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An entertaining if somewhat uneven departure by Mohsen Makhmalbaf–perhaps the most versatile contemporary Iranian director, and certainly one of the most talented, prolific, and controversial–this 1992 film can be regarded in part as a kind of peace offering to the Iranian government after the banning of his two previous features (loosely comparable as a gesture to The Story of Qiu Ju as a follow-up to the banned films of Zhang Yimou). A fantasy and comedy about the birth of Iranian cinema, full of whimsical special effects and wacky magical-realism conceits, this is centered on an early cinematographer (Mehdi Hashemi)–modeled loosely and rather awkwardly on Chaplin’s tramp figure–who introduces movies to the Persian court, gradually winning over the shah (Ezatollah Entezami) to the new medium once the ruler falls for an actress (Fatemeh Motamed-Aria) who literally drops from the screen into the palace. Quirkily inventive and unpredictable, the film concludes with a sentimental anthology of clips celebrating the history of Iranian cinema that calls Oscar night to mind; before this, much more interesting uses are made of a silent film identified by Makhmalbaf as the first Iranian movie, Ebrahim Khan’s Hajagha, the Film Actor. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Friday, October 1, 6:00, and Sunday, October 3, 7:00, 443-3737.