'Like Someone in Love'
Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Stars: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno
4 (out of 5) Globes
Calling “Like Someone in Love” the funniest film by Iranian legend Abbas Kiarostami doesn’t exactly promise a fun night out. It would be like saying, for instance, something is the funniest film by Adam Sandler. Kiarostami once made “Taste of Cherry,” concerning a man on the prowl for someone to bury him after he’s committed suicide. Then again, humor is detectable in even his darkest films; even “Cherry” can be read as lightly farcical. (A very, very dark farce, mind.) In “Love,” his sense of humor is simply more noticeable than usual.
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Granted, these aren’t gut-busting yuks. The funniest joke plays like a covert parody of the ultra-ascetic “master shot” filmmaking style, of which Kiarostami is a prime practitioner. In it, a character sits at a red light — in one long, unbroken shot, natch — and it goes on so long he actually falls asleep. (Imagine a Béla Tarr’s character napping during one of the director's epic long takes to picture how amusing this is to a certain, tiny sect of filmgoers.) Even the plot is vaguely silly: a young prostitute (Rin Takanashi) in Tokyo has gone home with an elderly professor (Tadashi Okuno). Her fiancé (Ryo Kase) intercepts her client but, oblivious to what’s going on, winds up bonding with him.
This is Kiarostami’s second trip around the globe. (Meanwhile his fellow countryman and sometime collaborator, Jafar Panahi, wallows under house arrest, smuggling films, like “This is Not a Film,” out on thumb drives hidden in cakes.) Where his first, “Certified Copy,” boasted an inexplicable narrative — yet wooed viewers with Tuscany and Juliette Binoche — the story in this, his trip to Japan, is almost comically simple. But its intentions prove far more elusive.
The easiest way in is to read it as a mordant rumination on miscommunication. Its characters are prevented from knowing eachother through age, temperament and, in some cases, technology. Takanashi is a cell phone addict whose head is permanently perched downwards towards a tiny screen in her palm, her most meaningful interactions carried on via texts. Meanwhile, Kiarostami adds to the dehumanization with shots that position major characters in bizarre locations within frames. In the opening the viewer has to search the image for the speaker, and one might as well take that as a metaphor for the film: finding its “meaning” is difficult but not impossible.