I have yet to see “Lost in Translation,” but I know one thing: Its story would probably be a non-starter if its two principals were Japanese. At least that’s the conclusion I reached after observing how Japanese studiously avoid compatriots not in their group at big-city hotels abroad.
In any case, the makers of “The Hotel Venus” were wise not to set their ensemble-drama, featuring a Korean and Japanese cast, in a too familiar locale like Los Angeles or Honolulu. Instead, the film, which is based on a Chaplinesque Korean character on late-night TV (played by Tsuyoshi Kusanagi), transcends the barriers of language and nationality in fresh and original, if fantastic, ways. The result has been a crowd-pleasing success, showing again that Kusanagi, who starred in last year’s surprise hit “Yomigaeri (Resurrection),” has a magic box-office touch. It has also jump-started the career of Hirota Takahashi, a director of TV dramas, commercials and music videos here making his feature debut.