Abbas Kiarostami’s latest, set in Japan, comes to Blu-ray from New Wave Films.
Abbas Kiarostami begins Like Someone in Love by purposefully aiming his camera in the wrong direction. We’re in a bar in Tokyo, and a young woman is having a fraught conversation on her mobile – with whom, we don’t find out just yet. We can’t see her. At the mention of her name, Nagisa (Reiko Mori), sitting screen right, glances up. This is a film where what we hear, but don’t see as it’s offscreen, is as important if not more so as what we see and hear directly, and Kiarostami expects some input from us in putting all of it together.
The young woman on the mobile is Akiko (Rin Takahashi), a student who is doing some escort work on the side. Her “protector” Hiroshi (Denden) gives her the details of her next “paid date”, so she is packed off in a taxi to Yokohama. As she travels, she listens to her grandmother’s voicemail messages, seven of them throughout the evening. She arrives at the apartment of Watanabe Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), an elderly writer and translator. The film’s title is Like Someone in Love, but does Takashi want love, or companionship, or sex, or all three? That’s for you to decide: Kiarostami cuts abruptly to the next morning. Meanwhile, Akiko is dealing with her possessive boyfriend and fiancé Noriaki (Ryo Kase): that was him on the phone earlier. When he meets Takashi driving Akiko in to College, he assumes he is her grandfather…
While the events of Like Someone in Love (and I’ve only taken you to the halfway point) are clear enough, motivation is sometimes ambiguous, left for us to piece together, making this a film which stands up to repeated viewing. Although Kiarostami is still based in his native Iran, and makes films there which he funds himself, after Certified Copy this is his second film made overseas, not in his native language. Like Someone in Love is a French-Japanese coproduction, with its dialogue in Japanese, its credits in French, and its title in English, given that it’s named after the song, which Ella Fitzgerald sings over the final credits. The film asks us to question what “in love” means, and of the two men “in love” with Akiko, which of their love is preferable?
As you would expect, Like Someone in Love is beautifully made, though as its pace is certainly measured, it won’t be for everyone. Kiarostami shot the film digitally, which allowed him to let scenes run on, without fear of using up expensive 35mm film, and allowed him to capture unguarded moments, little bits of reality amidst the inevitable artifice of filmmaking. Like Someone in Love is further evidence that Kiarostami is one of the foremost directors currently active.
Like Someone in Love is released on Blu-ray and DVD by New Wave Films. It was the former which was supplied for review, and the comments below and the affiliate links above refer to that edition. For affiliate links for the DVD edition, go here.
The Blu-ray transfer is in the intended ratio of 1.66:1. As I mention above, Like Someone in Love was shot digitally, a process that comes into its own, with the scenes in the first half set in Tokyo at night, colourful and sharp with solid blacks. Given that this is a new film that has existed in the digital realm from start to finish (any 35mm cinema prints notwithstanding, though I suspect most people who saw this in a cinema saw a DCP), you’d expect this to be pristine, and it is.
The soundtrack is available in the unusual configuration of DTS-HD MA 3.0 (left, centre, right) and also LPCM Stereo (2.0),. While there is plenty of directional sound, noticeable from the outset in the ambience and background chatter in the bar, there is no surround. Other than that, the DTS track is mixed louder than the LPCM. English subtitles for this Japanese-language film are optional.
The main extra is called a making-of (45:24) but in reality it’s an extended interview with Kiarostami, in numbered sections, much of it in voiceover (in Farsi with English subtitles), over on-set footage and some extracts from the film. Kiarostami had had the idea for the film some fifteen years previously, but had not made it until now as he felt that (at seventy-one at the time of making) he understood the character of Takashi. He talks about the process of making a film in a country whose culture and language are foreign to him (very successfully in that respect, by all accounts, though I’m not qualified to judge), and how he has made use of digital technology rather than the 35mm he made his earlier films in. The casting of Takashi was a difficult process, and he eventually settled on Tadashi Okuno, who had been a professional extra for fifty years but until now had never spoken a line of dialogue in a film.
Also on this disc is the theatrical trailer (2:11), with scenes from the film and “Like Someone in Love” playing over it. There are on-screen critics’ quotes but no spoken dialogue, hence no subtitles.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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