Ryo Kase

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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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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I’ve no better, more eloquent way to put this — Gus Van Sant‘s Restless is awful, pandering, painfully acted, lazily written, up its own ass schlock. It’s bad. This is not the Van Sant that pulled beautiful, nuanced performances from his actors in Good Will Hunting, gave us solid, dark, indie-fare like Elephant, or even the almost total airball remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. This, perhaps, is a sign that Van Sant has taken his title as arthouse darling and run it completely off the rails.

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Last year I came away from Cannes needing to tell as many people as possible to see Blue Valentine, which enthralled and emotionally jarred me thanks to a blend of compelling story-telling and two mesmerizing lead performances ranging from touching to explosive in the space of a few short minutes. Already, only two days in, I feel the same way about Gus Van Sant‘s Restless, the film that today opened the Un Certain Regard section of the festival. Restless is a similar tale of two entwined souls romantically entangled, but unlike Blue Valentine, which was all about the central pair’s relationship to the extent that it quite wonderfully presented them as living in an impenetrable and ultimately devastating bubble, Van Sant throws in a couple of narrative conceits and a hugely gripping hook that adds a different element to the film. Both films share a resolute focus on a final point: while Blue Valentine alludes to it (the relationship’s end) thanks to an alinear narrative structure, Restless reveals very early on that Annabel (Mia Wasikowska) has a terminal disease that will kill her inside three months, which gives the story both structure and that killer hook. This is no Bucket List – there are no grand, sweeping gestures, no life affirming to-do-lists to complete in order to feel complete before death. Instead we are offered a portrait of a young couple, both aged by their personal tragedies (one by her illness, the other by the death of his parents), yet unwilling and unable to cast […]

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