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by Eric A.T. Dieckman
Sisters are doing it for themselves. Yes, the writer (Alison Tilson), director (Sue Brooks), and producer (Sue Maslin) of the film Japanese Story are all lesbians. Tilson has also penned Frictions: An Anthology of Fiction by Women, among other works. Maslin, developer of GeckoFilm Productions, is an independent film and television producer who has won a number of awards. Brooks is also a multi-award winner herself.
Japanese Story stars Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding, Sixth Sense) as the ambitious, take-charge Australian geologist Sandy Edwards. When forced to baby-sit Hiromitsu Tachibana (Gotaro Tsunashima), the son of a wealthy Japanese industrialist, Sandy makes no secret of her displeasure with the task. But realizing it may result in a positive business deal, she agrees. The two do not get along at all. She is outspoken, strong-willed, and independent. Hiromitsu is passive, polite, and sexist. Well, not so polite really; at one point, taken aback by her asperity, he describes her as “very loud and aggressive—and very stubborn.” This description is made in her presence, albeit in Japanese while on his cell phone.
Hiromitsu insists Sandy take him on a tour through Western Australia’s vast and lonely Pilbara desert. In the outback, plans go awry, leaving the two opposites lost with the grim reaper on standby. The further they venture, helping each other survive, the more they leave their predispositions about each other behind. They begin to see each other as people, not as representatives of cultures each finds appalling and distasteful. The rigors of their adventure bring them closer still until the two find themselves deep inside a tempestuous but tender love.
The film zigzags the audience from cross-cultural discovery to emotional drama to haunting love story. Critics praise Brooks’s direction, saying she brings a “smoldering sensuality” to romantic moments of the tale with a style few male directors can parallel.
Japanese Story opens February 6 at Landmark River Oaks, 2009 W. Gray. More info: 713/866-8881 or www.landmarktheatres.com.