By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Abbas Kiarostami became a legendary director working in his native Iran for over 40 years, generally with nonprofessional actors and always with frugal budgets. In 2010, however, he began a new phase of his career with Certified Copy, set in his first non-Iran location, Paris, and starring a well-known cast.
By Kiarostami standards.
Like Someone in Love splits the difference between these two philosophies, taking his show on the road to Japan, but employing less recognizable faces. It’s about a college girl, Akiko (Rin Takanashi), who moonlights as a high-end escort. She reluctantly takes a job from a shy elderly academic, Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), and they start to develop a very different kind of relationship. But what of her volatile boyfriend Noriaki (Ryo Kase)?
Abbas Kiarostami’s first preoccupation is always character. That’s not to say his films aren’t beautiful, and he clearly enjoys documenting colorful nighttime Tokyo here. However, he became a master of cinema on the strength of keen observations on human behavior, and delivers once more here.
Every character has very understandable motivations and goals, which we the audience discover bit by bit as Kiarostami’s meticulous and elegant plot unspools. No character can be easily stereotyped or judged, and your view of each is likely to change multiple times over the film- not via plot contrivance or big revelations, but through a greater understanding of what makes these people tick.
Of course, to pull this off the performances must be spot on, and each cast member delivers. Noriaki goes from asshole to tragically naïve and back again, while the depth of Takashi’s loneliness becomes more apparent. He’s not looking for a lover or even a surrogate daughter really (although I can see that interpretation). He just wants somebody to worry about.
Takanashi as Akiko, though, has the most difficult job. At times it’s almost a one woman show, as Kiarostami unflinchingly focuses his camera through his beloved windshields and mirrors on her face, or makes her carry on one-sided phone conversations which we never hear the other side of. That she creates a well-rounded character in the face of this shows how great her performance is.
A last raise of the glass to the ending. It’s ballsy as hell, and accentuates the fact that we the audience are dropped into these characters’ world for only a short time, and can’t expect a nicely wrapped ending with a bow on top.
I appreciate that Kiarostami is allowing us to eavesdrop a set period in the characters’ lives, but starting in media res like he does is unnecessarily a bit alienating. Unless you know the scenario before going in, you’re likely to be frustrated. Also: Worst. Prostitute. Ever.
I think you misunderstand what “sleeping together” means.
Like Someone in Love is another deeply observed study in love and human nature from Abbas Kiarostami, translated to a new setting.
Take a Drink: whenever Akiko’s boyfriend blatantly ignores a red flag
Take a Drink: for each new phone message
Take a Drink: for every observed phone conversation
Take a Drink: for windshield reflections
Do a Shot: for blue balls (punchline or otherwise)