Having seen Like Someone in Love hot on the heels of revisiting Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story and An Autumn Afternoon, it's almost unavoidable to find traces of the Japanese master in the latest work from Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, shot in Japan with a Japanese cast and crew. But Mr. Kiarostami's patient, static takes, (openly) influenced as they may be by Mr. Ozu's observational stillness, are certainly in the service of something else - yet another of his ingeniously self-reflexive commentaries on life and art. In point of fact, Like Someone in Love is about the distance between inside and outside, fact and fiction, truth and make-believe, following an unexpected triangle developed over a 24-hour period: Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a college student who escorts on the side to make money, Hiroshi (Ryo Kase), her jealous repairman boyfriend, and Takashi Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno), a retired professor and a "client" of Akiko's who seems to long for something other than sex.

     What is so intriguing and fascinating about Mr. Kiarostami's approach to these characters is how he ejects pretty much everything that could give story, motive or purpose to them. Instead, the film becomes a deliberately opaque play, one that forces every character to take on different roles and makes the viewer part of that play-acting. It's highly appropriate for a film about loss and longing, about depth rather than surface, about the choices we make at every given turn. As usual with the director, the naturalistic performances and the observational handling are part and parcel of the process, leading the viewer to trust his feelings and his thoughts. He weaves slowly a tale of wrong turns or roads not taken, unfolding with an exquisite attention to each of the characters' more minute glances or movements.

     Then, abruptly, it all ends - in an ending that Mr. Kiarostami originally wrote in as a mere "placeholder" but finally thought twistedly appropriate, and that becomes, at the same time, a letdown and the cherry on top of the film's deliberately equivocal nature. The viewer's acceptance of it will undoubtedly depend on his knowledge and tolerance for the director's regular thoughtful playfulness; I must admit its sudden return to theoretical abstraction threw me for a loop and marred what, until then, had been a wonderful addition to the Kiarostami canon.

Cast: Tadashi Okuno, Rin Takanashi, Ryo Kase, Denden
Director and screenwriter: Abbas Kiarostami
Cinematography: Katsumi Yanagishima  (colour)
Designer: Toshihiro Isomi
Costumes: Masae Miyamoto
Editor: Bahman Kiarostami
Producers: Marin Karmitz, Kenzo Horikoshi  (MK2 Productions and Eurospace)
France/Japan, 2012, 109 minutes

Screened: distributor advance press screening, UCI El Corte Inglés 12 (Lisbon), September 13th 2013


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