Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tokyo Fiancee [2014]

MPAA (UR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
Allocine.fr listing*
CineNews.be listing*

AgendaMagazine.be (L. Joris) review*
aVoir-aLire.fr (A. Champilou) review*
France Télévisions (J. Bornet) review*
Rossiyskaya Gazeta (V. Kichin) review*
Variety (A. Simon) review

Tokyo Fiancee [2014] [IMDb] [AC.fr]* (screenplay and directed by Stefan Liberski [IMDb] [AC.fr]* adapted from the novel "Ni d'Ève ni d'Adam" [GR-Fr] / "Tokyo Fiancee" [GR-Eng] [WCat-Fr] [WCat-Eng] [Amzn-Fr] [Amzn-Eng] by Japan-born (to Belgian parents) Amélie Nothomb [en.wikip] [fr.wikip] [GR-Eng] [IMDb] [AC.fr]*) is a generally quite fun Tokyo-set French/English/Japanese language Rom-Com  that played recently at the 2015 Chicago French Film Festival (July 31 - Aug 6, 2015) held here at the Music Box Theater.  It tells the story of the author's somewhat fictionalized alter ego Amélie (played in the film by Pauline Etienne [IMDb] [AC.fr]*) returning to Tokyo as a 20 year old (after having left it for Belgium at five) in hopes of filling the void that her family's departure had made in her life.

During her time in Tokyo where she's simultaneously brushing-up on her Japanese while tutoring French to students, she has a romance with 20-something Rinri (played by Taichi Inoue [IMDb] [AC.fr]*) one of said students.

Young American viewers thus get a "two-for-one experience" in reading the book / viewing the movie.  First one gets to enter the world of a young Belgian 20-something and then experience what she sees of / in Japan while she's there.

I'm almost certain that a young American visiting Japan even for an extended time would probably experience Japan somewhat differently than she (coming from a proud if famously small European country).

Indeed, a inevitable part of her description of her life in Japan involved describing, often quite amusingly, her relationships with the other women from francophone countries that she meets: There's 30 something year old Christine (played by Julie LeBreton [IMDb] [AC.fr]*), a Quebequoise, who worked at the Canadian Embassy and who served as something of a mentoring figure for Amélie during her stay.  Amélie came to her with all sorts of questions that a young 20-something women striking out on her own (especially in a foreign country) would have.  And then there was Yasmine (played by Alice de Lencquesaing [IMDb] [AC.fr]*) an early 20-something year old French woman, portrayed in the way that one could imagine a young 20-something Belgian woman would portray her: as "naturally" somewhat more confident (or more "arrogant") than she, and of course, smilingly "clueless" about coming across that way. ;-)

Rinri, of course, is portrayed as one would imagine a young Japanese man to be: Somewhat more shy / reserved than a Caucasian and then making some often quite amusing mistakes in his French: He keeps Amélie his maîtresse (instructor) which actually translates more commonly to mistress ;-).

Anyway, much often quite gentle ensues...

ONE THING I'D LIKE TO WARN (AMERICAN) PARENTS (of high school aged teens) ABOUT is the quite surprising (to me) AMOUNT OF NUDITY IN THE FILM (especially in the 2nd half of it).  Yes,  inevitabley, Amélie and Rinri do hit it off.  However, in an American RomCom, the trajectory of the romance would be portrayed, even the bed scenes, without (repeatedly) showing the actress playing Amélie topless and even fully nude.  I do know that Europeans tend to have a different view of nudity than Americans do and I suspect that even the Japanese may be more comfortable with nudity than we do.  However, I don't think that showing Amélie topless _so often_ in the second half of the film really added anything substantial to the story.  It even made their sexual relationship feel, after a while, almost boring, as if to ask: "What now?"

However, NOTING THE ABOVE, I still think that the film would be interesting to most American young adults and they would be able to experience, at least for a little bit, what it's like to be both a Belgian (from Western Europe) and what it'd be like to live (at least for a while) in Japan.

So, honestly, a very interesting, and often entertaining film ;-)


* Reasonably good (sense) translations of non-English webpages can be found by viewing them through Google's Chrome browser. 

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