Iranian filmmaker goes to Tokyo for enigmatic tale

Given the state of artistic freedom in Iran, it makes sense that Abbas Kiarostami, the critically lauded dean of Iranian filmmakers, has been globetrotting of late.

His beguiling “Certified Copy” traveled to a hill town in Italy, and his latest, “Like Someone in Love,” is set in Tokyo.

If we conclude that Kiarostami sometimes clouded the meaning of his Iranian films for political reasons (and also for artistic reasons, I suspect), we can also conclude that he hasn’t grown any more explicit during his travels. I really like “Certified Copy,” but what it actually means is something any viewer is still turning over in his head.

For a while, “Like Someone in Love” unfolds in a way that is downright normal. In a bar in Tokyo, we meet a young student, Akiko (played by Rin Takanashi), who doubles as a prostitute. On a call one night, she visits the home of an elderly professor (Tadashi Okuno), but they appear too sleepy and distracted to consummate the session.

The next day, he assumes a more grandfatherly role in her life, especially as regards her possessive boyfriend. This development requires a little creative expression (in other words, the professor must lie about who he is), and takes the movie in an intriguing direction.

It’s around this time that “Like Someone in Love” becomes less normal, as Kiarostami exercises his love for long dialogue scenes in cars, and builds toward a final moment that is abrupt and — at least at first blush — completely unsatisfying.

In retrospect, I see better how the final moments make sense; these characters have painted themselves into a corner and leaving them suspended leaves it up to us to finish the story.

It’s certainly a rebuke to conventional storytelling, which Kiarostami has a history of rebuking.

Just before the final scene, there’s a terrific sequence involving the professor’s next-door neighbor, who has apparently been observing all the comings and goings, and finally airs her long-held thoughts on life, the professor and everything else.

It’s a wonderful little gem of a scene, and it reminds us that the perspective we’ve been watching in this movie is really only one perspective.

The movie’s not for everyone, but there’s something to be said for a film in which everything is in place, carefully thought out. Kiarostami carries us into a realm of uncertainty, but he does it with absolute authority.

“Like Someone in Love” (3 stars)

The Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami travels to Tokyo for this enigmatic tale of a prostitute who finds a grandfatherly figure in one of her clients. But it’s not as simple as that, as Kiarostami builds to a puzzling ending that literally leaves us in the middle of things — puzzling yet haunting, as it turns out. In Japanese, with English subtitles.

Rated: Not rated; probably PG-13 for subject matter

Showing: Egyptian.

More in Life

‘Last Jedi’ is the best ‘Star Wars’ movie since the first one

This instant-classic popcorn movie makes clever references to the past while embracing the new.

Jesse Sykes brings her evolving sounds to Cafe Zippy in Everett

She and Phil Wandscher make a return trip to a club that she values for its intimacy.

Red wine usually costs more, but you can still find bargains

Here are five good-quality reds that won’t drain your grocery budget.

Beer of the Week: Skull Splitter and Blood of My Enemies

Aesir Meadery of Everett and Whiskey Ridge Brewing of Arlington collaborated to make two braggots.

Beer, wine, spirits: Snohomish County booze calendar

Ugly Sweater Party and Canned Food Drive at Whitewall: Marysville’s Whitewall Brewing… Continue reading

Student winners to perform concertos with Mukilteo orchestra

This annual show is a partnership with the Snohomish County Music Teachers Association.

‘Ferdinand’ a modern take on the beloved children’s story

The lovable bull is back in an enjoyable but spotty animated film from the makers of “Ice Age.”

Playwright alleges misconduct by Hoffman when she was 16

A classmate of Dustin Hoffman’s daughter says the actor exposed himself in 1980.

Art mimicks reality in engrosing ‘On the Beach at Night Alone’

The Korean film tells the story of an actress recovering from an affair with a married director.

Most Read