Viewed: BFI London Ticket price £7.50 (c)
Adrin Neatrour writes: Like having an idea such as smashing the glass
Like someone in love is the third film that Abbas Kairostami has made outside Iran as a self exiled film maker. Kairostami decided to make his films outside Iran because the political religious regime had made it almost impossible for him to work inside the country. Kairostami's films have always attracted the hostility and censorship of the Iranian authorities who even destroyed the master 35mm negative of his 1978 marital drama, the Report. Had he persisted in film making there he would certainly have found himself under house arrest or even imprisoned, a fate that has befallen other Iranian film makers.
But what's an exiled film maker gonna to make films about? Kairostami has always made his films in Iran and his subject matter has always been set in an Iranian context. Can you take the fish out of water and expect it to breath and to make films?
His films may have been set in Iran but at the heart of his films lies Kairostami's intelligence. His films are not mechanical products; each is the outcome of a process of thinking – thinking about images.
One of the concepts at the root of his thinking is the idea of oppositions, oppositions that you can see in people. Oppositions such as in - relationships – man and woman; age - old people young people; life and death, knowledge and ignorance, individual and family. And of course the context of Iranian society with politico religious forces shaping the social matrix, provided Kairostami's films with a wide range of fault lines to examine and probe.
So what's he doing in Japan? Like someone in love…what a strange title for his film. It's the name of a song, an old jazz standard. What does it mean, what does it point to?
I think that in this film Kairostami has created a new take on the old Japanese idea of the Floating World. Famously represented in series of nineteenth wood cuts, the Floating World was the name given to the transient world of pleasure created by geishas prositutes and clients in nineteenth Tokyo. A world of impermanence. In Like someone in love, Kairostami revisualises the floating world as a series of multiple planes of light that drift across the screen, the reflections and refractions of modern Tokyo that float over the images of his characters, obscuring them but at the same time placing them in context of night and pleasure.
Tokyo is realised by Kairostami as a series of surfaces. The bars the streets and clubs present a dazzling beguiling field of vision for the eye. Japan's culture is overlaid with Western technological forms that it has made its own. It looks like the West but it isn't; and Akiko, Kairostami's girl protagonist, always looks like someone who she isn't.
Kairostami sees that a whole range of social relations have been absorbed into a new floating world of impermanence; he also sees that he is an outsider peering into this culture, through a glass darkly, trying to distinguish image from reflection and reflection from image. And once the reality of the glass is admitted then it too becomes part of picture, and also there will come moments swhen the glass itself will crack
This is a mirror crystal world, and within it Kairostami projects a love story – of sorts of the sort that might reveal some of the critical stresses at work in this society.
Kairostami loves cars as settings in his films. Many of his films use scenes inside automobiles. He revels in the contradiction that amidst the frenzy of life, it is often inside a car, the symbol of movement, that his characters find the stillness and space.
In Like someone in love, there is a typical Kurostami moment of interaction in which like a brain surgeon he penetrates through the hard surface presented the skull into the deeper soft tissues of the brain. During the taxi ride taken by Akiko to her new client, Kairostami inserts a scene which is brilliantly conceived as a series of verbal phone messages picked up by Akiko from her grandmother. The grandmother's unsentimental prosaic words project in full relief not only the growing void separating young and old but the characteristic emptiness of mobile communications which increasingly serve the dysfunction of not communicating.
It is the economy that Kairostami brings to his understanding of Japan that lights up the movie. Using only simple settings the interior of a car, the interior of an apartment, the interior of a club he coaxes the surfaces of this floating world to separate a little and to see the forces at work that maintain the tension in the glass images: relations between men and women, old and young, the new and the old, between the imported culture and the older traditions.
It might sound complex but it is all done very simply almost without us realising it, until we start to pay attention. As in the scene where Akiko lies asleep in bed and her very elderly client, selects a record from his album collection, plays Ella Fitzgerald singing Like someone in love. The camera pans off him to the dining table, set for dinner for two, plates knives and forks and two long stemmed empty wine glasses, and Ella sings:
Everytime I look at you I'm as limp as a glove, feeling like someone in love…”
For Kairostami, it's time to break the glass.