Review by Ed Nguyen
Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima, Matthew Dyktynski
Director: Sue Brooks
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Digital
Video: Color, 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: Commentary, deleted scenes, talent files, photo gallery, trailers
Length: 100 minutes
Release Date: May 11, 2004
Australia, you have a lot of space, no people.
In Japan, we have many people, no space.
There is nothing. It scares
which bring people of vastly different cultural backgrounds together tend to be
quite enlightening. Such tales,
serious or humorous in tone, provide ample potential for self-discovery and
re-examination of one's values. They
impart upon their audiences valuable lessons about the worthiness of tolerance
and cooperation. Such is the case
with Japanese Story (2003), a film set
in Australia about an encounter between an Australian woman and a Japanese man.
feminine half of this unlikely pair is Sandy Edwards (Toni Collette), a
geologist currently working with a local mining company.
One day, she is asked to take care of a representative from a prospective
partner company in Japan. When that
gentleman, Hiromitsu (Gotaro Tsunashima), arrives, he turns out to be as
reserved and quiet as Sandy is out-spoken.
The two have little in common, and Sandy is all the more irritated when
she is then recruited as a very reluctant chauffeur and glorified tour guide to
accompany Hiromitsu during his stay in Australia: "I'm a geologist!
Not a bloody geisha!"
spite of her protests, Sandy dutifully transports Hiromitsu from place to place.
They visit a ship yard and strip mine, then drive out to a potential dig
site, and then drive ever further into the Outback.
In fact, they travel so far into the remote expanse of this harsh and
uninhabited land that when their vehicle inevitably becomes stuck in the sand
and cannot be dislodged, Sandy and Hiromitsu have no one else but each other to
rely upon for their own survival. Being
alone in the middle of the Pilbara Desert quickly forces this odd couple to
appreciate one another's company.
of the charm which then ensues in Japanese
Story arises from the diametric culture clash between Sandy and Hiromitsu.
Sandy is an open-minded, highly-opinionated working woman.
Hiromitsu is a typically repressed Japanese male; his mild mannerisms are
the product of years of inhibitions and humble subordination under the polite
restraints of Japanese society. Being
dependent upon one another forces Sandy and Hiromitsu to ignore their
differences, in essence establishing a unique bond of friendship borne of
adversity between them.
pair eventually do find a solution for their predicament and make their way
whole-heartedly back to civilization. However,
the unusual experience in the desert stirs a sense of excitement in Hiromitsu,
who requests to be shown more of Australia.
Despite Sandy's initial protests to the contrary prior to meeting
Hiromitsu, she does indeed end up traipsing about Australia with the Japanese
man, showing Hiromitsu the abstract beauty of the Outback and the seldom-visited
far reaches of the Australian continent. There
are numerous wondrous scenic sites - the canyons and hills of the desert, the
soothing calm of coastal waters, the serenity of secluded swimming holes.
The more Hiromitsu witnesses, the more he recognizes the oppression
nature of his city life. Here, in
the openness of Australia, Hiromitsu is seemingly reborn, discovering in himself
a sense of fruitful contentment: "I stand in the desert.
The sky is so big, so blue. There
is so much space, and my heart is open."
Hiromitsu's rejuvenation and its effect upon Sandy is significant, too.
As a career woman who hitherto had placed little emphasis upon emotional
fulfillment or joyful reminiscences, Sandy is transformed by her few precious
days of friendship with Hiromitsu. Before
his return to Japan, Hiromitsu awakens long-dormant feelings in Sandy, allowing
her to experience once again the full scope of human emotions, from
unadulterated happiness to plaintive sorrow.
take a sudden and unexpected turn near the film's end, a shift that
significantly changes the scope and tone of the story.
But even as the tale assumes a more poignant mood, especially with the
inevitable parting between Sandy and Hiromitsu, it still remains a celebratory
embrace of life, of the experiences and eye-opening revelations which may lead
to a re-assessment of one's life or role in society.
presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen format.
The images are bright and certainly picturesque, as should be expected of
any movie photographed extensively in the Australian Outback. The video quality is fine with a mildly grainy texture.
audio quality in Japanese Story is
restrained yet softly dynamic. The
sounds complete the illusion of traveling through the arid desert regions of the
Outback. There is also a
laughably-bad karaoke scene, but then again this would not be a
"Japanese" film without some karaoke, would it?
disc opens up with trailers for Robert Altman's The Company and the romantic comedy Passionada prior to arriving at the main menu.
there, several interesting bonus features await. First is a commentary with director Sue Brooks and writer
Alison Tilson. They discuss the
film's two central characters and their interactions together. Brooks and Tilson also mention much of the beauty and
remoteness of some scenes and images in the film.
Overall, the commentary is decent if not particularly revealing.
are also five deleted scenes with optional director commentary.
Among them are a few scenes found in the film's Australian version but
absent from the American cut. Brooks
rationalizes these changes as a means of focusing the story more on Sandy's
character. Interestingly, an alternate opening is shown with Hiromitsu;
this was the opening for the Australian and international cuts of the film.
I would strongly advise on seeing the film first before viewing any of
these deleted scenes, as they give away some crucial plot elements.
there are a few promotional extras. A
small photo gallery contains eight production stills from the film.
A "Talent files" section features mini-biographies for the
film's primary actors, director, producer, and writer.
The DVD closes out with trailers for Japanese
Story, My Life Without Me, The Secret Lives of Dentists, The
Statement, and The Code.