14 September 2008

Japanese Story

When I rented this movie, I thought I was getting a lighthearted, clash-of-cultures rom-com. I was completely wrong. Japanese Story is surprisingly moving and quite affecting, largely because of an incredible performance by Toni Collette. I don't want to say too much about the movie, because I think it's actually far more effective as a film if you don't really know what you're getting into. So I'll just say that the pacing is slow, the emotional valences are subtle,  but it's really quite a powerful movie.

What I found especially intriguing about this film is that it really feels like a short story. It's hard to describe, but there's something about the way the plot is framed. I mean, all movies have plots,  but there's something measured and specific here. It's telling you about a particular event in a very focused sort of way. Elizabeth Bowen describes short stories as being like a beam of light concentrated on one spot, surrounded by shadow, and this is what that movie feels like. I don't know if that makes sense at all, but if you watch the movie, perhaps you'll know what I mean. It's awfully hard to explain. 

I was glancing over the Netflix reviews of the movie and they're all over the map, more so than usual. I think this is because of the way the characters are handled. You don't get a lot of access to their minds; you see them mostly from the outside. So if you don't pick up on the sparse information you get about them, you'll probably find them completely flat and unconvincing and hate the movie. Personally, I found them quite compelling, but I think it's because of the actors' performances, which were really phenomenal. 

In any case, really a very interesting movie. Totally threw me for a loop. 

No comments: