** (2 stars)
** (2 stars)
wd - Abbas Kiarostami
ph - Katsumi Yanagijima
p - Charles Gillibert, Nathanaël Karmitz, Abbas Kiarostami
Cast: Tadashi Okuno, Rin Takanashi, Ryo Kase
Is a movie only about what is in it? What you see? Of course not, we know this. With any art, what the artist is trying to say – communicating who he or she really is with the rest of the world in the only ascertained way we can – most of the time comes from not what the artist puts in, but rather what the artist leaves out. One can’t help but wonder though, at times, whether some artists would benefit with being more lucid with their audience……..sometimes.
Abbas Kiarostami is one of the greatest living filmmakers. He has taken this modus operandi with filmmaking and has consistently left me either stimulated, bewildered or exalted, sometimes all at once. He defies this method. Why? Because his movies seem to exit in a world that is both straightforward and opaque. For example, in his new film Like Someone in Love, we open with a static shot of a bar in Tokyo, eavesdropping on a chain of conversations by a woman we cannot see. As she continues talking it becomes evident that she is on the phone (due the one-sidedness of the talking, not because we cut to her). People in the bar continue making this static shot their home until one of them from the side of the frame enters the centre of it and begins talking to the woman. Finally, when Mr Kiarostami is ready, we cut to the reverse shot of the woman in question. This opening scene goes on for about 10 – 15 minutes and those are the only two set-ups in the scene.
Mr Kiarostami began making films in his native Iran in the early 70’s with the Iranian New Wave of that time, and continued throughout the 80’s. In 1990, he made what many people would call his masterpiece: Close-up. In 1997, he made what I would call his masterpiece: A Taste of Cherry. But all his films speak a lyrical poetry that beguiles the sense of one’s perception of what is true and ordinary with what is strange and surreal. And like Ozu, Renoir and Bresson, he makes it seem so simple and effortless. Now in his seventies, he has entered a new and fascinating phase in his career with Certified Copy (2011) and now Like Someone in Love, where he is setting his stories abroad, the former in Italy and the latter in Japan.
The woman from the bar is named Akiko (Rin Takanashi). She is a university student working as a callgirl. The person she was on the phone with was her boyfriend (Ryo Kase), who doesn’t know she has been doing this. She reluctantly accepts a client for the night (arranged by her boss), an elderly, widowed professor who lives in a meek apartment filled with books. Their meeting is uncomfortable and pitiable but also gallant, courteous and cute. Throughout, Mr. Kiarostami teases with the inherent assumptions about who these people could be and what exactly is going on. Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), the old man, seems driven, though certainly not by lust, to take care of her, and for Akiko, he is probably a substitute for her grandmother, who leaves worried messages on her voice mail.
Akiko throughout the film seems to be living in an adrift, inconclusive consciousness. All the characters are, really. Most of the film actually takes place in Takashi’s car. This is something that will not surprise fans of Mr Kiarostami, for he once made a film set entirely in one. What Mr Kiarostami is fascinated by here – what he’s always been fascinated by – is the smoothness of apparent appearances; is what we see the truth, or merely form?
Like Someone in Love was, for me, the other side of the Certified Copy (2011) coin (although this film’s structure, when compared to that one, seems conventional). When the picture is over we are not quite sure of really anything that occurred in it. Or why, or how. We are more aware of what does not occur in it. This can feel quite frustrating – the absolute final shot, in particular, is a shocking piece of suddenness. I do wonder whether the picture can sustain this heft of enigma, or does it ultimately reveal its thinness? Whether it does or not, it, like all of Mr Kiarostami films, left a great impression on me that I won’t be shaking for a while.