An enigmatic Japanese woman, abandoned by her wealthy Chinese husband in a remote Pacific Northwest village, becomes entwined in the lives of two rugged locals.
The hunt for a copy of this movie was interesting to say the least – I couldn’t find it for love nor money! Copies are like gold-dust, Amazon UK had it listed for over £100 which is extortionate – but a good indicator that copies are rare. Finally, my husband managed to grab a copy from Amazon Japan for a reasonable price, we had to wait a while but it arrived the other day – I was so glad to get my hands on it! Plus it was the final part of my birthday present – husband points awarded!
Right from the outset, you are greeted with such beautiful scenery, a huge expanse of never-ending water – I do not think I have seen such gorgeous scenes in a film for a long time. The filming locations were Bowen Island, Tofino, Vancouver/Vancouver Island – Canada. It seems like the most enchanting place on earth – however as the film continues, couldn’t be more colder.
You’re introduced to Keiko and her husband pretty instantly, and the atmosphere in the car you could cut with a knife. This was more than an argument between a couple, you can sense fear running underneath. He was on a business call and she sat quietly, in shadows, next to him.
As the new people in town – their arrival stops a brawl in the street -as we learn later the local activities are fighting, swearing and drinking. Keiko’s rich Chinese husband (Lone) picks up the keys for their holiday home, he barely raises a smile. Keiko (Shimizu) is dressed in traditional Japanese clothes, they couldn’t be more opposite to the locals.
Seems most people in town want something else, the two that clamber for her attention, Hart (Fletcher) and Vern (Spence) – both unhappy. Hart, the younger man, wants a better life. He lives with his drunk of a father, the poor soul is forever bailing him out of money or the local lock-up. He much more mature than the other boys displaying small town mentality, he’s sensitive and falls deeply for Keiko. Vern, the local sheriff, is in a sexless marriage – he looks to Keiko as an outlet for sex and not much else. I personally wanted his character to try to win his wife over more or to even try for Keiko more. This I felt was a little wasted.
The scenes between Keiko and her husband could freeze an ocean, he is obviously controlling, violent even. We later learn that he is also having affairs – with multiple women. It doesn’t seem likely this was his first time either. There’s a scene where he sucks her finger in an almost parent-like way to a child after she cuts it while making origami shapes (her past time to escape her life it seems). He talks to her like a child. John exits the film quite quickly, but I wished that his character returned as I would like to have seen the change in their relationship after her evolution.
I felt the scenes with the animals represented her, the deer that escapes the shooting and the pigeon injured on the roof – maybe I am looking too deeply into the film, but it seems to fit. They represented her fragility and change.
She wants to leave to return to Tokyo, the house although in a beautiful location is isolated and her husband has left – not known when to return.
As the story unfolds of her relationship developing more so with Hart, she is moved by his respectful attempts to woo her. Unforgettable scenes on the beach with the candles, what woman could resist? Her clothes get brighter too throughout the film like she is peeling off a snakeskin.
Another scene that moved me was Hart’s speech about his father, how he was “so caught in the past he couldn’t move forward”. I would’ve liked to have seen more of his father’s backstory and why he was such an alcoholic. The choice of music as he carries his father home after another drunken episode is upbeat – when in fact this scene is incredibly moving.
With the main characters all leaving in some way at the end, you can’t help but feel for Hart, superbly played by Fletcher, as he wins the girl and… well, you’ll just have to watch for yourself.
Please check out my interview with the Paper Moon Affair cinematographer Robert New.