Fear and Trembling

This fascinating oddity from Alain Corneau (Tous les matins du monde) adapts Amelie Nothomb's autobiographical novel about the office life of a young Belgian (Sylvie Testud) working for a huge corporation in Tokyo. Though she's spent her childhood in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese, a string of cultural blunders leads to one humiliating demotion after another. Testud took a two-month crash course in the language to play this part, and though the notations on cultural difference are far richer and subtler than anything in Lost in Translation, I can't help but wonder what Japanese viewers might think of this film's blistering critique of some of their hierarchies and protocol. The unconventional take on power and freedom, enriched by a deft use of Bach's Goldberg Variations, remains that of an outsider. In Japanese and French with subtitles. 102 min.

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