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By Ray Pride

Abbas Kiarostami And Richard Peña Talk Method at Indiana University (8’42”)

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    Kiarostami’s Fragile Film : Like Someone in Love


    (PRADIP BISWAS is a renowned film scholar, author and social commentator on the Global cinema and its topical relevance in terms of treating the medium as a tool of human liberation. He is a Jury Member of International Film Festival of India, Indian Panorama Film Section 2012. He is also a Co-ordinator of International Film Festivals of the world. He probes the latest film of Abbas Kiarostami , Iran, Like Someone In Love, shown at IFFI,Goa, 2012. Thanks to Shankkar Mohan, Director, IFFI, Govt. of India, such a big director like Kiarostami could be presented)

    Abbas Kiarostami’s strong reputation as “a path-breaking director” seems to have stumbled after a long innings. His new work Like Someone In Love, followed by Tuscany-set Certified Copy, made in alien Japan and its culture, screened at the 43rd IFFI, Goa, 2012, shows him poor light. Reasons are many and it goes beyond his control to maintain the earlier pace gained in films such as Taste of Cherry, The Wind Will Carry Us, Ten, Five, Blows, Tickets, Shirin etc . The current film looks like down the barrel work
    The trim story of Like Someone In Love follows a young prostitute Akiko (Rin Takanashi) on assignment to visit retired academic Takashi (Tadashi Okuno). The next morning, Takashi assumes a parental role as he carts the woman around town, helps her evade her moody/spitfire fiancé (Ryo Kase), and discusses philosophies that govern his life. The film smacks of a fascinating mystery enacted with a device of static frames, slow-burn camera movement, use of grey-tones, sound design and performances. Interestingly, in the U.S. for NYFF, promoting a new movie in the city for the first time in over a decade, the 72-year-old filmmaker sat down with Indiewire to discuss his intentions with Like Someone in Love, and why he preferred to work outside Iran and how he keeps looking for new challenges.
    To this extent it is good. Kiarostami’s quaint new film is set in Tokyo, where Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a young prostitute working her way through university studies, is pressured by her firmly paternal pimp to see a John that night despite her prior appointment with her grandmother. We see Like Someone in Love begins in a bar, with the sound of a disembodied voice on a phone. In time, a young woman on a mobile comes into view. She is speaking with her boyfriend, who is rashly interrogating her. As the night rolls on, Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a university student longing for sleep, will ignore his demands in favor of propositions from two lonely elders: her grandmother, who is in Tokyo for the night and leaving numerous voicemails, and Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), an old sociologist and translator who has hired her to spend the night with him. Shortly after she enters his home, he shows her a portrait that he considers his ideal woman, and encourages her to stand beneath it.
    The next morning, Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), the client, an elderly retired professor and independent scholar, drives her to school, where, thrown together with her nutty fiancé (Ryo Kase), a conscientious mechanic, the old man rapidly assumes a surprisingly active and beneficent role in her life. From here the sentimental and fable-like contours influence Kiarostami’s distinctive blend of analytical stylization and documentary avidity that throw character traits into sharply fore-grounded relief while filling in the background with a surprising density of relationships having moral twists. From the very first shot in a bar, where the action is sparked by an off-camera voice, no doubt he revitalizes the ordinary by means of his extraordinary powers of perception and juxtaposition though time and space granted to the night-bar sequence turns tedious due to lisping verbal exchanges. Like many of his films, the bulk of the action takes place in and around cars. The many trips through Tokyo, shot incisively from moving vehicles, infuse the rich texture of the city with a startling emotional intensity and a sense of teeming exciting drama. The story’s loose edges lead deep into the fabric of intertwined lives found in Japanese society.
    Kiarostami, in this context, says: “My aim was on one side not to neglect their culture and their specificities, but at the same time not to leave any display of Japanese culture in my film. My concern was to find out whether there were any universal qualities in them as characters.” For Kiarostami it was as new as any film is when it started. Plus, in Japan everything seems new — the people, the faces and the food. It is said that is exactly his only promise to his producer. He believes one can never commit oneself to making a good film – one cannot say whether your film is good or not — but the only commitment he does accept is the fact that his film won’t show that it’s been made by a foreigner or by an outsider in Japan. And he confirms that he has clicked in that aspect.

    Beneath the surface lies the conflicted worldview, in which one opens oneself to discovering a place while still feeling troubled by one’s foreignness to it, and even desiring to keep oneself apart from it, as if, belongs unmistakably to the film’s director, Kiarostami. The critic Aaron Cutler says: “The brave new worlds that trouble his characters often include beloved humans as well as new locations—in fact, the emotional distance between two people often proves harder to cross than any road.” I feel this latest film runs after a career-long attempt to traverse that distance in which its approach is new. His style displays how its method is less like the mobile pursuit of pleading, or erupting, couples in many of Kiarostami’s previous films, including his recent Italy-set feature, Certified Copy (2010), and more like a distilled succession of frozen moments involving solitary people. It is as though the film itself is contemplating a solitude that has already long been realized.
    What looks frail is that probably, this critic thinks, it is not Kiarostami’s cup of tea. His understanding, however, of modern Japanese reality is that under huge technological progress those rich “human values” once so active in the elder generations, seem to have faded out, giving place to more violent turns in educational campuses. The life of the girl Akiko, involved in love, is in fact lapped in harsh world of truncated love so much devalued with the glitzy youth characters whose memory for love is destructive. This is where Kiarostami wins major points as he intensely places an elderly Prof through whose scan we discover the subtle sentiments of human closeness splitting into particles and shreds. In such a universe or society any kind of intimate love is impossible as the other part of the coin denotes animality gripping male youths, failing to stand up to post-modern issues relating to relationship of mutual love and understanding. It is gathered that Kiarostami is not the one who can actually tell us exactly how he can be perceived or how you as an audience or as a critic can perceive the fact that he has made two films in different societies. Says he: “But I think that if you take characters in the film as they are and if you don’t try to put them in moulds and interfere too much with their nature, characters all have their own mystery and their own ambiguity. So they are not related to one specific identity or land.”
    Well, to understand his logic we need to look at what he says: “The Japanese films that I had in mind were the classics of Japanese cinema, the ones I was familiar with. But then as I had to work in Japan, I started watching plenty of new Japanese films in order to see the actors and also to choose a DP, and I realized that they had absolutely nothing to do with my memory and my knowledge of Japanese classic cinema. And I found them much more American in a way. So I made my film with my own views and then many people told me that my film was more Japanese than the present Japanese cinema.” Along with it he thinks the current point between the character from Close-Up and his last two films is that they all have something to say, but they all have this very unsaid and unuttered aspect about their personalities. And he cannot express that. He thinks all his characters placed in the filmic space have this complexity of human nature that is closer to us/him than truth, and so he feels compassion for the mystery and he does not think that he is here to reveal it. Says he: “Well, I wouldn’t interfere in a view that can be the spectator’s or the critic’s analysis of my work, so I accept it as their point of view. But I must say that, for me, the link is not conscious at all. I didn’t mean it, I wasn’t aware of it. However, they are both the products of the same imagination, so there must be a relationship between the two.”
    To get the feelings of the director-poet Kiarostami, let us see what he composes in terms of poetry:
    In your absence
    I converse with you,
    when you are there
    I converse with myself. (published in his collection A Wolf Lying in Wait).
    Like Someone In Love just manifests his poetic moods and feelings, so much marred in post-modern Japan where definition of Eros is dead
    Both Akiko and Takashi, we sense, have worked to shield themselves from interacting with real people, and the film’s visual design reflects this. For Akiko, whose refuge is sleep, the solution to conflict lies in moving off-screen; for Takashi, who lives in a fragile fortress of memories, the solution is to build frames for himself and lives subsequently behind closed doors. Yet the two are far from alone in walling themselves inside their individual realities, as each person they meet—most notably Akiko’s boyfriend Noriaki (Ryô Kase), a car mechanic who demands that her “grandfather” accept him, and Takashi’s old female neighbor (Mihoko Suzuki), who leans out her window dreaming of marriage—has also built his or her own. The film’s Tokyo is an isolated and desolate place; the most extended view that we get of the city is from inside a taxicab, as Akiko looks for someone she knows. In this place, a knock on a car window can seem like a violation.
    Jordan Mintzer, The Hollywood Reporter , hails the film thus:”EXQUISITELY MADE. An enchanting game of misfired passions and mistaken identities.”

    Richard Brody ofThe New Yorker comments:”A WONDROUS FILM. Surpasses even the visual enticements of his previous feature, ‘Certified Copy’.”
    Richard Brody, The New Yorker Eric Kohn, Indiewire writes :”A TANTALIZING MYSTERY Leaves you contemplating its significance long after it ends.” Stephen Holden, The New York Times says: “A film of intense visual beauty. Its cinematography embodies the ambiguities in the story of an encounter between an elderly professor and a student moonlighting as a call girl.”
    To be fair the erudite elderly Prof. who nearly retrieves the focal girl protagonist from bottomless pits sees to have saved the immediacy and urgency of the film. We see social and communication vacuum and solitude in post-modern Japan. A sense belongs to the filmmaker’s gaze as much as it does to any characters. Something seems often lost in space of Kiarostami’s filmmaking, and perhaps forming more appropriate comparisons to Like Someone in Love than his previous films. In the film he strives, as he does here, to record first-person impressions. The poems, usually falling between two and six lines, register quiet appreciation; the line-up photographs, often in black and white, feel equally illusory, capturing natural elegance like trees and paths quickly and from a distance. As with Like Someone in Love, the images of both the poems and photographs linger after vanishing, regardless of whether their subjects seem physical or ephemeral. Love, too, is a sight that one catches though we suffer from a great execution of kind of ideas and t

    1970 Nān o Kūcheh (The Bread and Alley) [s]
    1972 Zang-e Tafrīh (Breaktime) [s]
    1973 Tajrobe (The Experience)
    1974 Mosāfer (The Traveller)
    1975 Man ham Mitounam (So Can I) [s]; Dow Rahehal Baraye yek Massaleh (Two Solutions for One Problem) [s]
    1976 Rang-ha (Colours) [doc s]; Lebāsī Barā-ye Arūsī (A Wedding Suit)
    1977 Az Oghat-e Faraghat-e Khod Chegouneh Estefadeh Konim? (How to Make Use of Leisure Time?) [doc s]; Gozāresh (The Report); Bozorgdasht-e mo’Allem (Tribute to the Teachers) [doc s]
    1978 Rah-e Hal (The Solution) [s]
    1979 Qazieh, Shekl-e Avval, Shekl-e Dovom (First Case, Second Case)
    1980 Behdasht-e Dandan (Dental Hygiene) [s]
    1981 Be Tartib Ya Bedun-e Tartib (Orderly or Disorderly) [s]
    1982 Hamsarayan‎ (The Chorus) [s]
    1983 Hamshahri (Fellow Citizen) [doc]; Dandan Dard (Toothache) [s]
    1984 Avaliha [doc]
    1987 Khane-ye doust kodjast? (Where Is the Friend’s Home?)
    1989 Mashgh-e Shab (Homework) [doc]
    1990 Nema-ye Nazdik (Close-Up)
    1991 Zendegi va digar hich (Life, and Nothing More…)
    1994 Zire darakhatan zeyton (Through the Olive Trees)
    1995 A propos de Nice: la suite [ep Reperages only]
    1996 Lumière et compagnie [ep Dinner for One only]
    1997 The Birth of Light [s]; Ta’m-e gīlās (Taste of Cherry)
    1999 Bād mā rā khāhad bord (The Wind Will Carry Us)
    2001 ABC Africa [doc]
    2002 Dah (Ten)
    2002 Panj (Five) [doc]
    2004 Ten Minutes Older [s]
    2004 10 on Ten [doc]
    2005 The Roads of Kiarostami [doc s]; Tickets [one ep only]
    2007 Kojast jay residan [doc s] Chacun son cinéma [ep Where Is My Romeo? only]
    2008 Shirin
    2010 Copie conforme (Certified Copy); No [doc s]
    2012 Like Someon

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon