Monday, March 18, 2013

Translation and Transposition in Abbas Kiarostami's Like Someone in Love (2012)

Like Someone in Love (2012) is a cinema of translation and transposition, of Iranian writer-director Abbas Kiarostami's rural, vehicular aesthetic into Tokyo's congested, neon-saturated present, and of the Islamic Republic's internationally invisible sex-workers and regressive romantic politics into a more outwardly conducive, if less authentic East Asian setting. Kiarostami's latest enacts a psychodrama forbidden by the censors of the Islamic nation - though it is no doubt known to its populace - where Rin Takanashi's (pictured) collegiate prostitute tearfully avoids a reunion with her visiting grandmother, spends the night at the residence of the director's elderly translator surrogate, and ultimately becomes the physical and emotional victim of her overly possessive boyfriend's audible and off-screen acts of abuse. (Like Someone in Love also imports a modern versus traditional discourse, which the film collapses into a nosy neighbor who spies through a lace curtain that the work transforms into a symbolic veil.) Much like Jafar Panahi's This is Not a Film (2011), Like Someone in Love is a kind of elegy for the unmade, impossible masterpieces of contemporary Iranian cinema, and one has a sense that such a work is concealed beneath the nearly anonymous Japanese surface it affects.  

The film's violence, a new presence in Kiarostami's post-Revolutionary cinema, save for the implied suicide of Taste of Cherry (1997), culminates in the picture's concluding ellipsis, where, in typical Kiarostami fashion, the spectator is left to speculate upon and decide the fate of the film's melodrama. In this sense, Like Someone in Love adds violence (and a more explicit, though still off-screen sex) to its expatriate successor Certified Copy's (2010) concluding prospect of copulation. Away from Iran, though still very much embedded within its hidden social dynamics, Kiarostami continues to produce work that had been impossible previously within the filmmaker's post-Revolutionary production context - even as it would achieve a certain kinship with the director's pre-Revolutionary The Report (1977).

Despite the fact that Like Someone in Love inscribes a new direction in Kiarostami's art, it remains a work ripe with the filmmaker's signature aesthetic: from the film's opening shot/counter-shot set-ups, Kiarostami emphasizes a richly populated off-screen space that will persist in dialogue with the picture's constricted on screen. With the taxi-cab's consequent departure from the opening set-piece's Bar Rizzo, Kiarostami's latest becomes yet another luxuriation in the (in this instance, built) spectacle of the world that passes through the car-window frame window.  In other words, for all of its departures from the subject matter and setting of Kiarostami's defining 1990s idiom, Like Someone in Love is still immediately recognizable as the director's own, as the latest historically essential entry into the cinema's most significant post-1960s corpus. Certainly, Like Someone in Love can and should be recommended to any follower of Kiarostami's work - and, one supposes, reader of this site - even if its moment-to-moment engagement (strange to say for a Kiarostami film that is more conventionally entertaining than his many masterworks) and the leaden nature of its cultural inscription make it the director's least successful fiction feature in decades. Unlike his previous meta-modernist masterpiece Certified Copy, Like Someone in Love represents an awkward act of translation that may just be less interesting than the sub-surface political critique at which the film hints.

This piece was co-authored by Lisa K. Broad and Michael J. Anderson.

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