makhmalbaf is a passionate, if unfocused, idealist, and the policeman's protege is like the policeman himself at the time of the incident an insecure, gawky young man barely out of adolescence. There's a real emotional sweetness to these scenes as they reminisce and direct their substitute selves on how to be. Makhmalbaf also engages in one of my favorite cinematic narrative tricks, having scenes unexpectedly repeat from different perspectives.