Film Reviews


By • Mar 8th, 2013 •

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The films of Abbas Kiarostami, the acclaimed Iranian director, have never been my cup of tea, although I have only seen three of them (TEN (2002), TASTE OF CHERRY (Palme d’Or – 1997), and THROUGH THE OLIVE TREES (1994). I admired but failed to truly enjoy any of them.

The same could be said of his current work, LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE (2012) which he made with a Japanese cast and crew, by way of novelty. (Kiarostami’s previous film, CERTIFIED COPY (2010) was shot in French, gaining Juliette Binoche that year’s Best Actress award at Cannes.) I suppose that, in repressive Iran, any gig away from the Mullah’s censorship is “a day at the beach,” though it is hard to comprehend how a foreign director got such scintillating performances from his three principals, without speaking their language. (Kiarostami’s own script has been translated into Japanese and there was an interpreter, but still.)

The film’s conflict is a variation on the old Opera Bouffe triangle of the elderly dotard, the young beauty and her age-contemporary swain, who would have her all to himself.

In this case, the pretty college student, Akiko (Rin Taasnashi) is a secret call-girl, which she conceals from her fearfully jealous boy friend, Noriaki (Ryo Kase). Kase is a truly terrific young actor – he literally seethes with suppressed fury every moment he’s on the screen. Kase is as palpable as the young Brando although he is no male beauty.

The old fool is, in this case, a wise, kindly, lonely widower, Takashi (the 81-year-old stage actor, Tadashi Okuno), who only sought the young woman for a night’s non-sexual companionship. (Giving the character the last name of “Star Wars”’ Obi-Wan Kenobi, except for conferring ersatz wisdom on the sweet old guy, is as off-putting as the meaning of the film’s ‘40s title song (sung twice, on the soundtrack, by the mellow Ella Fitzgerald). The ballad’s lyric uses all of the tropes of the love-sick to avert declaring the balladeer actually ‘in love.’ (What the song “Like Someone in Love” refers to in this film is anyone’s guess, but it’s potently lovely.)

Takashi is legitimately furious that his heart-throb turns off her cell-phone at night (to turn tricks, though she claims the batteries have run down.) He has left school at 16 and, at around 30, runs a garage, while his girl friend-model attends college in sociology – coincidentally a subject the professor, Takashi, used to teach. That is, she is educationally well above her grease-ball lover.

First, the oldster counsels the girl on her misalliance. Exhausted from cramming for the next day’s exam, she disrobes for sex, but falls asleep in the professor’s bed without consuming the late-night supper he has specially prepared for her.

The kindly oldster drives her to her exam at college the following day, where her boy friend waits to berate her. The old man twice waits for the beauty in his Volvo station wagon and then nurses the bleeding lovely who has been slugged, at lunch, by her jealous beau, (who hits women as well as a male colleague at his garage.)

We understand Noriaki’s contempt for higher-education and his desire to make Akiko his docile and obedient wife, though what she sees in him (his passion/fury?) is hard to tell, for Kase, although amazingly turbulent, is not very prepossessing looking. One might even term him sweaty and scrawny.

The film ends with a bang as Noriaki throws a large rock through the kindly professor’s living room window – the very room where he is shielding Akiko. (The sound of the breaking glass has been amplified to a terrifying pitch, so it’s a shocking ending.

The compositions that Kiarostami and his director of photography, Katsumi Yanagijima invent, showing the gaudy lights of Toyko in a cab’s windshield; a curtained shot of Akiko and a blurred one of her in the nude; and a tiny-framed shot of the professor’s pesky neighbor poking out her tiny window, framed by a tree, are masterly and make the film as worthwhile as the performances of its splendid trio of actors.

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