Member Login

Member Login

Username
Password *

FC HEADER

VIGILANTE


VIGILANTE


November 14, 2017
Q&A guest: Director Yu Irie


Vigilante FCCJ-054-2
The director returns to darker territory with his latest film, a very personal project. ©FCCJ

 

With his breakout hit 8,000 Miles (SR Saitama no Rapper) in 2009, writer-director Yu Irie struck pay dirt in his rural Saitama hometown, using it as the backdrop for a bittersweet tale about the struggles of wannabe rap stars. Returning twice over the next few years to complete a trilogy, he won a devoted international following for his humorous, humanistic depictions of the strivers, outsiders and has-beens who populated his particular pocket of the prefecture.

But with his new film, Vigilante, Irie makes it clear that home is decidedly not where his heart is. Penning his first original screenplay since completing the trilogy, the young hitmaker has once again revisited his roots — but this time, he has found them rotten.

The pitch-black world of Vigilante is one in which ethics have been torn asunder and the ugliness of humanity is on full display. Exploring such hot-button social issues as child abuse, drug addiction, sexual aggression, crimes against foreigners, crimes by foreigners, and the inexorable decline of Japan’s countryside, Irie’s unsettling vision allows nary a sliver of light to pierce the darkness.

 

The film begins with a chase through the twilight, as three small boys are pursued by a frightening adult figure. On the day their mother dies, the young brothers have attempted to kill their tyrannical father, Takeo (Shun Sugata), a leader in the local community. The eldest, Ichiro, runs away after the incident, and does not return until Takeo has died, 30 years later. In adulthood, middle brother Jiro (Kosuke Suzuki, TV’s “Dr. X”) has become a city council member, while the youngest, Saburo (Kenta Kiritani, Close-Knit), makes ends meet by managing a deriheru ("delivery health") call-girl business for a volatile gangster (rapper Hannya).

Vigilante Koichi Mori-34   Vigilante Koichi Mori-17
©Koichi Mori

After Takeo’s funeral, Ichiro (Nao Omori, Outrage Coda) suddenly reappears. He’s brought with him a notarized will, and declares that he will take possession of their father’s legacy. But Jiro needs to retain a large tract of nearby land for a megamall construction project that will ensure his political future. Ever the obedient civil servant, he must now choose between his family and his career prospects. As the brothers indulge in an increasingly violent tug-of-war, all hell breaks loose around them. A community of foreign workers clashes with an overzealous neighborhood watch group. Powerful politicians collude with organized criminals. Soon, tensions in the entire town begin to boil over.

In the Q&A session following FCCJ's screening, Irie was asked whether any of the film’s political intrigues had been influenced by actual events in the director’s hometown. He responded, “I want to make clear that it wasn’t my intent to depict Fukuya — this is set in a fictional town. If I don’t make this clear, I’ll never be able to go back." 

vigilante -sub4
Kiritani confronts local gangsters in the film. © 2017 VIGILANTE Film Partners

Irie laughed before continuing, “I left Fukuya when I was 19 to study filmmaking in Tokyo, so I didn’t really have a full understanding of the politics of regional cities. What did leave an impression on me was that there were always yakuza at our local festivals. It was only after I started making films, and I would return home [on visits], that I started to realize there were these issues involving immigrants, these ‘trainees’ from overseas, and also that there were vested interests involved in public projects.”

Was it necessary to shoot in Fukaya, if audiences are not meant to connect the screen’s fictions with the real setting? Said Irie, “There was this impetus to go back, because the themes were personal. I could have shot elsewhere, but I wanted to return and get the support of people living there.”

vigilante -sub7 R
Omori faces a bleak future.  © 2017 VIGILANTE Film Partners

Vigilante was filmed in the dead of winter and mostly at night, which undeniably helped strip the performances by its three main stars of any artifice. But Irie admitted that he’s a bit worried the actors are still upset about the filming conditions: “A lot of my films are set in winter, actually. I suppose it’s a season I like a lot. When the three brothers were fighting in the river, it contributed to some movie magic. It started snowing while we were filming, and it rarely snows there.”

The film’s low-budget aesthetic reminded one critic in the audience that — long before Irie helmed big-studio productions like his Memoirs of a Murderer (which spent 3 weeks at the top of Japan’s box office earlier this year) — he had felt trapped in the no-budget rut. In 2010, Irie had gone on record with complaints that independent directors couldn’t have sustainable careers, and couldn’t possibly afford to live in a city like Tokyo. The voluble rant went viral, prompting a dialogue across the industry that continues today. Asked whether he felt any differently now, Irie admitted, “I’ve shot quite a few commercial films now, so I’m able to live in Tokyo. I made those comments when I [wasn't yet 30] to bring attention to the plight of young directors in the film industry, and I don’t think that situation has changed much at all. People forget about these issues all too easily.” 

Vigilante Koichi Mori-56   Vigilante FCCJ-012-2
©Koichi Mori (left), ©FCCJ (right)

What does he think might be done about the situation? “Toei Video, which is behind Vigilante, is really unique,” he responded. “They back original scripts, rather than just those based on novels or manga, and this opens a lot of doors for people who want to work on original material, as well as for indie filmmakers. I think there’s a lot of work to be done to solve the problem, but when it comes to the major studios, I’d like to see more of them embarking on original projects. I think it’s up to my generation now to make changes by writing original scripts and finding producers, or it will never change.”

A leading critic in the audience, noting that Vigilante has echoes of Yoichi Sai’s Blood and Bones, another work that features an overpowering father figure, asked how important the theme of family ties is to Irie’s own work. “I wasn’t directly influenced by the film,” said Irie, “although I like it a lot. I think its depiction of a towering, violent father is unparalleled in Japanese film. As for my own work, I’d avoided depicting blood ties in the past; but two years ago, I was filming a jidaigeki film set in the Edo period, and I had to do some genealogical research. That led me to research my own family tree, and if you go back 5 or 6 generations, you reach the Edo period. I started thinking about blood ties and what family means, and that influenced this film.”

vigilante -sub8 R
Suzuki (center) leads the neighborhood watch one fateful evening.  © 2017 VIGILANTE Film Partners

He later admitted that he’d been “heavily influenced” by the star of Blood and Bones, “Beat” Takeshi Kitano, who also directs “starkly, painfully violent” films. “Kitano’s films really show us what it is to hurt another, what pain really is,” he explained. “That’s a theme that I wanted to revisit, What does it mean to hurt someone? What is pain? Vigilante doesn’t speak just about physical pain, but also emotional and psychological pain. I regret avoiding this theme until now. I’m interested in seeing how younger audiences will react — especially audiences that are used to watching bubbly coming-of-age films.”

Asked to explain the title, the director said, “I’ve had a long-time interest in neighborhood watch-type organizations, which are policing in an unofficial capacity. I’m personally quite scared of 'communities' and people who organize groups like that. What I wanted to depict was how the individual is swallowed up by the community, so the first title that came to mind was Vigilante.” 

Vigilante Koichi Mori-75
©Koichi Mori

He elaborated: “What I wanted to depict was not just person-to-person violence, but violence brought on by a certain economy or a community that swallows up the individual. I think it would be difficult for moviegoers to take home a positive message from the film. But I would like them to ponder the situation and imagine what they would do. I recently read a book by Mario Vargas Llosa in which he discusses the character of Emma Bovary, and he wrote, ‘Her death is our hope.’ He meant that such characters die for us, in our place, and we should derive a sense of relief. That really struck a bell with me, and I hope Vigilante’s viewers will feel the same.”

Although he will surely continue to write and direct entertaining stories about viral epidemics, bio-terror, serial murderers and spies (if his recent successes are any indication) the pared-down nastiness of Vigilante should reassure fans of Yu Irie that he does not intend to shy away from shocking visions, even in today’s shock-averse Japan.

vigilante poster
© 2017 VIGILANTE Film Partners 

Selected Press Coverage

 

 


HARMONICS MINYOUNG


 OCTOBER 8, 2014
Q&A guest: Writer-director Writer-director Shoichiro Sasaki


minyoung1
Sasaki (r.) with his producers, Tetsujiro Yamagami and Takahide Harada.

For 20 years, legendary NHK director Shoichiro Sasaki was entirely absent from the public stage, apparently retired from a career that marked him as one of Japan’s most prolific and poetic creators, with a body of internationally award-winning work that inspired such leading lights as Cannes favorites Hirokazu Kore-eda and Naomi Kawase, and Venice regular Shinya Tsukamoto.

Sasaki has now broken his silence, and fans will be thrilled that his first-ever theatrical release (the film is debuting on October 11 at the vaunted arthouse theater Iwanami Hall) is over 2 hours long. Harmonics Minyoung is an inventive, experimental quasi-documentary that moves constantly between Japanese, Korean and English as well as the language of song. The complexity of its structure obfuscates its strong antiwar message until the final act, but it gradually becomes clear that the story is near to the director’s heart. As it turns out, the film’s period scenes, depicting a family’s life in Tokyo during World War II, are based on Sasaki's actual experiences as a youth in wartime.

minyoung2
The director waxes eloquent on Mozart.

During his Q&A session at FCCJ, Sasaki expressed fears about the film’s public reception, reminding everyone that for two decades, he’s been known only as a “former TV director.” He recalled the recent cast and crew screening, at which he stood on the stage and apologized for putting them all through so much trouble. “I’d been thinking about what a ‘film director’ is,” he explained. “Is he a great artist? No. A craftsman? Maybe. A shyster? I finally realized that he’s a guy who causes problems for everyone involved, in order to complete his film.”

As in Sasaki’s previous productions, Harmonics Minyoung is cast with nonprofessionals. The ebullient heroine, Minyoung, is from Seoul, but met Sasaki in 2004 when she was attending Waseda. The director asked her parents for their permission before signing their daughter on to play the character of university student Minyoung, who is writing and illustrating a novel called “The Laws of Harmonics.” She is obsessed with Mozart’s music (as is Sasaki) and, for some reason, with a photograph depicting her grandmother's Japanese friend Sueko. Driven by her curiosity about Sueko, Minyoung journeys to Tokyo. Here, she meets a street child, Yu, as well as reuniting with a friend who is now a freelance journalist covering the dark side of society, and is constantly being pursued by strange men in trenchcoats. When Minyoung suddenly becomes Sueko in the film-within-a-film, she is actually portraying Sasaki’s own mother, to whom Harmonics Minyoung is dedicated. The journalist is his father — in reality, as here, murdered for expressing critical views of the military — and the street child, Sasaki himself.

Sasaki originally planned to use only Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony (No. 41) in the film, since it’s “overflowing with hope,” and chose the Czech Philharmonic because they have “the best string section in the world.” But after production ended, he felt something was missing, and decided to delay editing until he finally had a breakthrough: “One day, I heard the old [Civil War] song ‘Marching Through Georgia’ — which was the first American song heard by the Japanese, when Admiral Perry came to Japan — and I [realized I needed a musical counterpoint]. After that, I selected 12 songs to use in the film, even though I didn’t tell producer [Takahide] Harada.”

Sasaki is now 78, and eager to plan his next outing as film director. Considering his enviable energy and the widespread support from a creative community that never forgot him, his second career may be just as laudable as his first.

 — Photos by Koichi Mori.

minyoung

©2014 Siglo/Sasaki Films

 

Media Coverage

 

OUR FAMILY (Bokutachi no Kazoku)


  OUR FAMILY


 May 13, 2014
Q&A guests: Director Yuya Ishii and stars Satoshi Tsumabuki and Sosuke Ikematsu


our family
Yuya Ishii, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Sosuke Ikematsu

FCCJ film night audiences are no stranger to movie stars, but they are sometimes surprised when the lights go up after the screening, and the Japanese camera crews start filing in for the Q&A sessions. On May 13th, there were 6 TV crews and several dozen still photographers from the Japanese press — all there for sound bites and great images of megastar Satoshi Tsumabuki (Waterboys, The Little House) and Sosuke Ikematsu (The Last Samurai, Love’s Whirlpool). The instant and widespread Japanese coverage of our events enables us to continue sneak previewing some of the most buzzworthy films opening soon in a theater near you.

On this night, that film was Yuya Ishii's Our Family, soon to open across Japan. In 2013, Ishii’s The Great Passage was selected as Japan’s official Oscar entry and swept up every conceivable domestic award, including the top four Japan Academy Prizes. The director could have had his pick of any follow-up project, but as he explained to the FCCJ audience, he chose to adapt the bestselling novel Our Family because he was consciously making a break from the existential comedies with which he had made his reputation. Why? Because it was to be the last film he made before turning 30.

The result is an extremely mature work. Our Family features Ishii’s trademark comical touches but also demonstrates his new mastery of gravitas as it limns the emotional journey of a four-member dysfunctional family facing a range of modern-day maladies, most crucially, its matriarch’s diagnosis with a potentially fatal brain tumor. Rather than continuing to hurtle toward collapse, the family gradually begins to discover in each other unexpected sources of strength and ultimately, hope.

 

our family stage2Ishii and Tsumabuki share a laugh during the Q&A session.

Tsumabuki and Ikematsu, who convincingly portray the estranged brothers in the film, discussed their images of families at FCCJ, both agreeing that there’s no such thing as the perfect one, and Tsumabuki stressed that communication is the most powerful tool to overcoming problems. When questioned about his recent appearances in a string of family dramas, he insisted that he hadn’t planned it that way. All three men were curious about the overseas reception of the film when it seems to them so specifically Japanese — but FCCJ's audience clearly found it to be universal.

ou family interviewNippon TV interviews French critic Aude Boyer after the screening.

 Our Family has been selected for competition at the Montreal World Film Festival in August, marking its international debut. The festival is very Japanese-film friendly, having bestowed a range of awards on Japanese titles nearly every year, including the top prizes for A Long Walk (2006) and Departures (2008).
Photos by Koichi Mori except where noted.

Our Family poster2©2014 'Our Family' Film Committee

Media Coverage

2014年5月14日

  • 『Oha 4 News Live』 日本テレビ
  • 『ZIP!SHOWBIZ TODAY』 日本テレビ
  • 『あさチャン!LIFE』 TBS
  • 『めざましテレビ』 フジテレビ

2014年5月15日

  • 『一夜づけ』 テレビ東京
  • 『スッキリ!!スッキリエンタメ』 日本テレビ

  OYAKO: PRESENT TO THE FUTURE


 April 2, 2014
Q&A guests: Director Toshi Inomata, producer Yoshiko Inoue
and subject Bruce Osborn


Oyako
Toshi Inomata, Yoshiko Inoue, Bruce Osborn

It's no secret that FCCJ's Exhibition Committee Chair Bruce Osborn is a famed photographer. Now he is also the star of a film about his "life's work," the joyous portraits of Japanese families that he has been taking for the past 32 years. The MC premiered Oyako: Present to the Future on April 2 to an overstuffed house  close to 200 people. During the Q&A session, Osborn,  producer Yoshiko Inoue and director Toshi Inomata, discussed the project's beginnings, and their decision to pitch it on Motion Gallery, a crowdfunding site that eventually brought in 1/3 of their budget.

Osborn was once just a commercial photographer from Los Angeles; now he is the leader, with his wife Inoue, of a social movement in Japan. Arriving here in 1980, he was inspired to shoot a series of portraits of punk-rock musicians with their parents. Fascinated by the idiosyncrasies of the Japanese "oyako" (parent-child) relationship -- especially when he became a father himself -- he realized that the photos had given him entrée to observe Japanese culture at its most intimate. The revealing and sometimes humorous black-and-white portraits he took brought an overwhelming response from Japanese families -- and thus a movement was born.

filmmakersProducer Satoru Seki, Bruce Osborn, Toshi Inomata

Osborn went on to meet and photograph over 4,500 oyako from a variety of professional and personal backgrounds, and to create Oyako Day with Inoue in 2003, a would-be national holiday celebrating family bonds. For Oborn, it's been a way to document the changes in Japanese society; but as Present to the Future proves, the photos aren't just fun to shoot, they have brought estranged families back together again, brought laughter back to Fukushima following the 3/11 disaster, and brought out the best in everyone who has had the evident joy of posing.

With appearances that include fashion designer Junko Koshino, alpinist Yuichiro Miura, journalist Shuntaro Torigoe, filmmaker Nobuhiko Obayashi and superheroes Ultraman Zero and Ultra Seven, as well as historic footage, hundreds of photos and two short dramas casting real-life parents and children, the documentary underscores the Japanese belief that we are not isolated individuals. While everyone seems to have a different opinion how to express the meaning of "oyako," Osborn prefers this: "Oyako is the long, unbroken chain of life -- each of us is a link to the past and a bridge to the future."
Photos by Koichi Mori except where noted.

oyako p

Media Coverage

Recent posts

VIGILANTE

00:00 Friday, November 17, 2017

PSYCHIC KUSUO (Saiki Kusuo no Sainan)

00:00 Friday, October 20, 2017

RADIANCE (Hikari)

00:00 Thursday, October 05, 2017

ERNESTO

00:00 Thursday, September 21, 2017

A WHALE OF A TALE

00:00 Friday, September 08, 2017

SEKIGAHARA

00:00 Wednesday, August 09, 2017

OUT OF MY HAND

15:14 Friday, July 28, 2017

LOVE AND OTHER CULTS

12:31 Thursday, July 06, 2017

MARRIAGE

00:00 Friday, June 23, 2017

LEAR ON THE SHORE

20:56 Friday, June 02, 2017
  • Go to top