Monday, July 13, 2009

Sabu on "Crab Cannery Ship", part two

The conclusion of Nagano Tatsuji's interview for Cyzo (read part one here):

NT: Shinjo, the leader of the workers on the cannery boat, is played by Matsuda Ryuhei, so did you see him as carrying on the legacy of his father Matsuda Yusaku?

S: That's exactly right. When I met him, he was the spitting image of Matsuda Yusaku. I was moved (laughs). Matsuda Yusaku had an aura of madness to him, but in terms of portraying that in a role I'd say Matsuda Ryuhei has probably surpassed him already. He has his own unique presence, and at the same time he's also a capable actor.

NT: Did you ever cross paths with Matsuda Yusaku in your acting days? 

S: Yeah, just once. I heard he'd turned up near the apartment building I was living in at the time, and when I ran over to have a look, he was in the middle of filming his last TV series (1989's "Karei naru Tsuiseki") in which he co-starred with Florence Griffith-Joyner. He had someone massaging his lower back throughout the whole shoot [Matsuda was fighting bladder cancer at the time, unbeknownst to most of the cast and crew].

NT: Running was a theme in that series too. You have an intriguing connection there. While your works depict men who run to survive, they also have many characters who die pathetic deaths without managing to change the status quo. They have a distinct concept of life and death built into them, so is this because you had foreign filmgoers in mind?

S: I've always been interested in things like concepts of life and death. When I go to film festivals overseas, there are lots of foreigners who don't believe in ghosts and it's fascinating. I've been to the Berlin Film Festival several times, and Germans don't believe in an afterlife. It's a country where so much war and tragic things have happened, but perhaps because it's an existentialist country, apparently they don't see ghosts. For "Monday" I got Dairakudan to appear in white makeup as beings from the underworld, and I get asked "What on earth were those Butoh dancers...?" (laughs) Germans don't believe in ghosts, but they often have a thing for Japanese culture. Reactions are different from country to country, so it's interesting. As for me, I'm immensely interested in things like spectral photography (laughs).

NT: I'd love to see you make a running horror movie (laughs).

S: Yeah, that might be interesting to do (laughs).

NT: At the press conference announcing the completion of "Crab Cannery Ship", your words to the journalists, "Please become cogs in the gears of society," have really stuck with me...

S: "Cogs in the gears of society" might have a bad ring to it, but it depends on how you look at it. It's the same with filmmaking: you have a script, and large gears start to move when your crew and cast come together, and when the shoot's over, the gears of editing, promotion, theatrical release keep on turning. If any one of those gears isn't aligned properly, a film won't do very well. When everyone joins forces, it succeeds for the first time. For this film, I've travelled here and there and been interviewed, and the journalists say "I'm a fan of yours. I enjoyed your new film". But when I see the printed article, "Rookies: Graduation" is featured prominently, and my film gets a tiny bit of space beneath it (laughs bitterly). First of all, I'd like these reporters to work to change their own product. Then if they were able to give greater exposure to the films they like and want to support, their jobs would be a lot more fun wouldn't they. Er... "Rookies" was just something that popped into my head as an example. I haven't seen it so I can't really say anything about it (laughs).

NT: More and more big names are appearing in your movies, so what are your thoughts on the boundary between major works and minor ones?

S: As far as casting goes, there's no such thing as major or minor. Now everybody works in television. In the past, some actors would say "There's no way I'd ever work in television," but that's not the case anymore. It's not so much an issue of major or minor, it's whether you're good at acting or bad at it, so that's where I want to draw the line.

NT: Since your debut, you've been running all the way, and I'd say the sights and places you see while running have changed quite a lot. Do you intend to keep on running?

S: Making films in Japan, you inevitably get offered a lot of projects where you're adapting pre-existing material, and that has its own merit. They're chances to depict worlds that I'm unfamiliar with. I'd never have come up with the idea of a drama set in a cannery on my own. Plus, you can't call yourself a filmmaker if you're not making films. I have some original projects that I hope to make overseas. I'm currently working on one that I hope to shoot overseas with a foreign cast and crew sometime next year. My fans always seem to want me to make films like my old ones, but it's easy to get stuck in a rut doing the same old thing, so I want to fulfil those fans' expectations while trying to find a way to free myself from that situation. To break out of that rut, I've got to think, think for myself... you see (laughs).

1 comment:

  1. Thanks , interesting stuff (especially about the ghost ! it's always a fascinating topic to speak with japanese people! )