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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Japanese Story (Rental) (2003)

Japanese Story (Rental) (2003)

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Rental Version Only
Available for Rent

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Rage In Placid Lake, I'm With Lucy, Facing Windows
Trailer-Plots With A View
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 101:22
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sue Brooks

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Toni Collette
Gotaro Tsunashima
Matthew Dyktynski
Lynette Curran
Yumiko Tanaka
Kate Atkinson
John Howard
Bill Young
Reg Evans
George Shevtsov
Justine Clarke
Case ?
RPI Rental Music Elizabeth Drake

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     We've been to the moon, we've seen what's on Mars - we've explored every square inch of this planet. Our televisions deliver the world into our living rooms daily and our cinemas offer us regular global tours of every culture that exists on this small blue orb. And yet, for all that electronic communications have entered us all into a "global village" we are still very much a product of our specific cultural environments.

     Which is the premise that begins the Australian film, Japanese Story. It is this understanding of how we define ourselves by our culture that makes the scene of one very well-dressed Japanese businessman (Gotaro Tsunashima) driving through the impossibly vast and vacant spaces of Western Australia's Pilbara region with Yothu Yindi's Treaty blasting from his stereo a neat piece of absurdist cinematic tension. As he steps from the car to take a ridiculously formal and stiff portrait of himself, the vastness and silence and aloneness of the Pilbara overwhelms him, and he dashes for the security of his vehicle and a comforting CD from the Japanese pop charts.

     All of this wilderness and isolation is contrasted with the next scenes where we meet Sandy (Toni Collette) - a Perth-based geologist who partners a geological software company. In the midst of the busyness of city life, Sandy too is alone - isolated by her disconnectedness to everything but work. She is less than delighted when her partner insists she take on the job of escorting Tachibana Hiromitsu (Tsunashima) around the Pilbara in the hope that he will persuade his father to invest in their software.

     Their initial encounter does not go well. He mistakes her for a driver, discounting any possibility that she has any professional expertise at all. She finds him arrogant and misogynistic and refuses to engage in his ritualistic protocols. Unhappily thrust together, the first act of the film examines the cultural divide that separates them. Hiromitsu insists that they drive to a distant and remote site to view the source of some rock samples. In spite of her protests and better judgement, they set off down an ill-defined track into the heart of the deepest wilderness. Almost inevitably, the 4 wheel drive gets bogged in the red powdery dust and they are consigned to spending a night in the freezing cold of the desert. The cinematography by Ian Baker (favourite of director Fred Schepisi) deserves a special mention here - his portrayal of the Pilbara landscape is literally stunning, particularly in this "sleepover" scene, with the two protagonists curled up in what reminds one of a vast and barely sustaining womb - remarkable.

     As they struggle to rescue the stricken vehicle, the relationship between Hiromitsu and Sandy begins to thaw. His insecurities and vulnerabilities are exposed to her, and he gains new respect for Sandy's survival knowledge. The pair begin to work as a team and in the process begin to discover each other's commonalities. This melting of hostilities between them gives rise to new feelings - curiosity and fascination - which lead to them making a tentative and delicate sexual connection.

     They now are beginning to truly enjoy each other's company. Sandy is making a rare human connection, Hiromitsu is unbuttoning his austere personality and examining his own life in a new context. The photographs they take of themselves are markedly different from the stiff and formal ones Hiro took at the beginning of the picture. Gone is the dark power suit and rigid posture, and in its place is a boyish faced man - grinning widely, his arm loosely draped around the sunburnt and tousle headed Sandy. It is a genuine and fulfilling connection for both of them, but it is acknowledged as being as ephemeral as their journey together - he has a wife and children waiting for him in Japan - her life is mapped out by the parameters of her work.

     To discuss the final developments of the film would be churlish in the extreme, robbing the viewer of the entire process that makes Japanese Story such a potent cinematic experience. Suffice it to say that all does not go to plan, and the events lead to a final examination of the cultural divide with devastating but understated effect.

     The power of this film is the slow, deliberate "real time" pacing it delivers, providing a mysterious sense of foreboding without the viewer fully being aware of what it is they are dreading. Its languorous timing allows Collette and Tsunashima the luxury of developing their emotional landscapes fully, not being compelled to apply expressive cinematic shorthand. They are both truly superlative in their performance of a challenging and intelligent piece.

     The film enjoyed significant success in Cannes and swept the board at the AFI awards - deservedly so. It is a subtle, slow and thoughtful examination of people in place, human need and how circumstance influences relationship. Highly recommended.

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Transfer Quality


     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

     The presentation has a few challenges, particularly early in the piece. It has almost a masqued effect at times which reduces the contrast levels. This affects the overall luminance somewhat, although it does improve over the course of the film. Detail levels however remain generally good, with appropriate shadow detail and no over-flaring of the highlights. There is no low level noise.

     The filming of the Pilbara is an exercise in handling a palette mixed largely with primary colours - intense blues of the sky, rich reds of the dust and rock and bright yellows of the Spinifex. Baker has capitalised on this stark palette - pushing out the intensity so far that certain shots appear almost solarised. It's a very effective technique and heightens the foreignness of the landscape. It's a masterful approach.

     In the early segments of the film, there is the disturbing presence of telecine wobble that is somewhat distracting. Fortunately, it does settle down throughout the production. There is very mild motion blur but no major incidents of aliasing. At times the grain is a little higher than I would like to see, but it stays just within the realms of acceptability.

     There are no subtitles available on this disc.

     This disc is single sided disc with no layer change present.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There are two audio tracks on this DVD. The default is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is also an English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound. I listened to both soundtracks briefly but settled on the 5.1 for the bulk of the viewing.

     Dialogue quality was excellent, crisp and sharp with no evidence of any major distortions. Audio sync was not a problem at all with this transfer, and was completely spot on.

    The musical score by Elizabeth Drake was a masterful piece of composition, drawing strongly on traditional Japanese music, then balancing that with original music that was suitably haunting and evocative.

     The surround sound presence was excellent - never dominant, but providing a significant amount of ambience. There was a surprising amount of input from the subwoofer, but it was always appropriate and never intrusive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu design is themed around the movie. It features an animated background, a photograph from the film and background theme music. It is simple, clean and easy to use.

Cast and Crew Biographies

     Static page bios of Toni Collette, Gotaro Tsunashima, Lynette Curran, Matthew Dyktynski, Sue Brooks (Director), Sue Maslin (Producer), Alison Tilson (Writer), Ian Baker (Director of Photography), Jill Bilcock (Editor) and Elizabeth Drake (Composer).

Photo Gallery

     8 pictures from the film.

Theatrical Trailer (2:15)

Palace Films Trailers

     Trailers for: The Rage in Placid Lake (2:20), I'm With Lucy (1:33), Facing Windows (1:47), Plots With a View (2:06)

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This film has not yet been released in R1.


     Haunting, compelling and utterly credible, this is a wonderful character story on both human nature and the nature of relationships. A fantastic, heart-rending film. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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