From liking to loving: ‘Like Someone in Love’

What happens when an Iranian filmmaker looks at the Japanese culture and wants to write a love story? Abbas Kiarostami proves himself an astute observer of love and loneliness in the Japanese culture. In “Like Someone in Love” gives us people who are with someone but ultimately alone. This 2012 movie opens at the Pasadena Playhouse 7 on 22 February 2013.

The beginning gives us a disorienting view inside a noisy cafe. We don’t at first see the person speaking on the phone, but we see what she sees. Her friend is loud and her make up applied with the subtle touch of a slapdash bricklayer in a hurry. Her mouth is open in what could be a sneer or a trap for flies. Akiko is speaking with her boyfriend and he wants proof that she is where she says she is. For proof, Akiko has her friend talk on the phone.

Akiko (Rin Takanashi) seems like a woman-child when we first seen her. Her makeup is lightly applied and she seems in serious need of advice.  Her bangs help hide her and hang like a curtain as she looks down, modestly and reluctantly accepting all advice about her persona life. Her boyfriend is making obsessive demands, such as counting the tiles in the bathroom of the cafe, and she seems as spineless as a squid. Yet Kiarostami surprises us. This little willow of a girl isn’t so innocent.

After she’s hustled into a taxi, she is driven to meet a new client. Akiko is a call girl and her new client is an elderly well-educated man, Takashi (played by the 81-year-old Tadashi Okuno). From his house, above a small restaurant, we see he is well-to-do and well-respected. His home is spacious by Tokyo standards and his walls are lined with books. His apartment is centered around his desk and not his television and his meeting with Akiko is interrupted by a phone call of an associate asking him for a quick favor. Takashi can’t easily say no and his home shows he has built no boundaries between his private and his public life. Somewhere, Takashi has a daughter and there was a tragedy, likely involving his wife. We see their photos, but it’s not clear what happened except that Takashi is lonely.

Like a contrite lover, he has made a special soup for his guest and set out wine glasses and plates. But Akiko is blind to her client’s loneliness and that his yearnings are more paternal than carnal. From an awkwardly uncertain school girl, Akiko is transformed into a temptress as she excuses herself to walk to the bathroom and instead makes her way to his bedroom and undresses herself. The change is express in her walk and her disrobing is seen not clearly, but suggestively in a mirror that Takashi sits beside. He doesn’t lust for her; he wants someone to love in a paternal sense.

Akiko is also someone who doesn’t set boundaries–not between her personal life and her own personal needs and that of her demanding boyfriend and not with this client. Soon Takashi has taken the roll of grandfather and when we meet Akiko’s boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryo Kase), Noriaki assumes Takashi is her grandfather. Neither Akiko nor Takashi take the trouble to correct this assumption.

Jealous boyfriend, spineless prostitute and a needy professor, three people of a totally different socio-economic class coming together under false assumptions. Doesn’t that spell trouble?

The ending might disappoint you. There’s no resolution. None of the questions raised are answered. If Hollywood gets a hold of this all the questions will be answered and the moral police may take hold and hammer in lessons to be learned. Not hear. Kiarostami observes and people’s lives collide and change but the future is not his concern. Kiarostami seems concerned with the now.

“Like Someone in Love” doesn’t have a translation for its Japanese title. The movie premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and was shown at the Toronto and New Film festivals last year.

The movie is about people who would like to be in love, but can only find a poor substitute, but anything short of love won’t do. “Like Someone in Love” is in Japanese with English subtitles.

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