Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Recommended: The Great Passage

Sometimes watching a TV show prompts certain needs in me. For example, I have to be drinking white wine when watching Saikou no Rikon, or drinking beer when watching Match of the Day. While watching this film, I had a sudden urge to get the largest dictionary I own (the Kenkyusha New Japanese English Character Dictionary) and watch the rest of the film with it on my lap, like some kind of weird substitute cat.

The film that inspired this burst of bibliophilia is set in an office where they are making a new dictionary. An odd topic for a film, but one that works surprisingly well. People leave and join the team, they fall in love and get old. It’s a gentle character-lead comedy, full of people discussing things that normally never get discussed, such as how do you define the direction “right”?

Despite being miles away from a Hollywood blockbuster, the film still seems to think it needs some kind of climactic event: some last minute danger to overcome. In this case, it is the discovery that a word is missing, meaning some last-minute list-checking is needed! It’s not exactly defusing a bomb on a speeding bus.

The acting is great. Matsuda Ryuhei is miles from his more usual slacker-type roles, and Miyazaki Aoi is perfect as the love interest. But it’s Odagiri Joe who really makes an impression. His character is someone not suited to dictionary work, and he provides a lot of the comedy, but in a sensitive way: never so overt that it seems out of place.

It’s a great little film, made all the more remarkable by the peculiar subject matter. The subs, by 8th Sin are excellent, and so are the translation notes. I’m a sucker for this kind of story, and I think that these people are heroes, too. Fitting an entire language into a book, however imperfectly, is still an amazing achievement.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this movie, and the scene of Odagiri Joe talking on the phone to his child about tooth brushing makes me laugh every time I think of it - which is strangely often.