Guess who’s coming to dinner? In Sue Brooks’s dead-serious Japanese Story, a white Australian geologist gets to teach a stuffy Japanese businessman how to use a fork and knife and tell the difference between desert and dessert. When the polite but misogynistic Hiromitsu (Gotaro Tsunashima) asks (no, demands!) the finger-licking progressive Sandy (an excellent Toni Collette) to take him Gerrymandering into the Australian Outback, the geologist’s truck sparks an interracial shag. But Australia and Japan come together in more ways than one—on cue, Elizabeth Drake’s happy-go-lucky score (think My So-Called Life meets Perfect Strangers) swaps the didgeridoo for the Asian horns. Not only is everyone lost in translation, the filmmakers ridiculously play Sandy and Hiromitsu’s culture clash for world-weary gravitas. “In Japan, we have many people,” says Hiromitsu to an obviously annoyed Sandy (mind you, this is before the shag), studying the vastness of the Outback before the film’s mise-en-scène takes a turn for the grimly Japanese (Brooks’s direction is a bogus put-on). Well meaning? I suppose. Japanese Story is essentially a sheltered Australian housewife’s contribution to world affairs, and as such should appeal to those who prefer their love stories tepid or anyone who’s never actually seen an Asian person in their life. Excuse me while I return to the 21st century.
Japanese Story is bad, but considering the sheer beauty of its locations, there's no excuse for this ho-hum video job. First, skip to chapter seven using your remote control and observe the overhead shot of Sandy's truck making its way through the Australian outback. That a tiny green block appears on the left side of the door as it travels through the trees suggests that very little care was taken in transplanting the film to DVD. Skin tones are fine, colors are vibrant, and blacks are solid, but there's a blockiness and edginess to some of the images that makes the transfer a difficult one to sit through. The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround fares considerably better. Every didgeridoo, Asian horn, and swell of Mozart is sure to make some repressed housewife cream their panties.
The commentary track by Sue Brooks and writer Alison Tilson is predictably banal. Take the film's bedroom sex scene and the moment where Toni Collette's Sandy puts on her Asian lover's pants. Why does she do that? "Why not?" the women respond. Both ladies are clearly unwilling to address the film's bad press and many offensives, so you won't find many answers here. Rounding out the disc are five deleted scenes with optional commentary, talent files, a photo gallery, and trailers for Japanese Story, The Company, Passionada, My Life Without Me, The Secret Lives of Dentists, The Code, and The Statement.
For those with a hardcore Asian fetish, Sue Brooks's multi-culti harlequin romance is now available on home video.