Once Upon a Time, Cinema
A film in which all the wonders, dreams and insanity of the whole history of film, and Iranian film in particular, seem to be united. Everything conceivable is also possible: the characters travel back and forth through time and from 'reality' to the world of cinema. Once Upon a Time, Cinema is a delight for everyone, although viewers who are familiar with early Persian film - and that is a very select audience - may comprehend even more of this exhilarating film.The protagonist, obviously modelled on Charlie Chaplin, is a photographer who travels to Europe to learn about cinematography, which has just been invented, and to acquire the necessary equipment. Back in Persia, it becomes apparent that this miraculous invention can literally cast a spell on reality and the old Shah, initially an opponent of cinematography, appoints the photographer as the court film-maker. The Shah falls in love with a woman from a film who - strangely enough, but in Once Upon a Time, Cinema a common occurrence - literally walks off the screen into the palace. However her presence is brief and the Shah is forced to enter the world of cinema.Makhmalbaf states that he primarily wanted to make the film to focus attention on the unknown history of Persian film. In the years after the Islamic Revolution, he was very critical of the old way of film-making, but later he found himself gaining more respect for the achievements of the past. This revaluation grew into love and Deborah Young rightly concluded in Variety that the film can be regarded as a love letter to Iranian cinema.