Every now and then a film is mistaken for a masterpiece and achieves international acclaim despite an unimaginative and tedious plot, such as “Amore”. Then there is the case of the hidden masterpiece: warmly embraced by festival audiences only to disappear without a flicker of publicity shortly thereafter, such as “Like Someone In Love”.
Like Someone In Love, set in Tokyo, is directed by Abbas Kiarostami, a man who barely speaks a word of Japanese. He doesn’t have to speak Japanese because he is too busy inventing a new cinematic language that relies on tone and subtext rather than plot. This is a director confident enough to spend twelve minutes in a taxi while Akiko, a fashionable college aged, call girl listens to eight phone messages while staring blankly at the neon lit Tokyo streetscapes. The repeated messages are from her visiting grandmother politely wondering why Akiko is a no show for their meeting at the train station.
Akiko is on route to visit her next client Takashi, an unassuming eighty-one year old widower. He is a lonely man in search of a one night girlfriend experience, an elegant dinner companion. Takashi is flawlessly polite. Sex is the last thing on his mind. Akiko rejects his homemade eel soup and slumps into bed waiting a further call to action. Sex never materializes. It’s a polite film, even by Japanese standards. All of the characters, even Akiko’s ruggedly handsome mechanic boyfriend are painfully polite, and painfully lonely.
Loneliness is at the heart of this film, a feeling we all must face. It’s a hard thing to crush. There is little moralizing about prostitution and a multitude of gaps that leave the viewer pondering the subtle actions by these luminous characters. “Like Someone To Love” is a complex stylized film, by a gifted director.