Film Reviews

Like Someone In Love Abbas Kiarostami

Rating - 7/10

Abbas Kiarostami's latest subtle cinematic puzzle is transported to Tokyo, Japan, as it begins to profile the activities of a sociology student, Akiko (Rin Takanashi), who moonlights as an escort.  Almost entirely driven by dialogue with a steady camera in perpetually deep focus, Like Someone In Love is reminiscent of the development of the relationship between the couple in Kiarostami's last feature, Certified Copy (2010); here, it's a little more of an ensemble approach to the same premise- that an assumption by an outside party can alter a relationship's course in surrealistic ways that, over time, seem only natural.  Since this narrative trick relies so heavily upon discourse, it's crucial that further thematic progressions are secured in visual first impressions.  In fact, Kiarostami creates a mirroring dialogue where the audience is prone to the same misconceptions as the characters who move in-and-out of frame.  For a film of such deceptive stasis, scrutiny is required, particularly in the opening shot with Akiko engaged in a disparaging cell phone conversation with her oppressive fiancé, Higuchi Noriaki (Ryō Kase).  However, she is seated off-camera to the right, and the chatter and playful conversation of the other visible parties in the restaurant nearly consume her words and identity.  It's as if the director is positioning the audience to solve the superficial mystery of "Where's Aki?" while additionally posing underlying tonal questions of the individual's relationship to his or her environment.  Because Kiarostami employs long takes, the viewer is invited to scan the entire depth of field as if he is hiding or obfuscating something in plain sight.

Like Someone In Love is a cinematic painting that confuses the nature of interactions; the elderly Watanabe Takashi (Tadashi Okuno) works from his third-story apartment as a translator of books.  Phoning his friend and former student Hiroshi (Denden), Aki's pimp, a late-night appointment is established, which forces Aki to break a half-committed arrangement to see her out-of-town grandmother.  Once she arrives, the two, separated by three generations, talk over a turn-of-the-twentieth-century painting on Takashi's wall entitled "Training a Parrot."  Aki recognizes it instantly, recalling how her uncle bequeathed it to her years ago and teased her with the fabricated tale of he, the artist, and she, the subject.  As Aki mimics the girl's pose in the painting by Chiyo Yazaki, the somewhat meta-joke segues into the topic of her own identity: "Not a day goes by without me being told that I look like someone."  Interestingly, as Noriaki is officially introduced in-the-flesh outside the university the following day, he presents a teasing photo of a peace sign-flashing call-girl he's found on the street; attempting to reassure himself, he notes that, while there is a likeness to his fiancée, it cannot be her.  Moments prior, Noriaki approaches Takashi in his car with the presumption that he is Aki's grandfather.  Takashi plays along, taking in Noriaki's wariness and authoritarian tendencies by, in turn, offering some words of wisdom that can only fall on deaf ears.  Like Someone In Love's characters continually seem eager to slip into new identities or play parts, which prompt questions of the true relation and history of the characters altogether.  While sex seems to initially involve Aki's relationship to the men who appear both on-and-off-screen, the word itself is never explicitly mentioned.

Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of the song that informs the film's title magnifies the sense of ambiguous romanticism.  As first heard in Takashi's apartment, words to the jazz standard paint the image of an unrealized or unrequited romantic connection.  The behavior of the narrator of the song mirrors one in love, but it's not precisely love.  The communication between Aki and and Takashi, while earnest, never becomes defined in a single way; it originally oscillates between a one-night stand and an attempt to recreate the memory of his late wife.  However, after Noriaki inquires, he gradually assumes a more paternal attitude towards her.  (Perhaps it's Kiarostami's intention to also replace the abandoned grandmother with Takashi).  The film's later scenes foster this tension between who is who while opening new avenues on the roadway in signature Kiarostami fashion.  After dropping Aki at a bookstore, she suffers a mouth injury, and Takashi comes to her aid.  The incident is never explained; it lingers purely in the assumptions of the audience.  While sitting on the stoop to Takashi's building, a gleefully invasive neighbor (Mihoko Suzuki) pops her head through the window to define Takashi as the object of her own desire.  Much of Like Someone In Love's success can be attributed to its unique, unpredictable rhythm; even if it often feels like a somber and occasionally frustrating continuation of Certified Copy's experimental narrative tendencies, the new Eastern locale is invigorating and mystifying, particularly for a native Iranian director who may only possess a basic linguistic understanding of Japanese.  Kiarostami challenges conventional cinematic language, too, by constructing atypical psychological unease through variable roles.  Is something hidden within that painting in Takashi's apartment that was first to marry Eastern and Western styles?  This is just one in a series of exhibited clues, like a film on the verge of becoming a painting itself or a song, perhaps described like someone in love.