Somebody is claiming not to be a liar at the opening of Abbas Kiarostami’s latest effort Like Someone in Love. As if often the case for a Kiarostami film, it’s not quite obvious what’s occurring. We here the voice of a young woman defending herself from what appears to be a boyfriend. Is he there? Of the multiple people the camera is showing in a busy bar, where is the girl? Who is making such proclamations and why?
The answer isn’t a wild mystery; we find out rather quickly. The girl is Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a student working as a high-priced prostitute for a pimp. The initial vagueness is a requirement, however. Kiarostami is welcoming new viewers into his meticulous world and once more luring those who’ve travelled down his particular rabbit hole before. For those unfamiliar with the notable Iranian director’s filmography, which includes such acclaimed classics as Close-Up and Certified Copy, Kiarostami isn’t a Lynch-ian architect, at least not regularly. His movies have clear enough narratives, but feature a relaxed, one might call reserved atmosphere. There is a stillness to Kiarostami’s efforts that brings to mind Ozu. This fact is driven home by the director’s decision to produce Like Someone in Love in Japan.
Wait. So this is an Iranian filmmaker’s new film, told in Japanese with English subtitles? Yes. Don’t leave, you’re better than that.
What makes Kiarostami’s movie’s so magical remains here; the calm before the storm. Now, a storm in his works isn’t as volatile as what one would see in a Tarantino bloodbath, even if the emotional damage may mirror it. The quietness of Kiarostami’s pictures draws the viewer in piece by piece, lulling you into a comfort that is continually undercut but surprises via slight revelations, each one giving sharper depth to his character’s and narrative.
Here, it is Akiko. She appears dainty, comfortable in telling lies to anyone – be it boyfriend or a visiting grandmother – to avoid confrontation. Initial cruelties appear to be more complicated as Akiko meets Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), a retired professor seeking her company for an evening. Their initial meeting is electric, though not in the Pretty Woman sense. The audience learns of Takashi’s nurturing nature and his struggle with saying no to people. Akiko also blossoms at this moment. She doesn’t transform into a ravish predator, even as her mood turns slightly mischievous.
Their evening together leads to a fresh morning, where Akiko’s boyfriend (Ryo Kase) enters the fray as he mistakes Takashi for her grandfather. Lies continue, motives are unclear and each one’s fragility breaks through. Many of the scenes, as is a staple for the director, occur amidst driving. These long, intimate conversations are riveting, showing how those with apparently nothing in common can laugh and console one another, whether it’s over a famous painting or car trouble. This bond is muddled by those same conversations and how every person rearranges certain details of one’s personality and morality to the given exchange. Can you really console a person you’re actively deceiving them too, no matter how heartfelt it might be? Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love asks us that, and it’s a question and movie worth pondering.
Like Someone in Love opens exclusively in Seattle at Landmark’s Egyptian Theatre tomorrow.