Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘Wasabi’ (2001)

Jean Reno, of Mission Impossible fame, (the French guy with a beard) is a Cop who comes to Japan after he finds out his ex-Japanese girlfriend has died. The will is read out and what do you know but he has a daughter he never knew about. There’s some other weak plot about his ex having a secret past which lead to some unsavoury characters (naturally wearing black suits with dark glasses) being after his daughter.

Sure, this is your usual ‘fish out of water’ type film which foreign film-makers love and this French one is no different. Its a fairly fast-paced dumb action film which kept me entertained for its 90 minute duration with its cartoon-like comedy (when Reno punches people they fly back 20 metres!) and some pretty effective serious moments too.

The film gets its title from the sour green stuff used in sushi which Reno’s character thinks is a sauce or something and just eats it without any effect on him whatsoever which is amazing as this stuff is bloody strong as his partner Momo finds out to his cost! Apart from a short scene involving this there is no obvious reason why its called Wasabi. I guess its just a word that the producers think is Japanese-enough to let people know its a film with some Japanese reference.

As one review I saw on the internet said this may quite possibly be the greatest French-language, English-subtitled, Japanese action-comedy film of all time and I certainly can’t disagree with that statement!

Kyoto Filming Locations: Memoirs Of A Geisha

The majority of ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ (2005) was made in the USA but director Rob Marshall did feel it necessary to bring the production to Japan to open up the movie and feel like they were in some very real places rather than on the specially built sets as you can’t replicate the age and beauty of some shrines and temples.

Fushimi-Inari Taisha is undoubtedly the most memorable location (it appears after 40 mins and again on 2hrs 16 mins in a flashback scene at the films climax) used and accompanied by John Williams’ musical score it is one of the most beautiful and visually stunning moments in the film where the young Chiyo finally has hope after meeting The Chairman for the first time. She runs through the mesmerizing red torii gates on her way to give money in prayer.

 

 

The Chairman buys Chiyo some ice-shavings and gives her money which was in the specially built L.A. set. She then runs through the Fushimi-Inari gates (above) and then a bit of film trickery is used to blend that with Yoshimine-dera temple which is actually where the young Chiyo gives awy the Chairman’s coins. This temple is a 3o minute bus (#66) ride away from Mukomachi station and the sanmon temple gate (below left) is the first time we see it on screen. Chiyo runs through it (40 mins into the film) and on up to the Kannon-do main temple where she gives her money in prayer before ringing the bell (below right). We see that from inside the temple before the camera pans out and then moves back in over the roof.

        

The three storey pagoda is at Kiyomizudera temple and features a few times (16 mins, 31 mins, 1hr 32 mins) between scenes in the film; usually just to show that a new day or season has begun.

 

The bridge below appears briefly in the final moments (2hr 10 mins) of the film. It is in the gardens of Heian-jingu shrine which I had never entered on my two previous visits to the shrine and very beautiful they were.

 

The real Gion in Kyoto appears (below) for a couple of seconds directly after we see the Heian-Jingu garden bridge at the 2hrs 10 mins mark of the film.