November 18, 2013 By KS Shameer

Kairostami: The Japanese Proof for Kurasowa

kairostami_0Abbas Kairostami’s Like Someone in Love is the first film in Japanese by an Iranian filmmaker. I don’t know whether it is the first Japanese film by any foreign filmmakers. I hope comments to this post will enlighten us on the topic. Also, if the sobriquet does not embarrass you, LSL is the first film by an Iranian filmmaker which begins from a brothel or, to be precise, from a dating hub for prostitutes. Iranian filmmakers have featured brothels and prostitutes although not in Iran. Pre-preproduction anxieties went viral and made people wait for ‘the hot stuff’ Abbas Kairostami was coming up with.

Much to the disappointment of sleaze-mongers, LSL is not about the affair of an old man with a young woman. It is a philosophical trip into the very question of violence dormant in the life in a metropolis. A retelling of the story of the film is impossible as far as Kairostami is concerned, convinced as he is of the fact that cinema is not about telling stories. In the press conference organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center Abbas spoke about how the film came about and what he meant for by making it. (link

He was clear about the purpose of his craft: to make the audience realize that he is more interested in weaving together cinematic moments throughout the film than telling them a story. In his film coincidental shots are equally important as the staged ones. As one of the participants in the press conference observed and as Kairostami himself testified, a shot in the film where a mother who was walking with her children looking bewildered was further taken aback by a car in reverse was coincidental. The bewilderment of the woman is caused by the transition of the surrounding, with which she was familiar, into a shooting set. Kairostami is as much devoted to photography as filmmaking. The success of photography remains in capturing the unexpected moment which filmmaking is not because of the latter’s link with stagecraft. What moves us to the craft of Kairostami is that he instills his frames with photographic moments.

The idea of LSL was born during Kairostami’s stay in Japan. One night he was making a trip to one of the Japanese neighborhoods. There he met a young girl dressed in the clothes of a bride. She was a part-time call girl. Abbas developed the germ of the story in Iran and came up with the tale of a part-time call girl in the city and her encounter with an unusual client, a sociology professor who later transmigrates into the role of a protective grandfather. Besides these two central characters, the cast includes a jealous young man who professes to marry the girl, a pimp who is not as reckless and cruel as all stereotypical pimps in the films are, the professor’s neighbor- an old woman who once doted on the old man, the girl’s grandmother (who is visible in a passing shot from the perspective of the girl while being escorted to her client, making her cry), a taxi driver who escorts her (whose cold, unconcerned  face is a contrast to the professor while driving). With these characters and their encounters, some voice-calls (narrations of the grandmother-an important element in the film-are all voice-calls), and some beautiful cinematic moments, Kairsoatmi weaves the soulful yarn about the life of an innocent girl who got trapped in the structured violence of her surroundings.

Unlike Other Kairostami films made in Iran, there are dialogues throughout LSL (as in his Certified Copy which was made in Itali). Abbas explains: ‘In the Iranian films silence is imposed by nature and the landscape. This is no longer possible in a different setting. Also Abbas is averse to impose violence to attract the audience. Though the story demands, the filmmaker is cautious enough to impose nudity on his characters. The film does have as much violence as the situation demands. The film is however typical of all Abbas Kairostami movies: not giving a beginning, middle and end of the story but giving us sufficient clues to the audience to create their own versions, interpretations and solutions (to the problem of prostitution and violence).

The film passingly criticizes our sociological understanding; the female protagonist is a sociology student who ekes out her living with prostitution and the male protagonist a sociology professor who is her client. Does it mean that our thought, education and social relations are all built around violence perpetrated by commercialism in such a way that the present sociological understanding is not sufficient to give us a way out?

Akira Kurasowa, the ace Japanese filmmaker, once famously remarked: ‘When Satyajit Ray passed away, I was very depressed. But after seeing Kiarostami’s films, I thanked God for giving us just the right person to take his place.’ Kurasowa does not live to see the Japanese proof of Kairostami of his words.

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