72 year old director Abbas Kiarostami has long had his films banned by a strict Islamist government in his home country of Iran. As a result, he has skillfully adjusted to making films abroad, attempting to communicate his stories but without the reliance on geography, as he says. The last movie he made, Certified Copy, was filmed in Italy, and his latest, Like Someone in Love, was not only made in Tokyo, but also in Japanese and with a Japanese cast.
Kiarostami’s films are known for their simple stories, but are made with the director’s philosophy of showing themes like passion, conviction, and the human condition are universal, regardless of nationality. When speaking about his movie at the Cannes Film Festival this week, the director shared that he didn’t always feel that way, thinking that Japan and its people were at opposite ends of the spectrum from himself.
Like Someone in Love tells the story of a young, spiritless student, played by Rin Takanashi, who works as a call girl on the side. Her mechanic boyfriend is played by Ryo Kase, and Tadashi Okuno plays an older professor who gets involved in her life. It may take place in fast-paced Tokyo, with its crowds and neon lights, but just as Kiarostami’s other works, its pace is leisurely and performances are very naturalistic. So naturalistic in fact, that the cast never received scripts. Okuno says that when the director showed up, he instructed them all to be themselves and that they didn’t need to create anything new for their characters.
While the film has received a positive response at the festival, some critics noted that the ending feels very abrupt, and cuts off the building drama. Kiarostami says that’s how he wanted it to be, however he didn’t expect the film’s producers to go along with it. But he points out that his film doesn’t have a concrete beginning either, and that’s exactly how it works in real life.
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