Abbas Kiarostami

Like Someone In Love

One of my favorite aspects of Abbas Kiarostami’s films is how thoroughly he realizes the world within and around his characters. You hear the “world of the film” used often to describe the visions of directors attendant to detail, but no other filmmaker manifests a world of the film at quite the intimate yet expansive scope that Kiarostami does. His films make the camera feel almost incidental, as if this is simply the character or the moment that Kiarostami decided to focus on amongst a great many incidents and possibilities happening around that character or that moment. The world of his films offers glimpses into the lives of supporting characters, any of whom could be the focus of a Kiarostami film all their own. Take his latest, Like Someone in Love, for example. At one point Akiko (Rin Tanakashi) has her cab driver circle a roundabout while she looks on at her grandmother at a transit stop, who obliviously waits for a family visit that will never occur. Kiarostami sticks with Akiko, but we carry that glimpse into the world of other possibilities that surround her life for the rest of the film. It takes incredible craftsmanship to make films feel as seamless, realist, and spontaneous as Kiarostami does. Last week, Kiarostami stopped by the Indiana University Cinema to discuss filmmaking with Richard Peña on the occasion of the Cinema’s retrospective of his career. So here is some free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) shared by the internationally renowned director.

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Close-Up Movie

Looking for any excuse, Landon Palmer and Scott Beggs are using the 2012 Sight & Sound poll results as a reason to take different angles on the best movies of all time. Every week, they’ll discuss another entry in the list, dissecting old favorites from odd angles, discovering movies they haven’t seen before and asking you to join in on the conversation. Of course it helps if you’ve seen the movie because there will be plenty of spoilers. This week, they appreciate the nuance of a meta movie that’s part documentary, part real-life recreation using people playing themselves. In the #43 (tied) movie on the list, Abba Kiarostami becomes interested in the story of a young man pretending to be a famous director in order to take advantage of a family, and decides to jump into the middle by making the situation into a movie. Close-Up rings with dozens of moving parts, but it still takes the time to appreciate an empty can rolling down a hill. But why is it one of the best movies of all time?

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review like someone in love

Editor’s Note: This review originally ran during the 2012 NYFF, but we’re re-running it now as the film opens in limited theatrical release. It’s impossible to understand who a person truly is upon first meeting them. Impressions can be made, based on the context of the meeting, but you can never know the true self that lies beneath the surface. In Abbas Kiarostami’s masterful Like Someone In Love, two very different people meet by chance, but within a 24-hour period, they discover more about each other and about themselves than either of them could have possibly fathomed. Kiarostami takes what would seem like a simple character study and, with his astute direction, morphs it into an incredibly well-executed work of art that is imbued with a palpable sense of unease. These two people are Akiko (Rin Takanashi) and Takashi (Tadashi Okuno). Akiko is studying biology in college and conflicted over whether or not to break up with her controlling boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryo Kase). She also works at an escort service. Takashi is an elderly man, working as a translator, who lives alone.

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like-someone-in-love

After turning heads and dividing opinions with his most recent feature, Certified Copy, maker of challenging though rewarding films Abbas Kiarostami is back with a new project, Like Someone In Love. This time around, the Iranian director is moving his focus to Tokyo, where he tells the tale of a confused young woman who develops a sort of friendship with an elderly college professor—a friendship which may or may not help her get her life on a better path, depending on your perspective. If that sounds vague, that’s because I’ve already caught this one when it was touring the festival circuit last year, and I can confirm that it is indeed the sort of film that raises more questions than it provides answers, much like Certified Copy. Though it does it by telling a story that’s more grounded in reality than that film. Seeing as the specifics of what this film is about are kind of up in the air, what sort of concrete things can definitely be said about it? Well, as the new trailer for the film shows, Kiarostami’s visual eye is as keen as ever, and the way he films the lights of Tokyo reflecting off of windows and in his characters’ eyes is just gorgeous to look at. And the actor who plays the aging professor, Tadashi Okuno, is about as charming as a human being gets in this one. Look at him. He’s like a little gnome grandfather out of a storybook or something. You just […]

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In Certified Copy, Abbas Kiarostami explored two people casually discussing their lives, revealing a surprising amount of information about themselves. The same format is taken here as Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a working girl who’s studying in Japan, is sent on an engagement with Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno), a former professor. The film begins in a bar with Akiko off screen on the phone talking to her boyfriend Noriaki (Ryo Kase), who’s concerned and curious about what’s going on with her. Slowly we see Hikoshi step into the picture, her booker, who spends the next ten minutes talking her into taking the engagement.

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Culture Warrior

In the late 1990s, two quite divergent Iranian films were recognized on the Western stage. During the 1999 Academy Awards, Majid Majidi’s Children of Heaven, a touching Satyajit Ray-like neorealist drama about a pair of siblings searching for lost shoes, became the first Iranian film nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Two years earlier, in May 1997, Abbas Kiarostami’s minimalist exercise Taste of Cherry won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the first Iranian film to do so. By the tail end of the twentieth century, Iran had made its way onto the stage of world-renowned arthouse filmmaking. While other cinematically underrepresented nations have oscillated in and out of prominence as the place where great new movies are being pioneered (South Korea, Romania), Iran has consistently, albeit quietly, given the West a limited but incredible output of challenging and innovative films.

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Culture Warrior

Ambiguity is no stranger to the arthouse film. Over fifty years after a group of daytrippers never found their lost shipmate in Antonioni’s L’Avventura, the ambiguous ending still retains the power to frustrate, confuse, anger, and challenge viewers. Continued controversies over ambiguity in narrative films point to Hollywood’s enduring dominance over the notion that films must be coherent and contain closure. However, the convention of closure can be a maddening limitation for filmmakers who intend to ask questions with no easy answers, or pose problems with no clear solutions (assuming that such answers or solutions exist in the first place). But ambiguity can take on a variety of forms, and with different degrees of effectiveness. Sometimes a film’s ambiguous hole can be more fulfilling and thought-provoking than any convention of linear causality in its place, but at other points ambiguity can become a handicap, or a gap that simply feels like a gap. Here are a few films from the past year that engage in several modes of intended ambiguity.

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Why Watch? Master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami delivered the Israeli/Palestinian problem as a schoolyard fight back in 1975, but its message and meaning still resonate today. Especially almost a year into the Arab Spring. Or, you know, for any situation where society clashes with society. What does it cost? Just 4 minutes of your time. Check out Two Solutions For One Problem for yourself:

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Criterion Files

Anytime a face is shown on screen, and we see that face speak, a host of questions – implicit or explicit – are automatically present. What is the authority of this speaker? Not in regards to any authority of the topic they are discussing, but rather, are they speaking on behalf of themselves, or are they a representative for another source of ideas? What is there relationship to the camera? If their words aren’t scripted, then how does their awareness of the camera change them? Typically, we are conditioned to giving speakers the benefit of the doubt, part and parcel of the suspense of disbelief necessary to enjoy any given film without being overwhelmed with questions of authorship. Even when we watch a film that blends fact and fiction and blurs the already arbitrary line between narrative and documentary film (in works like the Criterion Collection’s F for Fake (1972) or the more recent Exit Through the Gift Shop), suspense of disbelief is still fully applied in that we can enjoy such a film because we think we know where fiction ends and fact begins, and vice versa (even if we go about this knowledge differently upon revisitation in these tricky narratives). Our own need to delineate reality from scripted façade is implemented whether or not it is appropriate or accurate because of the need of a starting place in order for our minds to be able to assess and understand a given film.

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Culture Warrior

There has been a heated debate happening in the world of art cinema criticism, from the printed words of Sight and Sound to the blogspots of grad students, about the status and function of a continually dominating aesthetic known as slow cinema. The discussion basically goes like this: on one hand, slow cinema is a rare, unique and truly challenging methodological approach to film that exists to push the boundaries and expectations of plot and pacing to an extreme antithetical to expectations conditioned by mainstream filmmaking, disrupting the norm by presenting a cinema that focuses on details and mood – in a way that only cinema can – rather than narrative; on the other hand, slow cinema has become such an established and familiar formal approach witnessed in art houses and (especially) film festivals (like Cannes, where such films are repeatedly lauded and rewarded) that they have devolved into a paint-by-numbers approach to get an “in” into such venues rather than a sincere exploration of the potentialities of cinematic expression, and furthermore the repeated celebration of slow cinema devalues the medium’s equal potential to manipulate time by condensing it or speeding it up (‘fast’ cinema).

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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.05.2014
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