Film Review: Sidonie In Japan

Film Review: Sidonie In Japan
FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, reviews Sidonie In Japan (PG) screening as part of this year’s French Film Festival at Palace Nova.

Co-writer/director Élise Girard’s sweetly melancholy character piece is built upon a beautifully measured star turn by the great Isabelle Huppert, who’s at times so understated here that she’s almost invisible. And yes, that’s meant as a compliment.

Celebrated novelist Sidonie Perceval (Isabelle) leaves her Paris home for a book tour in Kyoto (not Tokyo, which is surely nowadays too expensive as a film location), and when she arrives, she meets her significantly taller Japanese publisher Kenzo Mizoguchi (Tsuyoshi Ihara). Kenzo speaks French after spending years as a younger man studying at the Sorbonne, and the two of them begin her trip with slightly chilly formality, but things change when Sidonie spies a mysterious man (August Diehl) in a hotel foyer, who turns out to be exactly who you think he is.

Compelled to discuss her traumatic life with journalists, Sidonie then finds herself opening up to Kenzo, and the two walk through some striking locations (a deer park, the bustling city, gorgeous gardens full of blossom) in scenes featuring the sort of stillness you’d find in a Jim Jarmusch movie (think Mystery Train) or even an Aki Kaurismäki outing (like the recent Fallen Leaves). And Huppert is matched by Ihara, who might be better known for darker international fare (like Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima and Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins), but here proves that he can underplay with the best of them.

With a plot reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s Lost In Translation and the fondly remembered UK classic Truly Madly Deeply, this nevertheless distinguishes itself by way of its quietly moving central performances.

Mais oui.


Sidonie In Japan is screening as part of the 2024 French Film Festival

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