Josee, the Tiger and the Fish (Joze to tora to sakana tachi) by Isshin Inudo (2003, Japan)


This was a film that was as interesting as its title. It was not a romance that makes you feel like crying at the end, nor was it a cute love story that makes you smile the whole time. Watching the film was more like sneaking the other couple’s life and their relationship. Tsuneo and Joze seemed like people who overcame the desire to own something or someone and reached some sort of enlightenment. The flat breakup where Joze gives Tsuneo a porn magazine as a breakup-gift and Tsuneo holds on to it as he leaves created a very strange atmosphere. It was such an honest description of our reality that could be happening in someone else’s life at the moment. No exaggerations and just plain reality. Furthermore, there was a new girlfriend waiting for Tsuneo. Many other ordinary films would have ended as something like, “So Tsuneo and Joze overcame the difficulty of physical disability of Joze and showed a true love to the world and lived happily ever after.” But this film seemed to tell its audience that the reality is not so pink-painted and even though a young couple love each other so much, so passionately, they could eventually break down, faced with the harsh world.
What is in the stroller was not money or something valueable, unlike what the gamblers thought. It is a grown-up lady who swings a knife in front of him. Taken aback, Tsuneo does not know what to do and right at that moment, an old lady runs down the hill, calling “Kumiko, Kumiko.”


Tsuneo goes to a ghetto where Joze and her grandmother live. He gets a meal from them. Joze’s small house is packed with the books that her grandmother brought in. Though Joze always stays inside her house like an animal stays inside a cave, she has been seeing the outside world through books. Kumiko – Joze’s real name – calls her by the name, Joze, which is the name from a French novel. What really surprises Tsuneo is Joze’s delicious food, and little by little, he gets attracted to Joze who seems cynical but warm-hearted.

Tsuneo goes to a ghetto where Joze and her grandmother live. He gets a meal from them. Joze’s small house is packed with the books that her grandmother brought in. Though Joze always stays inside her house like an animal stays inside a cave, she has been seeing the outside world through books. Kumiko – Joze’s real name – calls her by the name, Joze, which is the name from a French novel. What really surprises Tsuneo is Joze’s delicious food, and little by little, he gets attracted to Joze who seems cynical but warm-hearted.

Joze does see fish for real, but the sad part is that it happens on her last trip with Tsuneo. They were actually on their way to meet Tsuneo’s parents, but Tsuneo changes the route and goes to the sea to show Joze the real fish and ocean. The stroller is broken now so Tsuneo carries Joze on his back and walks along the beach. Then, they go to an aquarium to see fish but only to find out that it is closed because it is holiday. Joze is upset and acts like a child. Tsuneo begins to get frustrated (maybe their breakup has started at this moment). Tsuneo says that now that the stroller is broken, they need to get an electric wheelchair. It seems like Tsuneo is finally realizing the reality. He says he cannot carry Joze on his back forever like this.


Joze sees a big sign with fish figures on it, so they go to the motel and Joze sees the “illuminations” of fake fish.

After the trip, Joze and Tsuneo have a rather flat breakup. There is nothing romantic or dramatic about it. Tsuneo walks a little bit wit h his new girlfriend and starts crying like a child in the middle of the road.

Joze identified herself with a figure in a novel. She could gain the courage to face tiger and sail through the ocean (ocean would be the harsh world in front of us?) by meeting Tsuneo. I think this is why the title is “Josee, the Tiger and the Fish.”

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Pather Panchali by Satyajit Ray (1955, India)


This is a debut film of Satyajit Ray, the master of the Indian film industry. This film describes a life of a little poor boy who grows up and gets mature as his older sister and grandmother pass away. This is the film that let the world know about Ray with the heart-warming scenes and melancholy music in the background. This film shows how a small, poor family of an old grandmother, a girl, and a boy is trying to survive in a harsh society. Such story draw a sympathy from all around the world because anyone can associate with a story that is about family. The point that I buy really high is that, this goes beyond merely creating a touching story of a family and shows the real, practical problems that any family could face in reality. I think this is the reason why so many people of different cultures could have a sympathy with this film and eventually made Ray become a world-known director.

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Monsoon Wedding by Mira Nair (2001, India)

This is a film that expresses about the conflict and reunion in a family that has a wedding in 4 days. As much as the vividness of the graphics, the message that the film is giving us is simple: the importance of family. Personally, this film was a little bit boring. Yet, the Indian traditional music was so exciting and made me just fall into that atmosphere of partying. It was very impressive to see how the director was delivering a rather serious message (the importance of family) in a humorous way throughout all that excitement and songs.

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Hear me by Fen-fen Cheng (2009, Taiwan)

This film was like a bright fairytale. Tiankuo, the boy who helps his parents at the box lunch store, was delivering box lunches to deaf swimmers and saw Yang-yang and fell in love with her. Tiankuo actively expresses his feelings but Yang-yang is deaf and everything does not seem to be solved easily. I felt like this is a very cute film because I could see the kind thought and naïve behaviors. They really made me have a good laugh. The finger signs that they were doing between each other to communicate, because they are not as exact as language, I could concentrate more and could feel their anger, joy, and sadness better. Maybe such signs are better than the sounds people make to speak to each other.

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Letters of Love by Shunji Iwai (1995, Japan)

I decided to watch the film, “Love Letter,” to feel some comfort and warmth because I was going through a not so pleasant day that day. Yet, I never expected that I would come to be sympathized with the film. Maybe the story itself sounds very sad and gloomy (finding out about the death of someone whom one once loved dearly), but this film somehow did not come to me as so sadly as the story. It was rather bright and full of happy energy. I really enjoyed watching this film. I really liked the classic music in the background of the film, too.

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Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (Oh! Soo-jung) by Hong Sang-soo (2000, Korea)

The third film made by Hong Sang-soo is, “Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelor.” It was a little boring at times, but overall it was a heart-warming film with humors in some places. The film is consisted of five smaller parts, and the main story is based on the relationship between Soo Jung and Jae Hoon. From the first and the third parts are about the memories of Jae Hoon, and the second and the fourth parts are about the memories of Soo Jung. The fifth one is the resolution. Until the fifth part, each of the four parts is conflicting with each other in a very subtle way. For example, the bits of their memories do not really match up, and the audience gets to know that they view their relationships in a quite a different way. Finding such “gaps” or “conflicts” is a fun part for the audience and is thus humorous. About such conflicts between each other’s memories, Hong commented, “The truth eventually lies in a relationship between two people.”

Yet, this film is not just all about playing a puzzle game of the two’s memories. The ordinary life of very ordinary people are expressed in a very frank way, just like the other previous films done by Hong. The incompetence of Young Soo, and the mean sarcasm of Soo Jung (her character in the film made me question if all women are like her) are after all, the exact representation of us in our life, and we all realize it as we watch the film. At least, Jae Hoon and Soo Jung seemed happy as they each got the other’s virginity and wealth.

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The Bride with White Hair by Ronny Yu (1993, HongKong)

I know how the film, “The Bride with White Hair,” was a major hit in Hong Kong back in the years. I really enjoyed watching this film too, but I had just a few small points that I wish were better. This film is a martial arts action movie but I thought it is a little lacking in terms of showing great actions. It could be the technological limits during the time when the movie was made, but “The Bride with White Hair” is clearly not as sharp as those other martial arts actions movies of today. Even in a comparison with “Once upon a time in China,” another martial arts action movie that was filmed around the similar time, the “Bride with White Hair” still lacks in the quality of action. Furthermore, the film was focused more on romance, not on martial arts action. Maybe the fact that the film put more emphasis on romance and its synopsis made it become a success. For me personally, I wish the film tried harder to produce more awesome movements of martial arts. Then I would have enjoyed watching it much more!

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