They can be a strange breed the cinema going public, some films that are barely worth watching they will flock too and others, that are far superior, will almost be ignored. A good example was this week’s Robert Burns Centre Film Club screening of Abbas Kiarostami’s latest movie, the intelligent and adult themed Like Someone in Love (2012). It attracted a very small audience for such an interesting film, made all that more appealing by its structure. Its has Japanese and French finance and production, an Iranian directed and wrote it, its filmed in and around Tokyo with a Japanese cast and uses the Japanese language. I think you will agree it’s quite an intriguing blend. The story it self is no less fascinating, slow and precise it basically involves three main characters.
Firstly there’s Akiko (Takanashi Rin) a college student who moonlights as a ‘paid date’ to raise money for her education. She arrived in Tokyo two years ago and now regrets putting out phone box flyers to advertise her availability. She works for Hiroshi (Drenden who I last saw in Cold Fish (2011)) who runs a high-class agency to provide escorts for men. The second main character is Akiko’s date, Watanabe Takashi (Okuno Tadashi) an elderly writer and translator who when she arrives after a long car journey at his book filled flat discovers that he is more interested in having her join him for a meal and a chat and not as the young student expected in having sex with her. The following morning Watanabe stops at her college to allow Akiko to complete some work before he drives her home. It’s outside the college that this kindly old man meets the third main character in our elliptical edited film. Higuchi Noriaki (Kase Ryo said to be the Japanese equivalent of Ben Whishaw) is Akiko’s possessively jealous boyfriend who is set on marrying her. It’s at this stage in our story that things get a little complicated when Noriaki takes Watanabe to be Akiko’s grandfather.
Mr Alec Barclay made a welcome return this week to the host chair and captivated us with a brief outline of Kiarostami’s background before tonight’s movie began. He even read out a previous movie ramble that mentioned two of the Iranian’s earlier films, one of which being his collaboration with the Italian director Ermanno Olmi and our own Ken Loach, 2005’s Tickets. The other was his first full-length film in English Certified Copy (2009), which I had described as ‘an observational snapshot of human behaviour’ and to be honest that description fitted this latest movie very well. Alec went on to tell us that the 73-year-old Kiarostami had been active in film work since 1970 and had made over 40 films. Greatly admired by both Michael Haneke and Martin Scorsese he was one of the few directors who remained in Iran after the 1979 revolution.
Abbas Kiarostami is an actors director, what I mean by that can be seen in one of the directors trademarks: conversations in cars, no real action in the true sense of the word, just facial movement and the way that long and protracted conversations are spoken between the characters. Using a minimalist approach with a simple and uncomplicated story, which has no defined beginning or end, allowing us just a glimpse into a mere interlude in three peoples lives. This film, for me, was a real pleasure to watch and lets hope we have more like it rather than mainstream drivel that sometimes fills out non-independent cinemas. I will quote something the director said during an interview at this year Cannes Film Festival and which our host read out. ‘Happily, I can choose my viewers’ he said ‘and I’d rather not have the exasperated among them. Cinema seats make people lazy. They expect to be given all the information. But for me, question marks are the punctuation of life. When it comes to showing human beings, complexity and concealment are a crucial part of the character. If I show more than the character shows, it doesn’t make sense. And if the spectator doesn’t accept that, there’s not much I can do.’ Very well put Mr Kiarostami.