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Many thanks to Mark Schilling for his overview of Japanese titles for foreign films (Oct. 24). It’s a topic I grapple with every time I go to the neighborhood video store.

One small quibble: The Japanese title “Count to Three” for Howard Hawks’ “The Big Sleep” is no head-scratcher at all. In the climactic scene where the hero, Philip Marlowe, forces the villain Eddie Mars into being shot by his own gunmen, he says, “Whaddaya want me to do, count three like they do in the movies?” He then proceeds to count to three, firing a shot with each number, until Mars is forced to flee the house and is gunned down.

My personal favorite Japanese title is “Sayonara Gemu” for the minor-league baseball tale “Bull Durham” that starred Kevin Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. The original title is loaded with cultural nuances and references that would never survive translation. (The team is the Durham Bulls, based in Durham, North Carolina, a tobacco-growing region, and Bull Durham is a brand name of loose-leaf tobacco for hand-rolled cigarettes.)

Although completely different, “Sayonara Gemu” neatly conveys the central theme that Costner’s character, the veteran catcher Crash Davis, is nearing the end of his career. It also suggests the various explicit and implicit good-byes that occur throughout the film. A nice piece of work.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

paul smith

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