Like Someone in Love

Old Fool

         
 

15 February 2013| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

An arrogant work by an allegedly esteemed filmmaker. Like Someone in Love (Japanese with English subtitles) by Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami opens with a long drawn-out restaurant scene photographed with acute, hard-to-follow angles (it’s like a cerebral origami, asking us, what do you think is going on here?). To jump ahead, this art film contains fascinating promise of a bold relationship between a young student who works as a prostitute to get by and an old man who is her latest john. Tadashi Okuno plays the (anonymous) old man as someone not looking for sex, but for companionship. Rin Takanashi plays the (anonymous) prostitute ashamed she has no time for her grandmother who waits all day at a train station depot for her, has a violent-prone boyfriend, and has lots of homework she probably can’t keep up with.

The prostutute character is given thoughts and feelings, awareness and conscientiousness, and vulnerability. Then the director degenerates her character for script conveniences. She is a doll, a creature, an instrument for the director.

See the two of them have a rendezvous at the old man’s home. The girl asks the old man about all of his books. He explains that he has been a professor and translator his entire life. This sparks an interest for her. They discuss the meaning of a painting on the wall which reflects Japanese history but with a Westernized aesthetic. They both demonstrate an interest of each other’s likes and dislikes. There, you think this is going to be an audacious cross-generational look that a mature friendship can blossom in the unlikeliest of places. But no, this is another cautionary tale of an old man making a fool of himself, like “Lolita” or a half dozen (better) movies with Jeremy Irons.

Nothing groundbreaking transpires in their first night encounter after the old man lets her fall asleep from exhaustion (we understand her day’s toils). The old man drives her to school the next day. After she gets out of the car, she has an immediate argument with her uncouth boyfriend (Ryo Kase). She walks on to class, regardless. The old man, waiting there, is noticed by the boyfriend. The boyfriend ingratiates himself into the car. The boyfriend mistakes the old man for the girl’s grandfather. The boyfriend pleads for respect, and says he plans to marry the girl. The old man waxes philosophical on marriage. When the girl gets back in the car following class, the tension triangle begins.

I will spare you what happens next, but to jump ahead, what am I supposed to think of the last ambiguous scene? It’s tragic, to be sure. How tragic/fatal, it cannot be certain. If I’m right that the film has a fatal conclusion, does it matter? If it has not as fatal a final shot as I thought, does that matter either? I’m not left with much except melancholy and detachment.

I am disgusted by Kiarostami’s misanthropy. He hops around different counties making films in different dialects. His last one was the French “Certified Copy,” a jerk-athon. He is most famous for his home Iranian film “A Taste of Cherry” which left me with not much a taste of anything. I am not a fan of him, but esteemed he is. Many slavering critics have been taken in by him because they love the cerebral dual meanings, the ambiguous characters, the symbolism. But I’m not falling for it. I see him as a cruel puppeteer to his actors. He starts by writing a Japanese girl a promising rich and substantial part with original complexity to it. Then at his own convenience to make a point about old man lust, he makes her prostitute character a cipher without anything interesting to say in the last third. What a fraud.

109 Minutes. Rated PG-13. Japanese with English subtitles.

FOREIGN FILM / FOOD FOR THOUGHT / SATURDAY NIGHT SLUMBER

Film Cousins: “Lolita” (1962); “Claire’s Knee” (1971, France); “Damage” (1992); “Tony Takitani” (2005, Japan).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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