TOKYO (AP) – Violence vibrates in Shinya Tsukamoto’s early films, plunging the stories into nightmarish fantasies as in the award-winning 1989 film “Tetsuo”, which ridicules middle-class compliance with a human-turned-human metamorphosis. machine.
His most recent works still portray violence, although the Japanese director says the nature of violence has changed – from a fanciful “cyberpunk” horror to a gruesome reality. This is why he identified so closely with Martin Scorsese’s grueling epic “Silence,” which depicts the persecution of Christians during the samurai era in Japan. Tsukamoto plays Mokichi, a poor villager and martyr.
“At any time, ordinary people are subjected to violence. There is such sadness as to why violence is perpetually involved, ”Tsukamoto said in an interview with The Associated Press in a Tokyo hotel. “This same theme came at the same time.”
Tsukamoto, 57, is a prolific actor and director, with an appearance as a scientist in the latest Japanese Godzilla film. He went to an audition for “Silence”, not planning to land a role but hoping to get closer to a director he admired since his teenage years. He has watched “Taxi Driver” dozens of times and finds something new each time.
He was surprised and flattered when Scorsese immediately recognized him and told him that he admired Tsukamoto’s films. In the audition, a dialogue scene, Scorsese played the role of the missionary to his Mokichi. It was so natural, easy and perfect, Tsukamoto remembers happily.
The film, which had an Oscar nomination for Rodrigo Prieto’s cinematography, is based on a novel by Shusaku Endo, inspired by the true story of the torture used by the shogunate on European missionaries and their Japanese followers, deliberately to degrade them. and discredit them.
Mokichi, a desperate and tattered figure of angelic purity, dies the death of a macabre but glorious martyr – drowning on a cross as the waves engulf his slim body, again and again.
Some scenes of the crucifixion were shot on a beach, but close-ups of the drowning were shot in a swimming pool with CGI for the landscape, and it required a near-drowning effort on Tsukamoto’s part.
He was impressed by the uncompromising scale and artistic grandeur of Scorsese’s filmmaking, but also by Scorsese’s positive attitude towards his actors, being open to their ideas – while demanding take after take.
“He would say ‘Excellent’, motivate the cast and shoot over and over again,” he said.
Fortunately, Tsukamoto was already in the character for the role. He had just completed his own 2014 film, “Fires on the Plain,” a brutally solemn and grotesque tale of WWII, which he directed and starred as a nearly starving soldier.
He received advice from a professional Hollywood nutritionist to lose more weight for playing Mokichi, ending up with about 22 pounds (10 kilograms) below his usual weight.
Throughout “Fires on the Plain” the soldiers fight nothing but their own hunger. They fear each other as much as the enemy. The film contained amazing references to cannibalism, which some historians say actually happened.
This kind of limitless storytelling is Tsukamoto’s signature. Over the decades, his stages have been filled with squirming maggots, metallic rock-inspired hits, bloody bangs, stunning cameras, and masochistic yet titillating eroticism.
His Kafka-esque characters inhabit sterile concrete apartments, lost in winding alleys, escalators, and staircases, all seemingly on the verge of collapsing, like a stage set, into another darker reality. And the language of his films juxtaposes the obsessive and the deranged with the child and the lyric.
Maggie Lee, film critic for Variety, calls Tsukamoto “an eccentrically versatile and at times visionary director, who expanded the international fandom for Japanese horror before even hearing about Sion Sono,” referring to the director of “Himizu “and” Cold Fish, “which also has a reputation for being subversive and fiercely independent.
Tsukamoto rose to fame with “Tetsuo,” which launched an award-winning career in what he calls “cult entertainment,” meaning he strives to have fun, with the experimental.
Three years ago, he won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma in Montreal, which presented “Feux dans la plaine”. The work is based on an anti-war novel by Shohei Ooka and was adapted for cinema in 1959 by Kon Ichikawa.
Tsukamoto had been planning to make the movie for two decades but decided the time was right. He fears that Japan, peaceful after its defeat in World War II, will begin to forget the lessons of its past. He was determined to make the film, even if that meant he had to do it practically on his own, he said, setting up a camera in the jungle and then acting in front of that camera.
His 2011 “Kotoko”, which won the Horizons Prize for Innovative Works at the Venice International Film Festival, is a more claustrophobic film, both poetic and heartbreaking.
Cocco, a Japanese pop singer, is excellent as a fragile, self-defeating woman, tormented by her hallucinatory fears of the people around her, as well as the urge to kill her own baby. Tsukamoto plays a novelist, who becomes her lover and endures her blows to gain her trust and help her overcome her psychosis.
Tsukamoto said the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disasters in northeastern Japan gave “Kotoko” special significance as he witnessed the number of mothers concerned for safety. of their children.
“It’s a world in which it has become so difficult to protect those we love,” Tsukamoto said.
He has a lot of ideas for his next movie, maybe a samurai movie, a genre he’s never done, maybe animation, or a childhood movie.
“Those who must go to war are the children. And we fear for our children,” he said.
“Silence” trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0cUtOR-DL1A
“Fires on the Plain” Trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lROv41QOFdI
“Kotoko” trailer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILChkxK-w70
Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama
Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama