Incessantly subversive, much of Like Someone in Love consciously rejects audience’s preconceived notions. With a narrative detailing a prostitute’s run-in with an elderly man, the pitfalls of contrived and obvious cinematic touchstones are clear – the prostitute with the heart of gold, the valiant man to her rescue, etc seem to promise a routine effort. But as with the films of Abbas Kiarostami, preconceived notions are best left to the wayside, whereupon the virtuoso director provides a densely rich narrative on the fluidity of identity, the roles one ascribes to, and the push and pull of globalization.
Kiarostami’s initial efforts are to immerse his audience in the time and place. With the majority of work set in his native Iran, Kiarostami’s recent excursions outside of his native tongue (such as 2010’s trip to Tuscany in Certified Copy) have felt particularly insightful as immersive exercises. Within the confines of a Japanese café, Kiarostami holds a static camera as the noise of a bustling metropolitan locale brings the audience close. We overhear a voice, but in an attempt to place where the voice is coming from within the people of the frame, Kiarostami slyly broadens the scope of his frame to advise us that, all along, his main character was never there to begin with. It’s a nifty stunt that he’s deployed on previous occasions, with this specific occurrence providing thematic heft that serves as an undercurrent for much of the film’s elusive narrative.
The main character, Akiko (Rin Takanashi), is a call girl. She’s been provided her assignment and is cattled along to her taxi to begin her work. As displayed in his opening sequence, Kiarostami projects a clear sense of place. As Akiko listens to the desperate pleas from her grandmother to visit her on her one day trip to Tokyo, the audience is afforded the opportunity to look at the increasingly Westernized metropolitan. The sequence serves to underscore the losing sense of identification one has not just to their culture, but to their own dwelling. This concept of obtaining a cultural identity resonates most clearly in Like Someone in Love, as characters of vastly different ages seem to operate under a different set of principles and ideals. Takashi (Tadashi Oduno), is an elderly man who summons Akiko – yet his yearnings seem to stem less out of lust and more so out of loneliness. Yet as the picture progresses, his role to Akiko (and vice versa) change. Another crucial character is introduced and therein compromises the harmonious relationship between the two.
Much of Like Someone in Love dwells on the act of, well, acting. There’s a perpetual drive to obtain some measure of identity. Kiarostami dabbles with the idea of one’s job constituting the majority of one’s identity. Akiko is a call girl and becomes a human being for ascribing to that profession. Similarly, her disgruntled boyfriend becomes a human being through his work as a mechanic. There’s a very precise effort to show all three major characters in a position where they are exercising their profession – and every time they are, they possess an exuberance that radiates through the picture’s tightly constructed imagery. As with the case with Certified Copy, the sense that I’m merely chipping away at interpreting a larger tapestry is prevalent, but it nevertheless makes for a compelling cinematic Rubik’s cube that I’m trying to figure out.