Abbas Kiarostami has spent his incomparable movie career exploring the tiny spaces that separate illusion from reality and the simulated from the authentic. At first blush, his extraordinary, sly 'Like Someone in Love,' which finds the Iranian director in Tokyo, may appear to be among his most straightforward films. Yet with this simple story of the growing bond between a young part-time call girl and a grandfatherly client, Kiarostami has constructed an enigmatic but crystalline investigation of affection and desire as complex as his masterful 'Close-up' and 'Certified Copy' in its engagement with the workings of the mercurial human heart.
I always find it interesting when Criterion picks up a film that has come out in the past five years. It's great to see what new and modern films meet their criteria of excellence and stand out as the culturally significant and important films of our generation. One of their more recent titles is little film called 'Like Someone in Love', which was nominated for the Palme d'Or award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and has a spine number of 708.
After watching the film, I couldn't see why it was selected. That's not to say it's a terrible film by any means, on the contrary, it's a great little film, but when it stacks up to titles like 'Shoah', 'Riot in Cell Block 11', or even 'Rushmore', I just don't get the appeal or reason for choosing this title with the exception of it gaining steam at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Or maybe it's because Criterion enjoys the work of director Abbas Kiarostami, as they have released some of his films before, and this is the next on their list. But whatever the case is, I'm glad they chose this title, if not a little surprised.
Abbas is known for mostly directing documentaries, but every once in a while, he takes on a narrative films, which almost always receive high praise from audiences and critics. This Tokyo set drama is the second narrative film that he has made outside of his home country in Iran and is a long and minimal glimpse inside an odd relationship. The film follows a college girl named Akiko (Rin Takanashi) who moonlights as a prostitute for extra money. Her pimp Hiroshi (Denden) forces her on a gentleman caller even though Akiko's grandmother is supposed to be in town. Her suitor is Takashi Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno), who is an elderly man who is a retired professor from the local university who lives alone with tons of books and good artwork. Needless to say, he is very intelligent and doesn't seem like the type to order escorts for the evening.
Akiko and Takashi hit it off and he begins to make her dinner, but she falls asleep. The next morning, Akiko realizes he did nothing to her and that he wants nothing sexual in return. He's basically just a nice guy. Takashi drives Akiko back to college so she can take a test, where they run into her boyfriend Noriaki (Ryo Kase), who is a very jealous person. Noriaki mistakes Takashi as Akiko's reclusive grandfather and tells him of his intentions to marry her. Takashi does not correct his assumption, but tells him he is not ready for such a big commitment.
Once Akiko is done with her test, she finds that Noriaki and Takashi are still talking and is hoping that her boyfriend does not find out how he really knows her, as he knows nothing of her moonlighting career as a call-girl. But soon enough, Noriaki learns the truth, and things get a bit intense, but in to the form of an action film, but more of a slow steady burn. This is not your typical thriller by any means.
Abbas uses his camera to mainly focus on Akiko and Takashi as they reveal one another's secrets to each other. The camera even stays straight on the actor's once the dialogue is finished, holding there almost too long. It's quite awkward, but it fits with this engaging story. Tadashi and Rin turn in very good performances that makes you feel connected to them in a strange way. But one thing is for sure. Yes, the pacing is quite slow, which might keep some viewers from watching, but if you stick through it, the journey is quite worth it.
'Like Someone in Love' comes with an excellent 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. Criterion says that this film was shot on the RED One MX digital camera and was completed in a digital workflow. Abbas supervised and approved the release as well. Detail is very vivid and sharp at all times. The smallest textures in costumes and each individual hair and wrinkle can be seen perfectly.
There are quite a few closeups during the movie, and each one looks amazing. The colors are not particularly bright, but they still seem very organic and natural. Just don't expect a whole lot of bright primary colors throughout. The skin tones are very natural as well and the black levels are deep and inky. There were no compression problems whatsoever. This is one amazing looking image.
This release comes with a Japanese DTS-HD 3.0 audio mix, and according to Criterion, this track was mastered at 24-bit from the original digital audio master, and although only three channels of audio are present, the mix was encoded at 5.1. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to follow with excellent subtitles from Criterion. There are certainly no pops, cracks, or hissing at any point during the film.
There is not much action in the movie at all, so don't expect loud explosions or a whole lot of sound effects to rattle your ears. The dynamic range isn't too wide, but that is because this solely a dialogue driven film. When sound effects do come into play, they are phenomenal and sound robust and full, but it's not often. For what it is, this audio mix is top notch, just don't expect something loud and thunderous.
Making of Someone in Love (HD, 47 mins.) - A fun behind the scenes feature that has director Abbas Kiarostami discussing the production of the film that includes working in Tokyo, working with Japanese actors, his style, the origins of the story, and even shooting digitally. This is well worth the watch.
Trailer (HD, 3 mins.) - The trailer for the film.
Criterion Booklet - Criterion's famous booklet with tech specs for the film, information on the cast and crew, and an essay by Nico Baumbach.
Abbas Kiarostami's 'Like Someone in Love' is a slow burn. The characters are excellent and the film is exquisitely made on every level. The ending will leave you thinking about it for days. The video and audio are great here with one very good extra. Criterion has knocked it out of the park yet again with this release. If you feel like stepping outside the norm and something truly original and great, I highly recommend this one.