Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Like Someone in Love

LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE               B                    
France  Japan  (109 mi)  2012  d:  Abbas Kiarostami

I’m not lying to you.                —Akiko (Rin Takanashi)

After shooting CERTIFIED COPY (2010) in Italy, Kiarostami traveled to Japan where he’s contemplated shooting a film there for over a decade, where directing a film in Japanese entirely through the aide of translators may come closest to how he conceives shooting a film in Iran today, where every phase of the project must go through layers of bureaucratic approval prior to the shoot.  When reviewing the credit sequences, for important positions, every Iranian name was followed by a Japanese name, suggesting that artistically, working side by side was the real collaboration of the film.  Kiarostami again writes and directs his own film, but he collaborates with Takeshi Kitano’s longtime cinematographer going back to BOILING POINT (1990), Katsumi Yanagijima, shot entirely in Tokyo, unmistakably Kiarostami’s work, however, much of it resembling TASTE OF CHERRY (1997) and TEN (2002), as a good portion of the film is listening to long conversations taking place in cars.  The big difference is the setting in an urban metropolis that is an architectural showcase for modernity, where it’s easy to get lost in the rapidly changing times, once more expressed through lustrous window reflections and mistaken identities.  The opening is a lengthy sequence inside a crowded bar, where various conversations are taking place simultaneously to the music of American jazz, but the voice we hear remains offscreen for a good portion of the shot until the camera pulls back and we hear Akiko (Rin Takanashi) talking to her boyfriend on her cell phone, continually having to explain herself, but she’s obviously getting bullied and harrassed by an overly jealous lover who is so suspicious she’s lying that he actually demands that she count the number of tiles in the bathroom to prove she’s telling the truth, which of course she’s not.  The bar turns out to be an escort club, where the young attractive girls are killing time between assignments.  Akiko is a young Japanese college student who finances her studies through prostitution, where not only is she getting badgered by her boyfriend, but even more so by her pimp (Denden) inside the bar, who refuses to accept she has an exam the next day as an excuse, placing her in a cab insisting she take another job assignment. 

The cab ride is the poetic center of the film, as it devastatingly reflects what Akiko is missing out on in her life by pursuing such a career, where rather than see her grandmother who arrives by train just to spend time with her, she’s painfully forced to listen to each of the 7 missed calls on her phone which are near diary entires from her heard but unseen grandmother, where Akiko asks the cab driver to circle around and take another drive past the train station where she’s able to see her grandmother standing outside waiting patiently for her in vain.  Throughout the film there are recurring themes of American jazz, where Ella Fitzgerald sings the title tune as Akiko arrives to the home of her date, Like Someone in Love, de Abbas Kiarostami SarvFineArt ... - YouTube (2:04), an 84-year old retired college professor, Tadashi Okuno, who has worked largely in telelvision.  Okuno never received a screenplay, but each day he’d receive various notes written by the director, and each day the notes would be different.  Their perceptions of one another are worlds apart, but it’s impossible not to be enticed by the gentle nature of the professor, who seems to have no carnal interest, but is instead purely seeking companionship, where there is no backstory as to his underlying motivation.  Instead his kindness is in stark contrast to what Akiko’s used to, where after a little small talk, she quickly whips off her clothes and climbs into bed, where if he chooses not to join her, she has no trouble sleeping the night away.  The professor drives her to her exam the next day, preferring to wait for her outside, where he sees a violently argumentative encounter with her boyfriend Noriaki (Ryo Kase).  It appears Noriaki is waiting for her afterwards as well, where the two make embarrassing eye contact before the younger man initiates a conversation, assuming the older man is her grandfather.  What Noriaki reveals about himself and his views on Akiko are bluntly surprising, something the professor attributes to “inexperience,” as his views about relationships are largely unproven assumptions where he notably takes his partner’s feelings for granted.

The film is a series of intimate encounters, where the narrative is strung together through conversation, where side characters, like the professor’s snoopy neighbor, often add a humorous texture to the film, but the relationship between Akiko and the professor evolves into a mysterious make-believe story of secrets and lies, becoming something completely different than how it started, where sex turns into an unexplored sense of romance.  Much as TASTE OF CHERRY feels like a suffocating noose is slowly being applied around the driver’s neck, Akiko is similarly possessed by the male subjugation of overcontrolling men, not really understanding how she arrived at that point, but she hasn’t a clue how to stand up for herself against forces that are stronger than she is, especially when she voluntarily places herself in harm’s way every time she walks into the closed door room of a different man, subjecting herself to whatever fate has in store for her.  She seems to have the life force literally choked out of her as well, where the soothing optimism of the professor who actually sings a few bars of the Doris Day song “Que Sera Sera” from Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), - YouTube (1:48), “whatever will be, will be,” becomes a benign acceptance that seems somehow inadequate for the complexity of modern day circumstances.  The Professor’s era lived and fought through a World War, having to endure a humiliating and exasperating defeat, yet somehow they came through it all with their dignity intact.  Today’s post-War nihilistic youth feel hopelessly defeated before they even get started, where they believe the forces are aligned against them, feeling extremely pessimistic about their futures.  Akiko’s stranglehold by men who don’t have her interest at heart is a perfect example.  While the professor’s helpful intentions are sincere, perhaps unique in Akiko’s coerced and manipulated world, he’s basically a kind-hearted man, a dinosaur or relic from a forgotten moralistic age where now she’s forced to feel the weight of being viewed as somebody else’s property instead of feeling the light-as-air euphoria of someone in love.

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