Tuesday, February 12, 2013

LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE: Abbas Kiarostami turns from Tuscany to Tokyo -- seamlessly

How wonderful is it to watch this fabled Iranian director's work outside his own country? Let me count the ways. After the playful delights of Certified Copy, set in Tuscany, Abbas Kiarostami has now moved to Tokyo and has set the bar in his new film a good bit higher.

There is much more at stake for at least two of the three characters we meet in LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE: for the young woman, a student working her way through college (as we used to say); and for her maybe-fiance, a hugely enamored fellow with rather severe anger-management problems. The third wheel in this weirdly shaped vehicle (and yes, cars are nearly ever-present here, as elsewhere in the filmmaker's oeuvre) is the old man Takakshi (a splendidly correct performance by octogenarian Tadaski Okluna, below) whom the younger man first mistakes for his girl's grandfather.

Identity is front and center once again, but for good reason and with possibly very ugly consequences. And yet Like Someone in Love, named for the old song we hear on the soundtrack, refuses to grow too dark. As my companion, who made a rare trip to the screening along with me, pointed out, all the characters (and not only these main three) are so determined to have want they want at the moment -- dinner and some good conversation, bed and sleep, or a full-blown relationship -- that they prove absolutely tenacious in going after this. Which only leads to further problems.

Our heroine, the exquisitely lovely Akiko, played by Rin Takanashi, above) seems the most vulnerable. Why not? She's a woman, and she has placed herself in a very tricky employment situation.

Her boyfriend, Noriake (Ryo Kase, above) acts first and weighs consequences later. He's probably a rotter or sorts, but even he, off and on, grabs our conscience and concern, so we hope he'll get it together eventually.

Kiarostami not only begins his film in media res (above, in a bar, on a cell phone), he rather daringly ends it there, too -- with an act of minor violence that could lead to something worse -- leaving us not at all confused but rather suddenly out of breath.

Moment to moment, however, throughout the entire movie, we're with these characters, and a few others, with each given just the right weight and meaning (one of which is played by the great character actor Denden, who was so terrific in Cold Fish) so that we follow along, just able to keep up with the twists and turns of the relatively simple plot -- in which exposition is used sparingly.

Much of this takes place, as so often with Kiarostami, in automobiles. Even one extended scene out of the auto is set in a garage where cars are repaired. And "love" is not something simply used in the title. We see a lot of variations on this theme -- from the jealous and possessive type (Noriake's) to the tender and caring (Takashi's) to the unrequited (Takashi's next-door neighbor) to the new-and-not-yet-understood (Akiko's).

All this is woven together seamlessly by one of the world's great filmmakers. If you have never seen a Kiarostami film, this new one makes a fine entry point. If you already know his work, you've probably ordered your tickets already. After succeeding so well in both Tuscany and Tokyo, maybe Abbas will turn next to Texas. I'd love to see what he comes up with here in America....

Like Someone in Love, from Sundance Selects and running 109 minutes, opens this Friday, February 15, in New York -- at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and the The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater -- where “A Close-Up of Abbas Kiarostami,” a complete career retrospective of this filmmaker's work, takes place from February 8-17 -- and in Los Angeles (at Laemmle's Royal Theater, and the following Friday at the Town Center 5 and Playhouse 7). A limited national rollout will follow. The film will also be available nationwide on Sundance Selects’ video-on-demand platform, available to over 50 million homes in all major markets.

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