General Fellers and Yuri (Aya)

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piston
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General Fellers and Yuri (Aya)

Post by piston » Wed Jul 31, 2013 2:38 pm

If you have not seen the movie "Emperor," it's about General Bonner Fellers' role in the exoneration of Emperor Hirohito for having ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor and approved Japan's war crimes during World War II. (As a number of negative film reviews have reported last spring, the movie's sale's pitch of Tommy Lee Jones playing MacArthur is something of a misrepresentation because that role is very much secondary in the script).

Fellers, portrayed as a "Jap lover" by another character in the movie, is said to have been particularly sensitive to Japanese culture because of his love for a Japanese woman, Aya, whom he had met and courted during his three trips to Japan before the war, during the 1930s. In the movie, Aya is the daughter of a Japanese general and her father opens up his personal library to Fellers and gives him numerous insights on a Japanese soldier's duty to his emperor. In other words, an experienced Japanese military officer who would later lead his troops into bloody battles at Okinawa and elsewhere, is presented as the source of Fellers's intimate knowledge of the Japanese military, not his presumed Japanese lover. But that undying love for Aya, who perished in a massive bombardment of the community where she taught during the war, essentially serves to explain Fellers open-mindedness for and understanding of Japanese culture. And, interestingly, this movie is characterized as "accurate" by General Fellers's descendants on their family webpage.

As a matter of fact, Fellers met Yuri Watanabe, an exchange student at Earlham College, during World War I. There is no mention of anything more than "friendship" between them in the college's historical sketch of their Japanese students. Yuri was not the daughter of a general. They both married, in their respective countries, in the mid-1920s (no reference to spouses in the movie). Yuri survived WWII. When and from whom did Fellers gain insights in Japanese culture? The college historical sketch assumes that he gained that information when he was mentored by Yuri during their college days.

So, once again, a film is made to shed light on the past in an entertaining manner but has to do so by fabricating so much false evidence that, in the end, one does not know how the "Emperor" was exonerated from the accusation of war crimes.

http://www.earlham.edu/japan-at-earlham ... s-of-1916/
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

John F
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Re: General Fellers and Yuri (Aya)

Post by John F » Wed Jul 31, 2013 6:21 pm

I always supposed it was MacArthur who decided that trying and possibly executing the emperor, instead of reducing him to purely ceremonial status as with Britain's monarchy, would prejudice the rebuilding of Japan and its eventually becoming an American ally by choice. Never heard of Fellers before reading this thread. The Wikipedia article about him says the exoneration of Emperor Hirohito was "at the direction of MacArthur," and since MacArthur was the boss and Fellers his subordinate, it could hardly have been otherwise.
John Francis

piston
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Re: General Fellers and Yuri (Aya)

Post by piston » Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:08 pm

Agreed. That's why, if Fellers should be given greater historical agency for his more intimate knowledge of Japanese culture in general and military code in particular, the film producers should not discredit the story so easily. It may be that General Fellers was a "Jap lover" in an age of one hundred percent Japanese hatred, but don't fabricate romantic evidence to make that point.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

piston
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Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

Re: General Fellers and Yuri (Aya)

Post by piston » Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:27 pm

The thing is that Tommy Lee Jones does a very fine body language job of portraying MacArthur. When the movie began and there he went, posturing the General, I exclaimed to my wife "Oh, he's got it!"

One has to wonder what happened with this production. Was the script flawed to begin with and he only agreed to that secondary role? Was he too busy elsewhere? 'Cause he sure nailed down that character!!
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

John F
Posts: 18852
Joined: Mon Mar 26, 2007 4:41 am
Location: New York, NY

Re: General Fellers and Yuri (Aya)

Post by John F » Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:51 am

I suppose MacArthur would have needed informed advice about Japanese culture, history, etc. in his role as Japan's de facto ruler, and Fellers happened to have filled that bill.

As for impersonating MacArthur, that should be an easy gig for a technically skilled actor, since MacArthur's style and mannerisms were so distinctive and so well documented in newsreel and other archival sources. Haven't seen that movie, but from what you say, Tommy Lee Jones has done his homework. He seems to be on a roll just now, with 4 movies released in 2012 including "Lincoln," so yes, he was indeed "busy elsewhere" - but I imagine the chance to do MacArthur, however large the part, would be pretty tempting (if the money and scheduling were right, of course).
John Francis

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