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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dan Romascanu - Completely Lost in Translation

Made in the same year as Sofia Coppola's film Lost in Translation, Stupeurs et tremblements deals with the same cultural gap that faces Westerners who get in contact with the Japanese society. The difference in the approach is that while Coppola's heroes are in Japan on obviously temporary trips, the Amélie in this autobiographical movie is really the successful Belgian writer Amélie Nothomb telling the story of her tentative to live as a Westerner in the Japan of her birth, and to integrate in the life of a great Japanese corporation. She loves and admires Japan, and thinks that she understands it and aims to integrate into it.

One has to hope that life in a Japanese workplace is not or is no longer the one described in this film whose action takes place in the 1990. Brutality, chauvinism and xenophobia seem to dominate the human relations, while the work relations seem to be reigned in by absolute respect for hierarchy which prevails on any tentative to work more efficiently, or to have some fun at the workplace or just to develop a human relation with her colleagues. The total admiration of Amélie for the place, and for her female manager is answered with brutality and humiliations, and only a total reprimand of any personal ambitions and transition into submission helps her survive the one year of her Japanese career. The end seems to suggest that the system is stronger than anything - with the general manager of the company having understood all that is going on but refusing to change anything, and with her supervisor sending her remotely a sign of humanity, but only long after the working relations have ended.

I was not crazy about the film making of Alain Corneau, he seems to be too much in love with the magic of the texts of Amélie Nothomb, one of the most inventive and original novelists writing in French nowadays, and has thus used to many off-screen comments taken from the text of the novel, without finding any original equivalent in cinema language. On the other hand Sylvie Testud is superb, when one says Amélie I hear Audrey Tautou, and well, Sylvie is up to challenging Audrey Tautou as one of the best and most charming French actresses today.

I just keep imagining what Sofia Coppola would have made of this story.


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