Like Someone In Love

Like Someone In Love


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

"I'm not lying to you," is the first phrase, spoken in Japanese, in a crowded bar in Abbas Kiarostami's dangerously enchanted drama. The young female voice continues to talk, obviously lying, in an attempt to convince someone she must be on the phone with, that she is where she is not. Kiarostami has us scan all the faces on the screen to locate that bodiless free floating voice. Why is it so disturbing not to see the source, when this happens all the time in movies, with voice-overs and counter shots? Right here begins a sublime lesson in emotional manipulation through cinematic traditions.

A grandmother's visit to Tokyo is mentioned, enough to crack open the universe of Ozu, which indeed stays as a point of reference, not in clumsy reverence with low static shots or trains rolling by in the distance. The genius of Yasujiro Ozu's Tokyo Story (1953) is put aside, or rather placed in the middle of the nightly square by the station, right next to the grandmother, who came to the big city for the first time with her packages, from a small fishing village, we presume, and now sits on the bench under the statue, waiting in vain to see her granddaughter Akiko (Rin Takanashi).

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This scene is the heart of the movie, and my thoughts keep going back to the taxi with Akiko, asking the driver to please drive around the square one more time, as in a memory loop.

The second time Ozu comes to mind is in the context of a neighbour, nosy and demanding, another free floating voice that finds its body eventually and reveals more than expected. The third is a middle-aged former student recognising his old professor, a detail with shattering consequence.

The central figures in Like Someone in Love, the young woman Akiko, who finances her sociology studies by selling her body, and the retired professor (Tadashi Okuno) who is the client she is sent to see that night, are not types, and we learn less about them personally than about human entanglements, fears, and protective mechanisms that concern us all, everywhere, not only in a French co-produced film, by an Iranian director, set in Japan.

Kiarostami surprises at every turn. Listening to phone messages, seven in a row, is mesmerising here. A Japanese painting called Training A Parrot opens into a discussion of resemblances and identity. What happens when a woman believes she resembles every woman she sees? Decidedly more than a clever trick to hide and be Everywoman for sale.

A broth with little shrimp, a local specialty from Akiko's hometown, which the old man prepared before the prostitute's arrival, perhaps in order to make their interaction seem less like the business of the flesh, is rejected right away: "I can't stand it. Grandmother made it all the time."

So much for shortcuts to the heart.

Both of my two favorite films of this fall so far employ Ella Fitzgerald's fantastic voice to set the tone in pivotal scenes, when emotions are ardent and containing bewilderment is a strain. In The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson has Fitzgerald cast a spell with Get Thee Behind me Satan in an elegant department store. Here, the song Like Someone In Love mingles with the noise of trucks rolling by outside in the night and asks what a paid, naked little girl is doing in the bed of a man who could be her grandfather, while the man, fully dressed, in the other room, lights candles and looks at the trucks. "This city is merciless," says Akiko's volatile fiance (Ryo Kase), who works at a garage and is the third leg in the story's mutable triangle.

Cars are important, and windows, and startling reflections in windows. Kiarostami gives unprecedented room for you to think about doorbells, parking spots, microwaves, and miraculously guides you to thinking about betrayals, deceptions, and longings, like someone in love.

Reviewed on: 20 Sep 2012
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A drama centered on the relationship of a young woman and old man in Tokyo.
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Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Writer: Abbas Kiarostami

Starring: Ryo Kase, Rin Takanashi, Denden, Tadashi Okuno, Ryota Nakanishi

Year: 2012

Runtime: 109 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: France, Japan

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