Rin Takanashi

Rin Takanashi as Akiko in Like Someone in Love. (Courtesy of the Criterion Collection / November 18, 2011)

Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami achieved renown for “Through the Olive Trees” (1994) and “A Taste of Cherry” (1997). Along the way, he also penned the screenplays for two of Jafar Panahi's best films, “The White Balloon” (1995) and “Crimson Gold” (2003). Still, none of this could have prepared viewers for 2010's “Certified Copy,” his first film shot outside of Iran. Having a genuine international star, Juliette Binoche, didn't hurt, but it was the movie's tricky ambiguity about the central relationship that made it a masterpiece.

You could describe “Like Someone in Love” (2012) in similar terms, though it falls short of being a masterpiece. The crucial relationship here is between Watanabe (Tadashi Okuno), an 80ish former professor, and Akiko (Rin Takanashi), a Tokyo student who moonlights as a call girl. She chafes at the bit when her pimp (Denden), who looks like any well-to-do businessman, insists that she go to Watanabe's apartment. Between her jealous boyfriend (Ryo Kase) and her visiting grandmother, she's got her own problems.

Watanabe doesn't show up until a third of the way through, when the POV switches to him from Akiko. Through their conversation, he begins to take on a grandfatherly role...maybe.

As in most Kiarostami films, very little spectacular happens. He's always been fond of simply showing two people in a car talking; here the talk also unfolds at a night club, a garage and the professor's apartment. His style is relatively unadorned: We see these characters and hear them, but Kiarostami never lets us know exactly what they're thinking; he reports, you decide. (A few years back, he made a documentary about Yasujiro Ozu, who seems like a central influence.)

Outside of a trailer and some notes, the only extra Criterion provides is a pretty good 47-minute “making of,” largely edited from footage Kiarostami shot on the set.

Like Someone in Love (Criterion, Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, $39.95; DVD, $24.95)

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ANDY KLEIN is the film critic for Marquee. He can also be heard on "FilmWeek" on KPCC-FM (89.3).