Tomorrow UK cinemas see the release of Abbas Kiarostami’s Japanese film Like Someone in Love. The film raises the continuing issue of how a film set in Japan and entirely in Japanese retains any Iranian identity. Is it the director’s quintessential style that has come to define Iranian cinema is in itself, defying expectations? And how do films made outside of Iran, without Iranian actors or subject matter in any way represent what it is to be part of the much-splintered Iranian identity today? To a certain extent Kiarostami’s new direction is endemic of the extensive Iranian diaspora, particularly those that cannot return, or those who have left for the sake of their art. However the film’s main concerns are timeless and deal less with ideas of nation than of the past versus the present (age and youth, urban living versus rural values and as always, reality versus fiction.
Six Pillars producer Fari Bradley reviews the film today at 4pm on The Film Programme BBC Radio 4 , repeats Sunday 11pm
The film follows the story over a 24 hour period of Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno), an elderly, eminent author, translator and a former professor. The professor hires Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a ‘working girl’ who’s studying in Japan and is struggling to juggle a web of lies that she has woven, especially to Noriaki her explosive boyfriend. Themes touched on are distanced family members, dysfunctional lovers and role-playing strangers, many of which resonate with early Japanese cinema. Kiarostami’s film was booed when first screened at Cannes as was Certified Copy, Kiarostami’s previous film, set entirely in Italy, again with no Iranian actors and spoken in French. The main complaint is that the ending, a section of the film which has always been Kiaorstami’s area of expertise as he can reveal a film’s entire meaning in the lat moments or take a left turn and shake his audience out of their passive reverie. Essentially what the complaining audience were demanding was a narrative pay-off – a moral, if you like – despite the fact that all Kiarostami’s later films leave out essential parts of the narrative and play with meta plots and cinematic devices of surprise.
Australian film critic Adrian Martin emphasises Kiarostami’s direct perception of the world, and identifyies his cinema as being diagrammatical. Literal “diagrams” inscribed in the landscape, such as the famous zigzagging pathway in what the industry is calling the Koker Trilogy, indicate a “geometry of forces of life and of the world”. For Martin, these forces are neither complete order, nor complete chaos but rather what lies between these poles. In this way this film holds something unique to all of Kiarostami’s films, an aspect that is discussed in today’s review, and about which Kiarostami said delayed the making of the film for 17 years.