Mariko Okada and Tadashi Yokouchi: Are they game pieces on a map of fate, or is Europe (and Rome specifically, below) their personal game board?
The scene adds another level of alienation for American viewers: the American, Robert, and his sister are played by French actors. Paul Beauvais had previously acted in Jean-Luc Godard's Petit Soldat while Farewell was Helene Soubielle's second film role in a short career. Yoshida dubs them into stilted English (Okada and Yokouchi presumably speak their own English lines, phonetically or otherwise), but his Japanese audience is going to read the subtitles on the right side of the screen, while an American viewer gets hit with a simultaneous alternate rendering of the English dialogue via the subtitles on the bottom of the screen translating the Japanese dialogue. In any event, the "Americans" are cyphers. I was expecting the sister to attempt an affair with Makoto, but it never happens. The visiting scholar is wrapped up in several levels of preoccupation, and that's the actual subject of the film.
Okada and Helene Soubielle: A Japanese playing the part of a fake European and a European serving Yoshida as a fake American.
In the battle of style against subject, style would seem to have won in a Napoleonic rout -- except that there is substance here. Naoko and Makoto's neglect of the reality of Europe and their failed attempt to construct a shared realm of meaning there or anywhere is a tale worth telling, and it could just as well be told with American or African or Chinese actors -- or Europeans. Alienation is Yoshida's subject, and his conclusion is the opposite of Donne's and Hemingway's. In Farewell, every man and woman is an island; Naoko expressly identifies herself with a coastal castle that is separated from shore by the night tide. It isn't exactly an inspiring or uplifting thesis, but on the other hand you have some of the most dazzling camera compositions of the Sixties, and they do express something profound, whether we like it or not.