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Owen

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You Think You're Turning Japanese? [Friday 4 Feb 2011 at 07:50 pm]
Owen
I watched Memoirs Of A Geisha. Liked the recreation of pre-war life in a 花街 Japanese red-light district. The exclusively female-run hierarchy within a very patriarchial society is inherently interesting and early modern Japan interests me in particular. The plot is bland but the characters, costumes, and sets were very interesting.

That's not what I'm here to talk about today.

Zhang Ziyi is very pretty as the protagonist and Michelle Yeoh as her mentor is even prettier. Neither one of them looks the least bit Japanese. Zhang mostly looks neotonous and Chinese while Yeoh is obviously Chinese looking.* Do the producers just suppose that everybody non-white looks the same? "Sure," says a studio exec, "have an Egyptian play Ghengis Kahn and then cast him as Che Guevara; nobody will notice!"

On the Hawai'i Five-oh remake, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park's characters are always going on about Japan-this and native-Hawai'ian that. Are we really supposed to not notice that they could be platonic model Koreans? If Michangelo's David had been a Korean girl, he would have needed a piece of marble with Grace Park in it.

Then there's Hoshi Sato.

I've been to Hollywood and I don't believe that they can't find actual Japanese people there (and Japanese-Americans). I'll admit Koreans are very handsome, but also very distinct looking.

What do you think?

* I read on Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, that Zhang learned English starting in her early 20's in just a few years. Good on her; that's not easy.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: rebcake
Saturday 5 Feb 2011 at 03:25 am (UTC)
Hey! Last night I watched The Great Happiness Space, a documentary about "Hosts" in Osaka. I guess they're the modern equivalent of a male Geisha. Everybody was thoroughly Japanese in that. But...so, so depressing. Bring on the totally soft-focus Geishas, please.

I hear your race!fail dismay loud and clear. I do think they tried a little with "Memoirs" but the truth is that the Hong Kong film industry has turned out a solid ton of internationally famous actors, male and female, while Japan has not. I mean, everybody knows Toshiro Mifune, but after that...

Far more disappointing is that the US film industry, which is massive, hasn't done a good job of developing talent from very many of our home grown ethnic pools. Margaret Cho (another Korean-American) said it best: "I can't wait to grow up to be...an extra on M*A*S*H!"

So, yeah, I'm just gonna be over here in the corner fondling the episode of Angel guest starring Bai Ling.
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[User Picture]From: owenthurman
Monday 7 Feb 2011 at 08:24 am (UTC)
I find all prostution cultures depressing, but then Japan in the 1940's would be bad for everyone.

while Japan has not.

I suspect the native industry has gotten so lucrative that good actors are better off staying home. Between the langugae and island location, Japan can be insular.
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[User Picture]From: goldenusagi
Saturday 5 Feb 2011 at 04:19 am (UTC)
Zhang Ziyi is very pretty as the protagonist and Michelle Yeoh as her mentor is even prettier. Neither one of them looks the least bit Japanese.

This bugged me so much when I watched that movie.
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[User Picture]From: owenthurman
Monday 7 Feb 2011 at 08:24 am (UTC)
It's hard to ignore, isn't it?
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[User Picture]From: gamiila
Saturday 5 Feb 2011 at 08:10 am (UTC)
I haven't watched the film, partly for that reason (and partly because I'd already read the book and liked it, which tends to make me wary of adaptations).
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[User Picture]From: owenthurman
Monday 7 Feb 2011 at 08:26 am (UTC)
The costume and set design work is nevertheless worth renting the DVD for. It's very pretty.

I haven't read the book, though.
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From: beer_good_foamy
Saturday 5 Feb 2011 at 09:01 am (UTC)
Funnily enough, most of the "Koreans" on M*A*S*H were played by Japanese American actors.
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[User Picture]From: owenthurman
Monday 7 Feb 2011 at 08:28 am (UTC)
Hmm. It's like the 1970's are a foreign country. Since most Americans can't remember any part of the decade anymore I suppose it is.
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[User Picture]From: manoah
Saturday 5 Feb 2011 at 06:59 pm (UTC)
You should read the book. Truly.
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[User Picture]From: owenthurman
Monday 7 Feb 2011 at 08:29 am (UTC)
There aren't a lot of really widely-liked books about Japan in English so I'll probably get around to it. Does it have more plot than the movie?
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[User Picture]From: manoah
Monday 14 Feb 2011 at 03:44 pm (UTC)
Yes, and better explains the character motivations as well.
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