Running Time:  109 mins.                      Rating: x Stars/5 Stars

MPAA Rating: NR

Director: Abbas Kiarostami

Genre: Drama

Country: France, Japan

Language: Japanese w/English subtitles

Distributor: Sundance Selects

Cast: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Denden, Ryo Kase


Sometimes a gentleman caller will hire a girl from an escort service just to talk, believe it or not, particularly if the caller is in his eighties as is one Takashi—whose role is performed by Tadashi Okuno–heretofore known mostly for his parts in TV movies.  But don’t expect the story to be at all commercial like KLUTE or PRETTY WOMAN since, after all, the writer-director is the prolific Iranian Abbas Kiarostami, whose masterpiece, TASTE OF CHERRY, focuses on a man who seeks someone to bury him under a cherry tree when he commits suicide.  There is no background music on the soundtrack to speak of but a rendition on the elderly man’s hi-fi of Jimmy Van Heusen’s 1944 song “Like Someone in Love” which he composed for the movie BELLE OF THE YUKON.  Takashi is only like someone in love, though not in the romantic way, but appears to seek someone to take on role of granddaughter while, happily, the call girl, Akiko (Rin Takanashi), seems in need of a protector in addition to her pimp, Hiroshi (Denden).

The film, which will award a patient audience—what other sort of animal would patronize a Kiarostami movie?—has a docudrama look that lends itself to a made-up label like, perhaps, Japanese neo-realism.  There is much dialogue in this character driven story, conversations that do just fine in exposing the dreams of its people.

The opening scene is an example of cryptic goings-on as a bar in Tokyo’s entertainment district is filled with young women talking to one another as though this were just a place to socialize after work. Soon enough, Hiroshi (Denden), who is Akiko’s elderly pimp and one who acts as her protector as well, is insisting that she take the long cab ride to a man he respects, an elderly professor with a flat loaded with books and comes replete with an atmospheric brick wall and copy of a famous painting.  Akiko, a university student who is paying her way through her trade (as, I’ve heard, quite a few American women do), insists on meeting her grandmother who will be in Tokyo for only a few hours, but ultimately concedes, visits the professor, falls asleep after passing up the dinner he had prepared for them. She is driven by him back to the college where she meets her macho fiancé, Noriaki (Ryo Kase), who has worked since the age of sixteen in a garage.

The film is exquisitely photographed, with scenes of Tokyo’s night life, contrasted with the ‘burbs, a story of mutual dependence—he, a lonely fellow who makes his living by writing and translating books, she, a conflicted young, shyly pretty woman who is the opposite of the stereotyped hooker whose marketing posters fill the outside of New York’s Broadway show, “Chicago.”  One wonders why she ever accepted a proposal of the garage man, who thinks of himself as the girl’s future protector but wants to marry her to dominate her activities and require her subordination.  There is no fast editing, of course, but instead the acting takes place in long, continuous takes.  The melodramatic ending is a surprise, one which may have been coming all along but which seems out of sorts with the rest of the film.


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