Like Someone in Love: The Grandfather Experience
by Domenico La Porta
21/05/2012 - Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami has once again worked with French producer Marin Karmitz for Like Someone in Love [trailer], a film co-produced with Japan that was shot in Tokyo with an exclusively Japanese cast, and today screened in the official competition at the 65th Cannes Film Festival. Akiko meets Watanabe Takashi in Tokyo. She is a student (who works as an escort girl), and he could be her grandfather. She knows nothing of him, while he believes he understands her. He opens up his house to her, she offers him her body, but the service that the old man offers her back is very different. In the space of 24 hours, a relationship forms between this young woman and the man acting like her adopted grandfather.
In Like Someone in Love, Kiarostami (1997 Palme d'Or for The Taste of Cherry) offers audiences a type of reverse "girlfriend experience", the latter being a form of prostitution with a social or even emotional dimension, because it requires the escort girl to act like the client's girlfriend. Even the film's title, a reference to the Ella Fitzgerald song playing in the film's pivotal scene, alludes to this angle of the story. However, even if this story does start out on the vaguely sketched premise of prostitution, Kiarostami rapidly, and very decently, defuses it off-camera. His film quickly takes an unexpected turn as, in the end, it is the young girl who will benefit from the man's kindness, as he will act like her grandfather to render her a service. The image of the mirror is present throughout the film, mostly in a series of shots and reverse-shots used to film the two sides of many conversations. The director tirelessly repeats this stylistic device by varying the settings: dialogues shot from either side of a restaurant table, from a street then from the inside of a house through a window, from the inside of a car then from the pavement, from the back seat then from the front seat... Once again, it's a lesson in filmmaking that we see unfold before our eyes, as some shots are real gems of cinematic construction.
After Italy for Certified Copy [trailer], Abbas Kiarostami travelled to Japan where he had been wanting to shoot a film for over 10 years. Directing a film in Japan, in Japanese, was for him the closest he could get to the experience of shooting a film in Iran. Watching his film, a European audience has to get used to a very different ethnic group and a very different-sounding language deciphered only by subtitles. But it's an experience that the director wanted to re-create, and he has done it successfully.
In the end, some might think that the film's substance is too light a counterweight for its form, and its ending accentuates this feeling of a farce not quite corresponding to some viewers' expectations. But for others, the film will have been an amusing and surprising experience.
(Translated from French)