naomi kawase's Kya Ka Ra Ba A

Silvia Groniewicz LinaInverse at
Thu Nov 8 04:06:46 EST 2001

>This has been yet another example of the Japan vs. Europe divergence I 
>often notice.  WHile I don't want to set up a unified Japan versus a 
>unified Europe, there have been a number of Japanese films which, 
>although they have been largely criticized in Japan, have found critical 
>success in Europe (or elsewhere). Kawase's Suzaku was one example, and it 
>seems Kya Ka Ra Ba A is another.  While I supervised the English 
>subtitles for the latter, and thus would want to reserve my comments on 
>the film, everyone who has seen it that I know in Japan did not like the 
>film.  Some have gone so far as to say it is her worst film, if not a 
>sign that Kawase has definitely lost her touch.  Yet it was very well 
>received in Locarno and not a few European colleagues have voiced their 
>admiration of this film.

I have only seen two films by Naomi Kawase, Hotaru and Kya ka ra ba a.
After seeing the first one I could not understand how such a frustrating
piece of film could be called the best (or even first?) japanese romance.
Frustrating because the female lead was such an incredibly strange
character that I could not at all relate to her.
After seeing Kya ka ra ba a it somehow made sense. All of it :) 

>Why this huge discrepancy?  Is it simply a matter of different tastes?  
>Or perhaps differences in understanding? (I do think there's a difference 
>in understanding films through the original language and through 
>subtitles.  One of the problematic scenes in Kya Ka Ra Ba A, for 
>instance--the tattooer scene--sounds very fake and staged to some because 
>the Japanese is so very stilted.  Yet seen through subtitles, perhaps it 
>seems better.)

The tatooer scene is supposed to look fake and staged, I think. There are
more than just a few hints to that, even if one cannot understand the
language itself and has to depend on the subtitles. Just the camera being
present is the biggest one :) 
I do think that I might not have liked Kya ka ra ba a if I had not seen
Hotaru before that. And also the other way round. Hotaru seems much more
understandable after seeing Kya ka ra ba a.

Silvia Groniewicz

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