Abbas Kiarostami helped put Iranian cinema on the map back in the '80s and '90s with movies such as festival faves "Close Up," "A Taste of Cherries," and "The Wind Will Carry Us." For the past couple of years, however, Kiarostami has been making movies abroad, no doubt because of the increasingly political environment in his native country. In 2010, he released "Certified Copy," starring Juliette Binoche and set in the Tuscan countryside. That movie -- about marriage, identity, and authenticity -- was beautiful and elusive, leaving many critics baffled and enraptured.
Kiarostami mines similar thematic territory in his follow-up movie "Like Someone in Love," but it's set in Tokyo with an all-Japanese cast. The result is very odd but strangely satisfying.
Akiko (Rin Takanashi) is a college student and a part-time prostitute. Her date for the night is a lonely widower and college professor (Tadashi Okuno). Though she's ostensibly there for sex, he seems more interested in chatting, drinking sparkling wine, and eating soup. The night ends chastely with Akiko curling up on her bed like a kitten. The next day, the professor is mistaken for Akiko's grandfather by her insanely jealous boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryo Kase). As the day goes on, they continue the ruse as the threat from an unhinged black belt in karate temporarily subsides.
The plot might be slight, but Kiarostami packs the movie with echoes and reflections that reverberate throughout. Embarrassed by her current line of work, Akiko dodges a sudden visit by her grandmother just prior to meeting with the professor. Akiko later comments on how much she looks like his dead wife. Each character fills an aching void in the other, though their exact relationship remains fluid and maddeningly ambiguous.
True to form, Kiarostami captures his characters through the reflections of windows, mirrors, and even the surface of a widescreen TV. Though the movie seems to unfold in a logical matter, Kiarostami's multiplicity of reflections and meanings make it feel increasingly hallucinatory, like a half-remembered dream of people you care for.
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See the trailer for 'Like Someone in Love':