Sunday, 25 April 2010

The film not even trainspotters want to see

We are now approaching Japanese Golden Week: five days of holiday ending on Children’s Day (5th May), a festival which I mentioned in an earlier post. I plan to lie low in Okazaki or Shizuoka during this period, when everyone will be on the move, touring and visiting, and trains and hotels will be fully booked.

A first ever trip to a Japanese cinema appeals, yet I read that Japan’s multiplexes are also likely to be packed. Indeed, the name ‘Golden Week’ is said to have originated from the Japanese film industry, which noticed a huge spike in ticket sales during these holidays ( ).

What film should I opt for? I continue to try to keep abreast of releases back home via the currently intermittent Mayo / Kermode Friday afternoon BBC Radio 5 Live show, even if I don’t get to see the movies being discussed.

On last Friday's show, ‘the Good Doctor’ was discussing woeful English-to-French translations of film titles, taking contributions from listeners, and for the first time I emailed in a suggestion.

The film I had in mind was The Horse Whisperer, an adaptation from a novel, with a very literal title in French. That title does, however, have the merit of telling you what the film is about. Those who haven’t read the book, or seen the film, might well ask: is ‘The Horse Whisperer’ the story of a whispering horse, someone who just can’t stop whispering ‘horse’, ‘horse, ‘horse’ (etc) – and wouldn’t that be annoying? – or the tale of a man ‘who whispered in the ear of horses’. Well, that - 'L'Homme qui murmurait à l'oreille des chevaux' - is exactly how the film was marketed to French audiences. A film title unlikely to give rise to any 'money back' claims or - I suspect - fire the Gallic imagination.

Alas, the Mayo / Kermode wittertainment moved on to a different discussion concerning film taglines which state the obvious, and my email was not read out. (Which the reader might consider to be for the best, all things considered, even if ‘the man who whispered in the ear of horses’ is equally relevant to that subsequent topic, as it's a 24-carot example of stating the obvious, too.)

Now, talking of film titles lacking the X factor, one might expect that the Japanese film industry would be keeping potential blockbusters up its sleeve for the busy moviegoing period to come. (Which might explain Bandage’s [see previous post] earlier release.) So what’s this film poster that I just saw at my local ‘WingTown’ shopping centre?

That's right. ‘Railways’.

Just look at that poster.

As it’s in English, I guess that the whiff of dullness that surrounds (the title of) this film makes for an altogether more exotic scent in Japan. But have you ever seen a less inspiring name, and poster, for a movie in your life? (‘L’homme du train’? ‘The Postman’? Well, that was called ‘Il Postino’ when it appeared in English cinemas, which made it less humdrum.) I can’t even begin to imagine a plot synopsis but would like to hear Mr Kermode try.

What could it be about? ‘Waiting for Godot’ but minus the metaphysics, and with trains? You can see the trailer here, where it doesn’t look too bad at all: and But, despite the obviousness of the name, the poster gives few hints.

Come to think of it, the name ‘Wingtown’, where the book / record / entertainment media shop is called ‘Culture Resort Imagine’, wouldn’t be such a bad title for a film. No worse than Dogville, or Condorman, or Railways, at least.

I'd like to see it made by M Night Shyamalan, with Brian Blessed in the lead role.

And, thinking of taglines which state the obvious, here's one which springs to mind:

'Railways. Would you prefer to go Sleeper?''

(Note to bookies: odds on Best Foreign Film at 2011 Oscars?)

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