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March 22, 2004 | by  | in Film |
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Japanese Story

Japanese Story is an odd movie, a slow creeping film – often jarring and awkward, yet at the heart of the movie lies a bittersweet romance that provides the film with a solid emotional punch. Despite its many flaws, Japanese Story is a moving film – affecting the audience with the sheer tragedy of its story.

Toni Collette plays Sandy, a rugged workaholic Australian geologist – whose company has to baby-sit the son of a big wig Asian businessman, in hope of selling his company their product. She has to drive him round the countryside and keep him happy. At first they hate each other (surprise, surprise) – he is egotistic and the clash of culture is just too huge. They break down in the desert, begin to warm to each other and then realise that they might not hate each other after all.

Heard it before? That’s because it is a tired plot that has been done to death. Toni Collette and Gonaro Tsunishima breathe some life into it with good performances, but they struggle against an overly predictable setup – his character is essentially very wooden and un-likeable and Sandy’s character remains largely undeveloped. The theme of culture clash is rammed down our throats from his clichéd amazement at the countryside to the language difference… he doesn’t even know what baked beans are! Director Alison Tilson often displays the subtlety of a lead brick – giving the relationship between his two leads an awkward handicap through her constant desire to remind us just how different the two are. Special mention however, must go to the absolutely breathtaking desert cinematography.

Japanese Story really kicks into action as the doomed romance unfolds, delivering a harrowing twist that pulls it out of its Six Days, Seven Nights doldrums. It is a twist so out of the blue it is hard to believe and shifts the film towards an unsettling end. The twist shifts the focus somewhat towards the last act of the film, and by almost dividing the film in two parts a disturbing juxtaposition is created that almost excuses the faults of the first two-thirds of the movie.

Directed by Alison Tilson
Rialto Cinemas

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James Robinson is a university dropout turned journalist who likes to pretend he has an honours degree. Turn ons include soup, scarfs, a hot bath and some FM-smooth Kenny G-esque instrumental jazz. Turn offs include student politicians, the homeless, and people who pronounce it supposebly.

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