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Through my own error I wound up with an unsubtitled DVD of "Himitsu" (Secret). Watching it anyway proved an interesting, but not unheard of, experience. Many in this country have passed idle minutes trying to decipher Spanish language telenovelas. So many, actually, that when "The Simpsons" spoofs the bee-suit guy enough of us get it. And anyone who's seen a dozen or two Japanese films, recognizes affirmatives, negatives, what you say coming home or taking leave, what "gomen" indicates, at least some of the variety of tones and intents with which any rote phrase can be uttered, and so on. I'm cheating a little, because I took classes way, way back, and a few years ago in a futile attempt to recover some of it got to a ninety per cent level recognizing 2000 characters in a flash card game on my first computer. Most of that's lost, yet removing the subtitle crutch heightens one's perception of tone and pace. Though I could seldom be said to understand, what I heard watching "Himitsu" was far from gibberish. I probably fell back, too, on subconscious tricks learned watching hundreds of silent films.
All that said, the film is relatively slight. The disaster-bus intro put me in mind of "The Sweet Hereafter" and "Eureka." Snow-country soul switching suggests Iwai's "Love Letter." Another, less precise, ref could be the maudlin daughter-mother coda to "Dark Water." What ensues though is a sunlit situation comedy you could write yourself. Each danger point, dating, jealousy, incest, etc., is met and deftly skirted. At times Ryoko Hirosue (the intelligent airhead in "Wasabi") lacks the depth to play the older woman, making one appreciate all the more, the brief glimpses of that older woman.
Now that I've read a synopsis, the only point I missed totally, due to the language barrier, was the father telling the young suitor that they were space aliens. The young man looked so startled I thought the father had owned up to feelings for the daughter, hiding the truth by admitting it. I knew that was off the film's tone so probably wrong, but space aliens certainly never entered my mind.
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