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

Expo in Stanwood can help you get ready for the country

The Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool is set for Jan. 27 at the high school.

Curries continues home-cooked Indian cuisine at new location

The restaurant, now located on Evergreen Way, also puts an Indian spin on Northwest cooking.

Want to buy a house this year? Here’s how to start saving up

Here are five ways to help you put 10 percent of your income per year toward buying a house.

Long rocking bench with strange fence is for protecting baby

The settee is a furniture form that dates to the 1810s. It’s a lengthened Windsor or Hitchcock chair.

Beer of the Week: Scuttlebutt’s Night Circus

The Everett brewery’s head brewer had nightmares trying to dial in its new coffee and coconut ale.

A visit to the nursery helps put you in the mood to garden

Not ready to get back into gardening? January is still a fun time to poke around a garden center.

Plant of Merit: Hybrid oriental hellebores, Lenten rose

What: Oriental hybrid hellebores, with the common name Lenten rose, are a… Continue reading

Home and Garden calendar for Snohomish County and beyond

“The Promise of Spring”: Plant sale and workshops by Northwest Perennial Alliance,… Continue reading

‘Portlandia’ ending after eight seasons of lampooning hipsters

The sketch comedy series launched its final season this week.

Most Read