Abbas Kiarostami, Like Someone in Love, 2012, color film in 35 mm. Production stills. Left: Takashi and Akiko (Tadashi Okuno and Rin Takanashi). Right: Akiko (Rin Takanashi).

THE RELENTLESSLY CRUMMY WEATHER HERE—this has been by far the coldest, grayest, windiest, and wettest Cannes of recent memory—led to a near international incident last night outside the Salle Debussy, where many in the press corps had waited up to an hour in a downpour for Abbas Kiarostami’s latest Palme d’Or contender, Like Someone in Love. When the scanning of badges required for entrance (and dryness) halted momentarily, multilingual vulgarities and enraged commands erupted, all directed at the khaki-suited guards.

Sodden, grumpy journos may not have been the ideal audience for Kiarostami’s enigmatic film; some booed loudly (or worse, whistled) as the closing credits started to roll. A companion piece of sorts to the Iranian director’s previous movie, the Tuscany-set Certified Copy (2010), his latest takes place in Tokyo; similar to its predecessor, Like Someone in Love concerns role-playing and mistaken identities. Akiko (Rin Takanashi) is first heard—on a long cell-phone call with her boyfriend—in an upscale bar before actually being seen; a university student studying sociology and a part-time escort, she’s is dispatched to the home of a new client, Takashi (Tadashi Okuno), a retired sociology professor. (Known for his automobile-set long takes, Kiarostami stages one of his greatest during Akiko’s long taxi ride to Takashi’s house.) The elderly scholar, possessing a kind mien and walruslike mustache, has prepared a special supper for his guest, who slips into his bed naked and promptly falls asleep. Dropping her off at school the next morning, Takashi meets Akiko’s boyfriend, Noriaki (Ryo Kase), a possessive, violent mechanic. Noriaki assumes the senior gentleman is her grandfather—a misconception that neither Takashi nor Akiko disabuses him of.

Ending menacingly, Like Someone in Love has the distinction of being the most unpredictable title to screen in competition so far. “I had no idea what was going to happen from scene to scene,” a somewhat exasperated New York–based colleague said in the Debussy foyer afterward. His comment should be interpreted as high praise: Unlike the bickering couple in Certified Copy—for which an exhaustingly histrionic Juliette Binoche was awarded Best Actress at Cannes—the mysterious central trio in Like Someone in Love never wear out their welcome.

Melissa Anderson