Going to the movies in Japan isn’t really the institution it is in overseas. They’re popular enough, but the high price – $22 full price and $12 on discount days, which seems to be the standard price at every single cinema – doesn’t guarantee that everybody has seen the latest hot new movie that everyone’s talking about (or not).
I mainly go to see Hollywood movies; most of the major releases tend to make it here to Japan. Sometimes, you’re going to be waiting a while though – the Simpsons Movie came out about one year after it came out in the US, and had I paid my $22 to see it, I would have been a bit disappointed, considering the wait.
The other interesting thing about Western movies in Japan is that promotional materials are sometimes tweaked to more closely match the perceived tastes of Japanese consumers. After just coming back from the cinema today, I grabbed a hold of a few pamphlets for upcoming titles:
This one is the Meryl Streep / Alec Baldwin / Steve Martin movie It’s Complicated, which is apparently about a love triangle involving divorcees or something. The poster I saw in Australia had Ms. Streep and Mr. Baldwin awkwardly sharing a post-coital sheet, making the movie look comedically saucy. The Japanese poster takes all the sauce out, and changes to title from It’s Complicated to Bakery Love or The Bakery I Love or… something. The poster and new title make it sound much more whimsical and chick-flicky than the English version. Poor old Steve Martin doesn’t get a look in in either language.
This comes out here on 19 February – you can see the Japanese “year-month-day” style date (2.19) on the poster. We should all convert to this format!
Next we have Capitalism – A Love Story, which still hasn’t come out in Japan. Only a couple more weeks! The bold yellow test says “In 2010, the economy will recover”. Given what I’ve been reading lately about the floundering-for-well-over-a-decade Japanese economy, this seems like more of a desperate affirmation than a prediction.
The other interesting thing is that the title has once again been modified. In Japanese, it reads Capitalism – Money Dances, which actually paints a pretty good picture of all the shenanigans that went on.
The cat appearing in the middle of the “0” up the top is Michael Moore’s cartoon avatar, it seems. The back of this pamphlet is filled with Michael Moore taking pictures with lots of Japanese stars at the premiere, with speech bubbles of him saying wacky things about Japan (like: “I (heart) Japan”). I’m sure he’d be thrilled, could he read them.
This is the poster for Invictus (Japanese: “Inbikutasu“), which I just happened to see today. Apparently, racism was completely eradicated in South Africa due to a rugby game played in 1995 – huzzah! Joking aside, I thought it was a great movie with a unique and interesting story.
I guess that without much Latin influence in the Japanese language to give any clue as to what “Invictus” might mean, underneath is written “the invincibles” or “the people who could not be beaten” if you want a more quaint, direct translation.
Finally, we have the Sherlock Homes movie. I guess he’s famous enough that it doesn’t need any title retouching – it’s just been transliterated as “Syaarokku Houmuzu”. The tag line says “The mysteries of the world have been waiting for this guy”. I’m pretty keen to see this too, and I only have to wait until March.
The other interesting thing about seeing English language movies with 300 Japanese people is that any humour quite often does not translate well into subtitles. I’ve been in the situation more than once of guffawing at a particularly funny joke, only to lamely try to turn it into a cough as I realise that no-one else in the entire cinema is laughing. Sigh.
Anyone want to Skype with me the next time I go to the movies? You have to promise to laugh on cue with me. I’ll buy the popcorn, which you can watch me eat over the Internet. What an age we live in.