‘In all my films not a single shot comes from cinema,’ says Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, director of the Tokyo set movie Like Someone In Love. You only have to watch the opening scene set in a busy Tokyo bar and the following scene in the taxi as a young Japanese escort is being driven to meet a client for the evening, to find a fresh eye and a fresh cinematic viewpoint.
We are all guilty of it and Hollywood studio executives and film critics are more guilty than most perhaps. ‘Taxi Driver meets The Apartment set in Tokyo with a hint of Ozu’ could be a studio executive’s thirteen-word pitch for this very movie, but that’s certainly not how the Iranian maestro approaches filmmaking.
There’s a freshness, an originality, to his films that most producers and film-goers could learn much by comprehending. To be truthful, to more closely express real life and emotions, we don’t need a self-referential cinema that recalls moments from other films and strings them together to create a new production. That’s a cut and paste approach that it’s all too easy to fall into in any creative or production activity, but it’s an approach that doesn’t produce unique insights and genuine originality.
‘For me, all certainty in whatever form, is an absolute lie. That is why doubt persists and makes the situation more real,’ says Kiarostami and in the superficially unremarkable opening scene of this movie, we are presented with a disembodied voice which turns out to be that of Akiko, the escort, out of frame and lying to her fiancée on the phone about her whereabouts.
It’s an approach we would do well to apply to each area of our own work and life if we want to produce original thoughts, or have authentic feelings that are something more than the strung together sequences from someone else’s movie.
One of the most poignant and emotional moments in Like Someone In Love happens when Akiko, being driven through Tokyo at night to her assignation, having listened to a series of messages from her grandmother, asks her driver to go past the train station where her grandmother is waiting. The taxi circles, the girl glimpses her anxious grandmother in the bustling city night, but doesn’t stop and instead drives on tearful and conflicted.
The grandmother scene is the most important in the movie, while also being the most evanescent and hard to define. Is this scene an indication of the heightened emotions of the travelling Iranian director making films in France and Japan? Is this the alienation of the exiled – realising all too painfully the importance of family connections in a way that only those living and working in a foreign land can really feel?
In this film the characters lie to each other and to themselves about who they are and what their motives are, not just because they are acting, but because it’s what we all do to others and to ourselves almost everyday.
‘I am what I show to people’ says the director, showing us in his work an original view of life and of cinema. It’s an approach we would do well to apply to each area of our own work and life if we want to produce original thoughts, or have authentic feelings that are something more than the strung together sequences from someone else’s movie.