Plot: What’s it about?
I was first turned on to the Iranian director Abbas Kiarastomi through the film Close-up, also released by Criterion. In that film, Kiarastomi had told the true story of a man who pretended to be a filmmaker in Iran to enter a family’s household. The plot of the film was interesting, but nothing too crazy. The thing that made the film interesting was that he managed to get all of the key people in the story to play themselves in the film. He then wove in footage that he had shot of the trial of the said man, making the movie a blend of documentary, docudrama, and the ending to the story itself. It’s a pretty incredible feat, really. So, when Criterion bought the rights to release his film Like Someone in Love, I was curious what he was doing twenty two years later as a filmmaker. Upon learning that this feature was shot in Tokyo, my interest was piqued and I went ahead and purchased the Blu-ray.
The plot of the film centers on a student who is also a call girl. The movie begins with her fighting with her boyfriend over the phone while sitting at a table in a club. It is not revealed to the audience that she is a call girl until her pimp sits with her and tells her that she must go out of town that night to meet with someone important. She agrees to go against her best wishes, because her grandmother had been trying to reach her all day and was looking for her in town. The man she is needing to meet is an older professor, who seems as fragile as she appears to be. That night he does not sleep with her and upon delivering her to her school room she comes into contact with her boyfriend. From that point on the plot becomes very involved and I would not want to let any more details be spoiled.
The movie itself is very good. The acting is top notch and the actors convey a ton of emotion using mainly facial expressions and body language as opposed to just blurting out how they feel. It is very well shot with very pretty shots that are never very overblown. There are not any crazy aerial shots of Tokyo or anything really uniquely Japanese about the film, but the driving through the streets of Tokyo still has all the attraction of feeling exotic. When finishing the film the filmmaker was clever enough to leave you a good reason to return to the film again.
Video: How’s it look?
The film was shot on digital cameras and has been given a true port of the digital master to the Blu-ray in MPEG-4 AVC encoding. This literally is the best that this film will ever look and the transfer shows no signs of any compression issues whatsoever. In the visual department the film is not one to try to show off. Most of the movie is either filmed from the front of a car or in a couple different locations, never taking it’s direction very far away from the actors it is filming. Even without a bunch of long panning shots of the city, the film manages to still be very striking visually. Kiarastomi did a particularly great job with all the mirrors and car windows in the film. The film looks great and the amount of detail from the high definition cameras is excellent. The clarity of picture and depth are very good, especially considering the night time filming for the first third of the film. If you can appreciate the low key nature of the film, the video will make you very pleased.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Audio is presented in a Japanese DTS-HD Master Audio track with 3.0 surround sound. The track itself is perfectly ported to the Blu-ray. There are no issues with hiss. The track itself is for the most part a pretty quiet affair, and there is almost no real immersion in the track mainly relegating it to the front channels. I know that the digital audio was recorded this way, but I really wish that they had gone ahead and done a full on 5.0 surround mix. That said there is nothing wrong with the track and it appears exactly as was originally intended. The translation provided of the Japanese seems to be spot on.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- The Making of Like Someone In Love – This 45 minute documentary is excellent. Kiarastomi speaks for the entire running time about the process of making the film and what he was hoping to achieve. Most interesting to me was when he spoke about casting the film and how he chose Mr. Okuno. He intentionally cast a man who had worked as an extra for fifty years instead of a well known actor. He made a great choice as Mr. Okuno completely delivered.
- Theatrical Trailer
- DVD Copy
The Bottom Line
I think the same story could have been filmed anywhere and the underlying ideas are universal. This movie is definitely going to divide an audience. Some will find it boring, and some will not appreciate the ending. I personally felt that the movie was moving in a way that most films are not. There are some very real human emotions on display in this film and at times it is a bit uncomfortable for that reason. The supplements could have been more extensive (especially for a Criterion release,) but the transfer of the audio and video is top notch. If you have a chance to rent the film first, I would highly recommend it before a purchase, although personally I am glad to have it in my collection. Recommended