Thursday, October 14, 2010

My Darling is a Foreigner - Darin wa Gaikokujin 2010

Director - Kazuaki Ue


A puddle shallow, glutinous look at the relationship between a Japanese woman and her American boyfriend.

A series of moderately amusing Japanese manga has been turned into a whopping great turkey of a romantic comedy. The comics featured in bite-size form on Train TV in Tokyo, a welcome distraction from the commute at a length just short enough to maintain attention. They were fairly charming, contrasting the rather tame subject matter with the hugely exaggerated style of Japanese comics. Their focus was on the cute little misunderstandings in a relationship between a young Japanese woman and her darling foreigner.

Saori is a manga artist, Mao Inoue of Japanese soap fame, who definitely is just a pretty face, and Tony is her American boyfriend, Jonathan Sherr, who acts throughout as if he is on industrial strength horse tranquilizers. The story charts the troubles that face them. Ranging from the lack of acceptance of her father, to Tony's inability to rinse cups after doing the washing up, and hang out laundry. Ironically, there does not seem to be too great a difference in importance attributed to these two. Neither of the characters are as interesting in non-animated form and the story lurches slowly, predictably onwards, with them drifting behind in tow.

There is a section of clips where real couples are interviewed (fast becoming a staple of rom-coms with too few ideas and 90 minutes to fill) on the idiosyncratic things their foreigner boyfriends do. It is pretty tedious stuff, the grinning guys are paraded like entrants at a dog show. Tragically there are only Japanese women and foreign guys, surely they could have sniffed out one Japanese guy to participate? "He puts broccoli in his soba noodles!?!" one girl squeaks in disbelief. Enlightening, it isn't.

There probably is a story to be told on this subject, there has been before see Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, but not here. Dealing solely in superficial stereotypes and cliches, it is dull, boring and utterly lacking in any form of insight. The chemistry between the two is non-existent and the film is littered with emotional signposting; the slow-mo flower toss at a wedding is particularly unimaginative. Maybe the concession needs to be made that perhaps I am not the demographic being targeted here; i.e not a Japanese girl. If you have a sneaking suspicion that you might not be either, avoid.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Interview with Tsuki Inoue - Director of Autumn Adagio

Tsuki Inoue is a Japanese director, originally from Kyoto. Her film, Autumn Adagio, is about a Japanese catholic nun approaching the menopause and how it affects her. It is beautifully shot and a fascinating film.

FIJ -As a Japanese film-maker, what drew you to this unusual story?

FIJ -日本人の映画製作者として、この独特な内容(物語)にあなたを引きつけたものは何ですか?

TI -:日本人である前に、ひとりの女性としてこのテーマの映画を描いて




TI - I wanted to make this film on this theme as a woman myself before as a Japanese film maker. This theme is something everyone passes at some point in their lives, and therefore I thought people in every country could understand.

FIJ -In making a film on a delicate subject, the sexuality of a catholic nun, did you feel any pressure?

FIJ -カトリックの尼さんの性(セクシュアリティ)というようなデリケートな題材で、製作するにあたってプレッシャーなど感じましたか?

TI - もちろん、カトリック教徒の方や修道女の方々に失礼はあっては





TI - Of course I felt a pressure that the film should not be disrespectful to Catholics or Catholic nuns.

However, I think that as a filmmaker I should have an ability to guide the audience to the point where they understand ultimately this is a story of one woman. I also believed in the viewers ability to ascertain the true intention when I made the film.

FIJ -What is the significance of the beautiful autumn setting?

FIJ -秋の美しさを際立たせた演出になっていますが、その意味するところ?なぜ秋にしたのでしょうか?

TI - 人生を四季と例えると、主人公の年齢の時に重なること。


TI - One reason is that if you compare a life with four seasons, the protagonist’s age period would be autumn. The other reason is that red of fallen leaves is a significant color for this story.

FIJ -The ballet scenes are enchanting. What approach did you take to capture the artistry of these moments and why did you choose ballet?

FIJ -うっとりするようなバレエの場面でした。監督 は、バレエの一瞬々の芸術性を描くためにどんな事に注意しましたか?そして、なぜバレエを選んだのでしょう?

TI - まずは、個人的にクラシックバレエが私自身に非常に馴染みが








TI - First of all, classic ballet is something very familiar for me personally. I have learned ballet dancing for 15 years since I was little. As far as the film is concerned, the protagonist has been living her life in abstinence. If she is ever mesmerized by something, I thought the similarity between her life and ballet will be a springboard for her. Ballet is something also beautiful and stoic. And like the protagonist, ballet dancers are the Japanese living their lives embodying Western culture.

At the same time, I had the conviction that the picture of Catholic nun playing the piano and ballet dancers dance to her music, would make a romantic scene thought it might provoke a feeling of strangeness.

FIJ - Many of the actors in the films were musicians and dancers. Apart from the obvious benefits of musical ability, what other benefits are there to working with non-professional actors?

FIJ -音楽家やダンサーでらっしゃるような出演者が多くみられました。それらの方々は音楽的なセンスをもってらっしゃるのは当たり前ですが、それとは別に、専業の俳優では無い方を役に使うにあたって、プラスになるような事がありますか?またはそれはどのような部分がプラスになってますか?

TI - まず、この映画に関しては、主人公の柴草玲さんを映像化したいという








TI - One of the motives I made this film is that I wanted to shoot a visual image of Ms. Rei Shibakusa who played the main role.

The process of making a film differs depending on the quality of film. However, when creating a film which is a “lie” in a sense, what is important for me is the reality that every character is actually living. Musicians who live by playing music. Ballet dancers who dance to make a living. The reality of those people is the most necessary power of conviction for this film. Their every movement itself works as lines and voices. It is not the style of expression regular actors can do.

FIJ - It was interesting to see a mix of western and Japanese culture. For international viewers can you explain some of the examples of Japanese culture and tradition? For example, the sekihan?

FIJ -西洋と日本文化のミックしているのを見るのは、興味深かったです。 国際的な視聴者のために、日本文化と伝統のいくつかについて説明していただけますか? 例えば、赤飯について?

TI - 食や景観にあえて、古風な日本らしさを取り入れたのは、








TI - The reason why I bring in a traditional Japanese touch with the food or scenery in this film is because I was conscious to bring the film overseas.

Sekihan is a traditional dish served at auspicious occasions in Japan. In this film, sekihan was used intentionally for Japanese viewers since this kind of customs are now forgotten in modern Japanese society and in urban lifestyles.

The young girl who had their’s first menstrual period is congratulated with the sekihan in Japan.

Sekihan is made by steaming glutinous rice (an especially sticky variety) together with red beans which turn the rice red.

FIJ -Forgiveness is a central theme of the film for many of the characters. The film seems to take the catholic sentiment that even very bad things can be forgiven, do you agree with this?

FIJ -"許し"は、この作品のたくさんの登場人物達に通ずる主要なテーマです。作品の中で、 非常に悪い事でも許されるとが出来るという、キリスト教的な感覚を表しているように思えましたが、あなたは私のこの意見に同意されますか?

TI - 私は研究者でも無いですし、明確なことは何も言えませんが、









TI - I am not a researcher nor can’t I give clear answer to this question. But after learning about Christianity, the large part of my understanding towards Christianity was forgiveness and acceptance.

Forgiving might not the right answer at all times. But as a human, to forgive or to accept is surely most difficult things to do, as well as the necessary things when you move ahead with your life. In this regard, I think Christianity and what I wanted to depict in this film have something consistent.

FIJ -There is a lot of symbolism in the film, the very bright light from outside, the lilies at the start of the film, and so on? Could you elaborate on these?

FIJ -作品中にいくつか象徴的な部分がありました。とっても眩しい外光や最初の場面に出てくる百合の花など々。 これらについて詳しく説明して頂けますか?

TI - 百合はマリア様を象徴する花です。



TI - Lilies are the flowers that symbolize the Virgin Mary. By using a plant where male and female co-exist in its petals, I expressed how she should be and how living creatures should be.

FIJ -Has the film been received differently by Japanese audiences and international audiences?

FIJ -日本人の観客と、外国の観客とで、その反応など違ってますか?

TI - 反応は全く一緒です。












TI - I think the film was received quite the same.

The only scene differently taken was the scene with sekihan. It is difficult to understand the background and meaning of traditional food if you are not familiar with the local place.

I saw old Japanese ladies shed tears along with the protagonist recalling their own memories. At the same time, I saw some non-Japanese female audience in abroad with tears imaging the same feeling. I believe that they were re-accepting the feelings they had sealed when they had followed the same path back then. Those emotions are the most important aspect when I made this film.

I wanted to open the door that nobody opens, to feel the sadness properly, to appreciate it and to accept it. As a woman and a filmmaker, it was my wish to carefully scoop up this path women go through.

FIJ -What films and genres interest you? Do you have any ideas for your next project?

FIJ -どんな映画やジャンルに興味をお持ちですか? 次回作について、何か構想やプロジェクトはお持ちですか?

TI - 全般です。見えるもの全てに興味はあります。



TI - Everything. All things I see interest me. As for the next film, I am still thinking. I am hoping to make a film with original script if possible, and depict humanity more deeply.