WHATEVER WILL BE, WILL BE
A young Japanese student and part-time call-girl gets in a pickle when her fiancé, Noriaki ( Ryo Kase, whom I’m a big fan of ), starts to suspect the worst. He’s starting to go mad with rage and is becoming more and more possessive… he’s now at the point where he wants to know precisely in which establishment his girl is at every moment. Not only that, but he’ll make her walk to the nearest bathroom and count the number of tiles between the bathroom entrance and the toilet bowl. Just in case she’s lying.
But, the call-girl in question, Akiko or Aki for short ( Rin Takanashi ), is anything but your typical street worker. She’s shy, reclusive, even hesitant to take on new clients. She presumably got into the business when she first moved to Tokyo with her lifelong friend, Nagisa, two years prior to the events of the movie.
Unfortunately for Akiko, today, of all days, is the day her sweet little grandma is coming to visit. Add to that a boss who urgently needs her to go and “meet” a brand new customer, one that cannot be let down under any circumstances, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for disaster.
The new customer who cannot be ignored, is played by Tadashi Okuno. It was my first time seeing him on-screen and I thought that he was the perfect choice to play the role of Takashi. I was very much impressed by his subtle and heartfelt performance. His character, Takashi, is a writer and a translator of books and is, to Akiko’s surprise, a gentle elderly man, one that seems better suited to date the spinster next door. And well, that’s pretty much it.
In a minimalistic approach, the cinematography often focuses on long close-ups, zooming in to see only the head and torso of the actors. The camera usually remains motionless for long periods of time. Sometimes, nothing is said for minutes on end. That style of filming gives the viewer the “fly on the wall” effect. As if this was not film but real life, with no embellishment, and you just happen to float by, totally invisible, and started to watch these people’s lives unfold. I found that immensely entertaining. I also know that most casual movie lovers, don’t.
For me, the magic of this film comes from the puzzling behaviours of its characters. Why are they doing what they’re doing? Some, obviously, would like to be doing something else. So why aren’t they? Some would like to be direct and crude, yet they dance around the obvious. I couldn’t stop asking myself these questions and subsequently, couldn’t stop myself from coming up with dozens of answers. Discovering what fuelled these characters was intriguing to the point where the story, or lack thereof, became second priority.
In the end, nothing is resolved. Questions are left unanswered. The abrupt nature of the ending leaves the viewer wanting more, wanting to know what comes next. In a way, this goes back to the aforementioned “fly on the wall” style of directing. You, the viewer, are that fly on that wall, and when director Abbas Kiarostami decides to squash you… well, that’s the end of the movie for you, pal. Infuriating for some, no doubt. But I liked it nonetheless.