For decades, foreign directors have been going to Hollywood and making movies with American settings, stories and stars that American audiences have accepted as their own. Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” and John Woo’s “Mission: Impossible 2” may reflect the backgrounds of their makers — be it the low comedy of the British music hall or the high-wire choreography of the Hong Kong action film — but few Americans have found these films “foreign” in their concept or execution.
No Japanese filmmaker has successfully made this leap, though several have tried (and Takeshi Kitano, with his made-in-L.A. gang film “Brother,” is still trying). Japanese directors who set films in the United States or other overseas locales, but target them at domestic audiences, are often deaf to the inflections of foreign cultures, blind to the individuality of foreign peoples. Their versions of the American Southwest or Southeast Asia bear about as much relation to the real thing as beef curry rice does to the cuisine of Kerala.