About Pet Sins Webzine
Skip navigation and go to main content
Pet Sins February 2000

Snow Falling on Cedars

Note: This is not a review of the book or the movie. This is a commentary on how the movie has been promoted and received by critics.

This movie from Universal Studios is based on a New York Times best seller of the same name. Snow Falling on Cedars is being marketed to viewers as a romance between between an Asian woman and a white man. If you see the movie trailer, it is comprised of sensual scenes between Ethan Hawke and Youki Kudoh. The trailer contains virtually none of the other key characters in the movie.

The book on which the film is based is certainly about more than sex between a white guy and an Oriental girl. The plot revolves around a Japanese American Kazuo (played in the movie by Rick Yune) on trial for killing a German American. Meanwhile, the town's European American newspaper reporter (played by Ethan Hawke) reminisces about his childhood affair with Kazuo's wife (played by Youki Kudoh). But if you take a superficial glance at most review sites out there, you certainly won't even have any idea that Kazuo, the Asian man, is of any importance -- you will find plenty of pictures of Ethan Hawke and Youki Kudoh together, but none of Rick Yune and Youki Kudoh.

Check out the story on the Snow Falling on Cedars Official Universal Studios Site

A reporter covering the trial, Ishmael Chambers, sits in the courtroom, carefully observing the person with whom he shared the rapturous secrets of childhood, the only woman he has ever loved. Hatsue, the defendant's wife... The acting ensemble in Snow Falling on Cedars is headed by Ethan Hawke (Great Expectations) and Youki Kudoh (Picture Bride) as the lovers, with Rick Yune making his motion picture debut as the fisherman on trial for his life...

Here's another excerpt from a review written by someone with a non-Asian male name:

N-Zone Movie Review (click here for full review)

Snow Falling on Cedars is an intricate tale of forbidden love...the majority of these flashbacks concentrate on the childhood relationship between Kazuo's wife Hatsue (Youki Kudoh, Mystery Train) and the son of the town's newspaper owner, Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke, The Newton Boys). Playmates as children, Hatsue and Ishmael grew closer and closer as the years passed. Knowing that she was forbidden to date white boys, the two are forced to relegate their burgeoning passion to a hollowed-out cedar tree in the woods near each of their homes...

OK, by now we get the idea. White boy, Japanese girl, forbidden romance, one-and-only love, sensuality, passion, yadda yadda. How sweet. How typical. But that's not what we hear from A magazine. (an Asian American publication)

A Magazine Interview with Rick Yune (click here for full article)

Based on a New York Times bestselling novel and directed by Scott Hicks, the movie... casts Yune as Kazuo Miyamoto, accused of murdering his best friend, while a high school chum (Ethan Hawke) attempts to seduce his wife.

Pretty different take on the matter, huh? But wait, let's hear what another reviewer with a non-Asian female name has to say:

A Nebbadoon review (click here for full review)

Newspaper reporter Ishmael Chambers (Ethan Hawke) may or may not hold the evidence necessary to clear murder suspect Kazuo Miyamoto (Rick Yune). It is annoyingly unclear why Ishmael takes so long to jump into the case considering his profession and his legacy as the son of Arthur Chambers (Sam Shepard), legendary editor of the local newspaper. Is it because he has long loved Hatsue (Youki Kudoh), wife of the accused Kazuo?... Whatever takes Ishmael so long, actor Ethan Hawke doesn't help us a bit. Expressionless in word and voice, he forces us to imagine his thoughts by watching how people respond to him. Rick Yune and Youki Kudoh, on the other hand, build real characters as the embattled Japanese-American couple. Flashbacks of Kazuo and Hatsue frolicking as children create a lovely sense of growing up on the island. "

Is it any surprise that it is a WOMAN who does some justice to the Japanese-American characters and validates the Asian couple's relationship? Many (though certainly not all) white male reviewers are consciously or subconsciously too invested in the Asian fetish mentality to objectively review the book/movie on its own terms.

Jan 2000