Cannes 2012 Review: Abbas Kiarostami's Film 'Like Someone in Love'
by Alex Billington
May 22, 2012
Through all the tragedy and killing and hopelessness seen at Cannes so far (there's a lot this year), it's a refreshing relief to see something with a little bit of insightful charm. Enough charm to make me smile and laugh while watching, then grow warmly within me the more I think back to it. Like Someone in Love is openly my first experience with Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami (Homework, Certified Copy) and, coincidentally, it's also his first experience shooting in Japan with a fully Japanese cast. The results aren't perfect, but despite its flaws, I've fallen in love with this film. Or maybe just its characters, odd as they are.
Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love is an odd sort of tale, told in a way I found completely enchanting, with very long takes where the characters' natural actions, and their surroundings as well, drive the story. At the center are two characters, Akiko (played by Rin Takanashi), a young female escort, and Watanabe Takashi (played by Tadashi Okuno), an elderly professor and translator. We discover that, despite being called to his place, he's not actually interested in her sexual favors, but rather her company, and the two strike up an awkward relationship over the course of the next 48 hours. There's a captivating scene early on where the camera stays on Akiko in a taxi as she listens to voicemails on her phone; somehow, it doesn't get boring.
Watanabe Takashi is a perfectly, delicately crafted lovable, old Japanese man. He almost becomes a giddy little boy in the film when finally meets this call girl, but instead of desiring any of the sexual fantasies one might expect, he just wants her companionship, like someone truly in love. He invites her to eat dinner that he's prepared, and drives her around to her school, wherever she wants, avoiding his own work. And what makes it so intriguing is the dichotomy of the other side, Akiko the call girl, who we meet first and follow throughout most of it. She, on the other hand, is reaching a point where she's tired of everything in her life.
She has an abusive boyfriend, won't even returns calls or go see her visiting grandma, and yet obviously feels the pain (from all of this) but is making the tough decisions to live her life this way. Maybe the day or two she spends with this charming, unbelievably nice guy will be the mental kick she needs to make her realize the world can be different. Instead of ever reaching a boiling point, it reaches a breaking point, an abrupt ending, but that's exactly how easily life comes and goes, I suppose. Even though some, or most, of the dialogue seemed primarily trivial in relation to the overall narrative, I found myself lost in the beauty of the cinematography and the awkwardly alluring charm of this peculiar relationship between young and old.
It's also a stunningly gorgeous film, shot in Tokyo right on the streets in vivid locations where the colors and sights and sounds and surroundings and light all play an important role in that beauty. There was one shot especially, looking through the windshield of the van Watanabe is driving, where the camera doesn't pan or move, but the reflections of the world outside (an elevated highway above them) intimately and intricately frame each person, while the patterns curve and shift as they continue onward. My favorite shot that I've seen in any film at this festival so far, I really can't stop thinking about it. That alone made this all worth it.
Alex's Cannes Rating: 8.5 out of 10