Monday, July 23, 2007

Overlooked DVD of the month - JAPANESE STORY

This month's overlooked movie originally played Cannes 2003 and was picked up for distribution, but even then only got a limited release. However, it's widely available on DVD and well worth a look. The movie is a drama directed by Sue Brooks and written by Alison Tilson. It seems that this is their second feature together but they have produced nothing else at a mature stage in their careers. This is a real shame because in JAPANESE STORY they have crafted a powerful, adult drama.

Toni Colette gives an outstanding performance as a middle-aged hard-nosed geologist called Sandy. She's saddled with showing a Japanese businessman round some Australian mines. At first, it's pure culture clash. He finds her aggressive and loud. She finds him demanding and over-formal. However, they are both fascinated by each other. Stuck in the outback, they are forced to break through their prejudices and eventually find a sort of infantile joy at discovering each other. However, this is no sentimental romance. The reality of their different situations - his wife, her career - the fact they still don't really know each other - is never far away. And in a truly finely judged denouement we see Sandy have to confront the fact that she is just one part in his life.

This is one of those rare films that looks beautiful rather than decorative, and that plumbs real emotions rather than tugging at the heart-strings. It confirms Toni Colette, alongside Maggie Gyllenhaal, Cate Blanchet and Emily Watson, as one of the best actresses currently working.

JAPANESE STORY was originally released in 2003 and is available on DVD.

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