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Fear and Trembling
Written and directed by Alain Corneau
Cinema Guild
Opens November 19, Cinema Village

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A culture-clash comedy that takes the notion of Japanese otherness to ludicrous extremes, Alain Corneau's Fear and Trembling follows a year in the life of Amélie (Sylvie Testud), a Japanese-born Belgian who lands a job as a translator for a Tokyo multinational. Amélie's dream of becoming "a real Japanese" assumes masochistic overtones as she eagerly submits to demeaning chores (endless photocopying, bathroom duty) while secretly harboring a crush on her bitch-on-wheels boss, Fubuki (Kaori Tsuji). Testud speaks what sounds like fluent Japanese throughout (she won a César for her efforts). Still, one must question her level of commitment to a film that professes a deep respect for the Japanese culture and then renders its Japanese characters as a bunch of screeching ninnies. The movie's few pleasures are tangential. Fubuki reveals she's always wanted to be an archery champion—shades of Diana-ness that recall Connie Nielsen's boardroom huntress in the similarly Franco-Japanese (but infinitely superior) demonlover. Later, Amélie attempts cultural rapprochement by referencing Nagisa Oshima's Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. She knows her efforts have failed when her uncomprehending manager looks at her askance and spits, "You look nothing like David Bowie!"

 
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