I’m a late-comer to the Abbas Kiarostami band wagon, but I’ve been duly impressed with the limited selection I’ve experienced so far. It’s probably just short of criminal, that I haven’t seen 1997’s “Taste of Cherry”, 2000’s “The Wind Will Carry Us” or 2003’s “Ten” by this point, with my only excuse offering being, “so many marvelous filmmakers, so little time”. However, I was in awe of the Iranian’s screenplay, for the directorial effort of his countryman Jafar Panahi, with the superb “Crimson Gold” in 2004. And look no further than this very blog, for an unconditional rave for Kiarostami’s brilliant “Certified Copy” from 2011—with its wondrous lead performance from the intoxicating Juliette Binoche. That Tuscany-lensed masterpiece was A.K.’s first motion picture made outside of Iran, and this latest is the second. Shot on location in Japan, with a full Japanese cast, Abbas’ genius obviously knows no language barrier. And while not quite as revelatory as his previous effort, “Like Someone in Love” is special in its own way. Mostly quiet, and extremely patient, it’s a languorous character study, with an ambiguous finale and a slow burn screenplay(also from the director). And I absolutely loved it.
A young woman named Akiko(a memorable Rin Takanashi)is a sociology student in Tokyo, that apparently makes ends meet as a high-end prostitute. We, the audience, come to this realization during an incredible opening scene in a restaurant, utilizing cell phone conversations, and subtle, yet indicative dialogue with a similarly aged girlfriend, and the much older man who runs the dining establishment. Soon after, we accompany Akiko on a neon-dazzling taxi ride through the big city, as she heads to her next appointment, and attempts to spot her visiting grandmother. I’ll avoid spoiling that any further, because it’s a wondrous display of pacing and editing. Akiko eventually arrives at the home of Takashi(a fascinating Tadashi Okuno), an 80ish book editor and former university professor, who is a widower now living alone. After an unconventional evening together, Takashi finds himself posing as Akiko’s grandpa, after a run-in with her fiancée, Noriaki(a well-cast Ryo Kase)after driving Akiko to school for an exam. Finally, some guarded conversation, an impromptu car repair, and a dose of escalating aggression leads us to an abrupt, uncertain conclusion.
Quite honestly, this deliberate and exacting motion picture, is the kind that the mass market audience should certainly avoid. I’ve read audience member posts, on various websites, labeling “Like Someone in Love” “boring”, “plotless” and “aimless”. So, only serious cinema lovers with a certain level of cultivation and taste should apply. My guess is that that group will appreciate some rich rewards. Kiarostami works in a completely unhurried fashion and derives smart performances from his trio of principal players. His script for “Like Someone in Love” is as loaded emotionally, as it is concise rhetorically, and a great deal of weight is given to deceptively simple passages. There is a level of frustration felt, upon the lack of a definitive denouement. However, the expertly-utilized device of extra-long takes, with a studied focus on the faces of his performers, makes Kiarostami’s choices all the more poignant. It’s a film that should make you not mind at all, the additional chore of coming to your own conclusions. I may have been tardy to the Abbas Kiarostami appreciation society—but I’m there now. Maybe you’ll join me. Grade: A-