Director: Abbas Kiarostami
Writer: Abbas Kiarostami
Cast: Rin Takanashi, Tadashi Okuno, Ryo Kase
In Tokyo, sociology student Akiko moonlights as a high-end prostitute while her relatively cruder boyfriend is suspicious. One night she is assigned to Takashi, a very old university professor, who is more interested in companionship rather than sex. The next day, while he drops off Akiko at the university, he meets the boyfriend who mistakes him for her grandfather. He offers some advise for the young boy which he thinks will help them both in their relationship and all three of them have a bonding like session in the car.
It is Kiarostami's first feature film in Japanese after his foray into making a French film with 'Certified Copy'. I guess he is doing it so that he could express himself better by handling subjects that Iranian films won't entertain. He might have chosen Japan so that he would get a quite Westernized country, where there is legalized prostitution, while at the same time holding traditional Asian family values at least outside the big towns. Akiko's grandmother is visiting Tokyo that day and wants to meet her. Akiko is reluctant because she knows that her grandmother is also suspicious about her activities having seen posters of her in the railway station. Her handler forces her to attend to her next assignment and she is quite surprised to see a very old person waiting for her. The film proceeds at an elderly pace and because of that the ending can seem very abrupt leaving you scratching your head wondering what exactly was the point. The ending kind of reminded me of Michael Haneke films, especially Cache. The point I guess would be the generation gap between the grandfather like figure and the couple he encounters. The boy is somewhat patriarchal, harking back to older times, and he is kind of caught up between the two Japans. His idea of marriage is to have the right to have more control over her. Akiko seems quite adept at playing the Metro girl after moving there from her small town. Professor seems estranged from his family and has opted for Akiko because of the similarity in appearance to his family. All of them are under some form of alienation.
I encounter Tokyo mostly through Japanese films from Takeshi Kitano and Takashi Miike and both of them portray the seedier side of the city. So it was quite a refreshing change to see the beautiful side of it in Kiarostami's sedate film. It is a great watch and very beautiful to look at. Language can get in the way when directors handle a foreign language film and it did seem that the Japanese sounded bit different in the film, slower and less shriller. Since I don't know the language it didn't affect me in anyway but it would be interesting to see how it was received in Japan.