Japanese Story (2003)

japanese_story_xlgToni Collette can carry a movie as we’ve seen in “The Sixth Sense”, and she can play supporter and steal the show like in “Shaft” and “About a Boy”, so I take every chance possible to watch new movies starring this always likable and very versatile indie actress, and “Japanese Story” is the perfect example of her just amazing acting skills she presents with every film she’s in. Despite its title, it’s not foreign, I’m sorry to tell ya, folks, like “La Femme Nikita”… oh wait that is foreign… moving on–as I said, it’s a culture clash, and quite a good one at that; they’re opposite. The two people we meet here are completely opposite all in nature, culture, and refinement.

He’s clean cut, very prim and proper, and a very business-like geologist concerned only with his venture as he comes to Australia from his company in Japan, and she’s a very gruff slobbish and blunt in nature Australian geologist who smokes is aggressive and is very lazzes-faire and is forced to show him around and chauffeur him. Instantly they don’t like each other, but seemingly while they don’t, they just don’t accept each other. She studies him like a specimen, reading about the Japanese and hoping to learn about him from a textbook, while he simply ignores her and goes about his business, he also talks on the phone to his friends about her complaining about her nature and taking her really in face value. They both do to one another. But soon being marooned forces them to accept each other’s values; he wants to work non-stop at getting home while she just plays it by ear, and both have their skills in building a way home, he even refuses to call for help, ashamed at their misfortune.

Gotaro Tsunashima gives a very good performance here as the uptight business man Tachibana Hiromitsu, but taking him at face value is easy. What is misconstrued as uptight is more defined as disciplined in his country, and instantly the audience is tempted to become irate towards his anal retentiveness. His performance is a welcome change in pace to an American film. It’s not everyday we see a film with a real Japanese actor whose not throwing kicks and fighting sword wielding villains. Being stranded forces them to overcome their differences in both culture and thought and many other plains of reasoning, and their triumph is our triumph when they learn to work together and inevitably tangle romantically. Through sexual intercourse, they learn to accept one another’s way of life and nature.

It’s not lovemaking, they don’t have a chance at a relationship, but it’s more an exercise in acceptance and tolerance. Collette and Tsunashima have great chemistry together and their personality clash is really something to watch here; they’re perfect representations of their personas. This is the ultimate culture clash, two people completely different in every conceivable way but with no real future, are marooned together and forced to work with one another stuck in the Australian outback, our beautiful allegorical setting for “Japanese Story”. I was never sure what was the point of the climax and the utterly manipulative unexpected plot twist.

Though it does determine to the audience the ultimate fates of these two people and their relationship, I felt cheated and utterly jerked around by what the writers gave us in terms of character development. They supply us with this bittersweet story of two people from different worlds coming together and then the climax which went on way too long and pretty much destroyed all hopes I had of a rave review for what was exposed to use from the first half of the film. In spite of a climax that’s both manipulative and irritating, “Japanese Story” is a beautiful piece of filmmaking with top notch acting, a great story, and a concept that’s both timeless and entertaining.