LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE
(director/writer: Abbas Kiarostami; cinematographer: Katsumi Yanagijima; editor: Bahman Kiarostami; cast: Rin Takanashi (Akiko), Tadashi Okuno (Takashi Watanabe), Ryo Kase (Noriaki), Denden (Hiroshi), Mihoko Suzuki (the Neighbor), Kaneko Kubota (Akiko’s Grandmother), Hiroyuki Kishi (Old Student), Reiko Mori (Nagisa), Kouichi Ohori (the Taxi Driver), Tomoaki Tatsumi (the Auto Mechanic), Seina Kasugai (Nagisa’s Friend); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Marin Karmitz/ Kenzo Horikoshi; Criterion Collection; 2012- France/Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“It superbly plays out as an homage to Ozu family dramas.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The film is titled after Ella Fitzgerald’s jazz soundtrack song. It’s Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’ (“Taste of Cherry”/”Close-Up”/”Through the Olive Trees”) unofficial sequel to Certified Copy, the other film he shot outside Iran. “Like” was filmed in Japan, with an all-Japanese cast, even though the filmmaker speaks no Japanese. It superbly plays out as an homage to Ozu family dramas, but with a much darker side to life revealed though not as deep a look into human nature.
In Tokyo, Akiko (Rin Takanashi) is studying sociology in college and moonlights part/time as a high-end call girl to pay her tuition. Reluctantly she must go to the Tokyo suburbs of Yokohama on an assignment by her pimp Hiroshi (Denden), who runs a cafe. Aki’s in his busy cafe with her best friend (Reiko Mori) when she abruptly ends a hostile cell phone conversation with her overbearing boyfriend Noriaki (Ryo Kase), who accuses her of lying. Aki wishes to go home to study for her next day exams and also meet sometime with her visiting grandmother (the voice of Kaneko Kubota), from her rural hometown. Granny left a number of messages on her cell phone of her surprise one-day visit. Unable to get out of her call girl assignment, Aki’s driven to her important client by taxi. The john turns out to be a gentle 80-year-old widowed retired sociology professor and translator, Takashi Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno, noted stage actor), once the teacher of the pimp, who bonds with the self-absorbed Aki as a protective grandfatherly figure. The lonely widow, living in an apartment filled with books and art, is estranged from his family. He’s more interested in communicating with her than sex, while she’s more interested in sleeping. The next morning the professor gives her a ride to her college in his luxury Volvo and on the campus he crosses paths with her volatile boyfriend, the confused and jealous possessive young garage owner who wants to marry her despite her indifference. Noriaki assumes Takashi is her grandfather and when no one corrects his mistake, he opens up his heart to the supposedly wise old man. When the expert judo fighter Noriaki later learns the truth he acts extremely emotional, as if he was someone in love who was betrayed and is victimized by her lies. The film ends on a shocking act of violence, that comes out of the blue and is left open to the viewer’s interpretation.
The viewer is forced to suspend his/her moral biases to conclude what they want from the actions of the trio. They will get no help in learning more from the spectator-like filmmaker, who would rather the viewer see things their own way.
It’s an accessible but puzzling melodramatic love story pointing out the dangers of role playing and of being unaware of others, that is buried in enigmas, ambiguity and the knowledge that not everything is always what it seems. The Ella lyrics sung over the end credits blurt out its love theme in song: “Sometimes the things I do astound me/Mostly whenever you’re around me/Lately, I seem to walk as though I had wings/Bump into things/Like someone in love.”
REVIEWED ON 6/19/2014 GRADE: A-