Something of a darling of the international film festival and art-house circuit, acclaimed director Abbas Kiarostami (TASTE OF CHERRY, TEN) ventures for the second time out of his native Iran for this Tokyo-set tale of a young prostitute and her elderly client.
Exploring the same tricksy, perspective-shifting themes of his French feature CERTIFIED COPY (2010) – in which the status of a couple’s relationship seemed to constantly change as they travelled through the Tuscan countryside – LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE explores the ambiguous dynamic between this odd couple. But where CERTIFIED COPY revelled in the subtle ambiguities and role-playing inherent in its almost relentless dialogue, the approach here is driven rather by silence, minimal (and minimalist) dialogue, and things that go unsaid.
We begin by meeting the elusive Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a student who we swiftly realise also moonlights as a sex worker. In one of Kiarostami’s characteristically lingering close-ups we examine her face as she travels by taxi through the city streets to meet the elderly Takashi (Tadashi Okuno) at his house in the suburbs. What are we supposed to read from this delicate, impassive face? What motivates this young woman? Is she mentally readying herself to behave like someone in love?
Akiko’s encounter with the old man is presented as similarly ambiguous. Greeted almost like a daughter, she politely converses with her client in his cosily furnished home, and there seems to be little sexual going on between them. Kiarostami leaves the scene and we return to them only in the morning, not knowing whether their encounter has been sexual or merely platonic. What is it that this old man wants? Was it only companionship after all, or is this all part of some elaborate, performative game between them?
Possible play-acting becomes necessary deceit in the morning when Akiko’s jealous lover is introduced into the mix and Takashi must pretend to be her grandfather to avoid a violent scene. As the deceit escalates, becoming ever more elaborate, the film seems to move towards a nightmarish denouement and inevitable discovery. But Kiarostami seems less interested in exploring the melodramatic possibilities of the narrative than in playing with perspective and examining the idea that nothing we see these people do can be taken at face value. How can we read any scene through so many layers of ambiguity? Inevitably, the viewer becomes detective.
Gorgeously shot by Takeshi Kitano’s regular cinematographer Katsumi Yanagijima, and full of exquisitely edited sequences that play with sound, perspective and misdirection to match the action, LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE is another sensual feast from a cinematic master, and it is our pleasure to screen it.