“Babel” drew an unusual reaction from the aud at Nagoya’s Midland Square Cinema during its Saturday bow in Japan — five became physically ill and complained to theater staff. According to Midland management, the culprit was a blinking strobe light in the pic’s club sequence, featuring Rinko Kikuchi as a hearing-impaired high-school student.
Two patrons became ill during Saturday’s morning show and three more during the first afternoon screening. All were women, and none went to the hospital. For the evening screening, the theater posted a sign warning auds not to look too long at the screen during the show, but to instead “occasionally avert your gaze as appropriate.” Theater staff also explained the problem to auds before the beginning of the show.
Distrib Gaga Communications, however, denied that the pic was to blame, saying no other theaters had complained about a similar problem. In a statement, the distrib also said that individual theaters should devise their own methods for dealing with any problems.
Media flap is not Gaga’s first with the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu film. Prior to release it was criticized by the hearing impaired for not subtitling the Japanese-language scenes, making it hard for them to follow the story. Ruruka Minami, a sign-language translator involved in the casting of the pic, led a petition drive to persuade Gaga to release completely subtitled prints. Gaga later announced that it would subtitle the Japanese scenes in all prints in time for its release.