quinta-feira, 5 de agosto de 2010

An Interview with Hisayasu Sato (Love - Zero = Infinity)

(Iyarashii Hitozuma: Nureru, 1994)

By Nakashima Yasushi

Q: There's a quote from you in a book in which you apparently said that you hope the audiences who see one of your films will feel like becoming murderes after watching it.
A: (Laughs) Who would say such a horryfying thing? Obviously that expression is a metaphor and an exaggeration. What I wanted to say was that society is becoming more and more individualistic and we all have to question that sometimes. So I didn't mean to encourage people to become murderers, but if you don't defend what you believe in, society can crush you and you lose your beliefs. That's what I wanted to say as a warning to people when I was interviewed. And I think I still tend to put this message in my films.

Q: So you're not suggesting to them to become murderers?
A: Not at all. I have my own beliefs and values and I want my films to transmit them and reach the audience on an emotional level. I always hope that my films stimulate the audience's sensitivities.

Q: On the other hand, do you think it's not a good idea to surpress emotion even if it's a desire to kill someone?
A: Well, if I tell them to kill, it sounds like I'm inciting murder. (Laughs) But at the end of the day, films are entertainment. I want the audience to use as much imagination and emotion as possible within the framework of watching a film. At the end of the day, everything that happens in a film is kind of happening in the space in which the audience is watching the film. I think they should be allowed to feel every emotion the film can transmit to them. And what I portray isn't anything that is supposed to lead them to do anything.

Q: The films normally have titles such as "Hentai Byoto" (Pervert Ward - Torturing White Uniforms) or Iyarashi Hitozuma Nureru (Love - Zero = Infinity). But these titles are not intended for release, are they?
A: These are the titles of the original screenplays. Basically, when we start shooting a film we use the original title to begin with, but if we use a "Pervert Ward" type of title for a release, people would report us to the police, so must of the films have titles for public consumption as well. But the titles have to be related to the storyline.

Q: So one of the reasons why they have two titles is in case you get in trouble?
A: Well, I guess you're right. (Laughs) Another reason is when shooting starts, the title hasn't been normally been finalized. So, well I guess the biggest reason is that when we open a screenplay in a town, we need an acceptable title.

Q: Personally, do you prefer the original title to remain as the final title?
A: Well, I'm more used to the original title, and so when they change the storyline title to the final title for cinema it doesn't click in my mind straight away when i hear it. So I sometimes think, are they talking about my film? (Laughs) I get confused sometimes...

Q: And also you've used different names for some films?
A: Yes, you're right!

Q: I see two different names in some of your films. What is the reason behind that?
A: Well.. well.. because my films were too radical, they said they didn't want any more Sato films. (Laughs) Well, I did have trouble once before.

Q: But don't they find out it's you anyway?
A: Apparently, when they see the first scene, they can tell it's one of my films. For "Love - Zero = Infinity" we actually gave the distributor a different screenplay and made them agree to the project first. (Laughs) Well, maybe I can explain how it works. Normally, distributors request us to shoot a particular genre of film, and sometimes its "housewife" stuff and other times is "pervert" stuff. When we shot this film, we gave them a screenplay of another housewife type of film and let them agree on it. This is strictly off-the-record. And when the film shoot was completed, they realized it was an outrageous film. It was actually an infamous film. But actually this film is one of my personal favorites. Because I had to trick the distributor first to do what i wanted to do. I ended up putting all my effort into it.

Q: How you came to shoot "Love - Zero..."?
A: Ok. I briefly told you earlier that i used a different name on this piece and called myself Junichi Hata. I wrote the screenplay myself when I was an assistant director and also appeared as an extra in it. I experienced problems for a time because my films were too outrageous and weren't just erotic pink films. The theme of this film was the Dracula of the new generation, but we didn't think the distributor would accept it if we presented the screenplay as it was. Because when they hear about pink films with a housewife theme, they expect rather sexy housewife action, and that wasn't the case here. So we presented another screenplay and let them agree on it. And then shot the film we wanted to make. The films is actually one of my favorites. I guess when we do something we shouldn't have done the feelings of guilt push you to work harder to achieve better results. Also the atmosphere at the location was rather good.

Q: Is it about HIV?
A: I thought of issues such as blood diseases and the blood issue about Emperor Hirohito. I wanted to use them as a theme.

Q: When you say blood issues, what do you exactly mean?
A: I mean blood transfusions. At the time, it wasn't widely publicized in the media, but there was an accident when Hirohito needed a blood transfusion and they wouldn't take any blood for normal citizens. As you know, the Japanese Emperor system didn't allow them to do so. Then the Showa period ended, and the Heisei one started. Obviously, that change was a big change for us. For the close of the Showa Period (the reign of the Emperor Hirohito), I wanted to shoot a film with the theme of blood and used Dracula as the main theme. But that said, it obviously wasn't an ordinary Dracula film. Anyway, I then told the screenplay writter what I wanted to do.

Q: The screenplayer writter of this film was...
A: Shiro Yumeno. And the funny thing is that Yumeno also used another name for this film. He picked the name from one of the characters in the film. So when you hear that Toro Besho wrote the screenplay, you might wonder who he is.

Q: Did he changed the name for the same reason as you?
A: Yes, you're right.

Q: You've already told us about Kiyomi Ito, so the next actor is...
A: Yes, the husband..

Q: He's a well-known actor in the Japanese film industry, but for people abroad, I guess he's not that well known. Do you know his background?
A: I probably told you that when I was a student, I saw Banmei Takahashi's films. Anyway, he had already appeared in those Takahashi films by then. So he's from a much older generation than I am. At the time, Banmei Takahashi was shooting many SM type of films and when I was assistant director, I worked on many Takahashi productions such as the Shuji Kataoka movies. Anyway, Shimomoto originally started in the theater and still does some street performances.

Q: How about Takeshi Ito? He's been an actor for a long time too, hasn't he?
A: Actually, his debut was in my film called "Lolita Vibu-zeme" (Lolita's Vibrator Torture, 1987) which Shishi Production brought from Nikkatsu. You might come across the DVD of the film under the title of "Himitsuno Hanazono". The assistant of the film was Takahisa Zeze, and he met Takeshi Ito when he was shooting independent films. Apparently, Takeshi Ito decided to get into the film industry because he admired the actor.. that actor in "Chochir... that actor who died...

Q: Shoji Kaneko...
A: Yes, Shoji Kaneko! Ito wanted to be like Shoji Kaneko so he decided to join the same production which was by Eichii Uchida's theatre group called "Ginmaku Shonen Dar". At that time, I liked using inexperienced actors in my films. And the assistant director introduced me to him. He was very tall, about 189 cm. And after that he started appearing in some pink and commercial films.

Q:....
Koji Imaizumi was a member of a theatre group called "Tokyo Grand Guignol". Norimitsu Ameya or Kyusaku Shimada were also members of the same theatre group. One of his fellow actors who was appearing in my films often took him to see the private recordings. I was a bit worried at first because most of the male actors in my films are quite tough and he looked rather weak and quiet. But once I shouted "Start", he completly changed. And he really got into that character. I find those guys who normally appear quiet and have a great potential to utterly change and get into the role, like a bullet being fired.

Q: So, you had a lot of interesting characters in this film?
A: Yes, many characters in this film had very strong personalities. Also, Dai Hiramatsu who played a young guy in this film was also a friend of the assistant director. The assistant director of this film was Shinji Imaoka, who still shoots pink films. He belonged to a thetre group, maybe an actor's circle in University. Anyway, he somehow ended up being in film. Also, Homura Ryumei, who was actually an actress in this film, is now a man.

Q: Did she have a sex change?
A: (Laughs) I don't know if I should've told you this, but yes, she's had a sex change

Q: So you did spend the same amount of time shooting and directing "Love - Zero = Infinity" as on "Survey Map"
A: Yes, right.

Q: I see. Was there anything that took you a long time to do?
A: Oh yes! The screenplay of the film was too long. Normally when we shot pink films, we have to fit it all into 65 minutes. But when we first edited this film, it was around 90 minutes long. So I had to cut a lot of scenes. I remember Shiro Shimomoto said to me: "I've been in hundreds of pink films, but i've never had so many of my scenes cut." He told me that after seeing it at the private showing. I had to cut it a lot.

Q: I didn't notice that in the film.
A: Luckily I could cut the supporting scenes, so in the end I achieved a good balance.

Q: You didn't have to cut so much when you shot "Survey Map"?
A: Well, when we edit, normally it's longer than what it should be, but "Survey Map" wasn't too bad. But I was very surprised how long "Love - Zero" ended up being when edited. When I edit, it's quite common for the film to be around 75 minutes or so long. So I was expecting 10 minutes extra, but I was wrong.

Q: Earlier, you mentioned that the theme of the film was Dracula. When they hear the term Dracula, people abroad think of Vampires or Frankenstein. When they saw this film, they thought you shot it because you were interested in that. And the question is why don't you shoot this kind of film anymore?
A: Talking about Dracula, I thought of Nosferatu by F. Murnau , and Herzog, and the ones before the war. I'm a big fan of Expressionism. So when I shot this film, I deliberately shot it to make it look like a black and white film, even though it was in color. For example, I consistently used three colors in some scenes. I used a lot of visual technique like making the contrast a bit stronger. With "Survey Map", I did this to reduce image sensitivity ratings. We actually use the opposite technique more often which is to increase image sensitivity ratings by reducing color balance in order to increase graininess when developing the film. But for "Survey Map" I use the technique to reduce image sensitivities ratings. When you use this technique, the images will have a weaker color balance. And it causes a strange white membrane to remain on the base of the film. That's a kind of technique I used for "Survey Map", and for "Love - Zero" I consciously used three colors. So I used filter effects on some scenes during the editing process and combined all the scenes together in the end.

Q: So you wanted to express a more non-colorful impression?
A: Monotone was more appropriate for this film in order to enance the atmosphere. When you say vampire film, I think that's more suitable. For example, when you see old German films, like a Murnau one, you probably notice the different ways of using color like that blue they often used. Even their red looks different to ours.

Q: So in that sense, you got inspiration from those vampire films?
A: Well, in the terms of the visual side of it, yes. But story wise, I wanted to portray the same theme from different angles using blood transfusion issues as well as HIV issues. I think if you try making a pure Japanese vampire film, it wouldn't look natural. That's how i felt at that time.

Q: If you have a chance in the future would you shoot a film using the same theme?
A: Do you mean a vampire film?

Q: Yes, and one inspired by old horror films.
A: Well, yes. I didn't shoot this film to make it an horror film but it ended up being one and it was, I guess, inevitable.

Q: They think they use a lot of blood in your films? Why do you like using blood so much?
A: I wonder why too... At the end of the day, we can't live without blood. For "Love -Zero" I thought of the fact that blood that circulates us can be infected sometimes by an energy outside of our bodies which we have control of. Blood is something that exists before our bodied are formed and is our root. I was always interested in knowing what blood really is, ever since I was a child. When I was a child, I used to have nosebleeds very often. There's a child game called "hide-and-seek" in Japan. I used to wrap my body in plastic sheets that I found on a construction site. I think it was at kindergarten that I started to have nosebleeds and the bleeding wouldn't stop for a long time. Then the blood started dropping on the sheet, and I thought I'd die if it didn't stop. So I started swallowing the blood. And obviously it tastes like iron. Then I thought about why we all bleed and what blood is and what my blood is really like. Human blood are divided into four types: A, B, 0 and AB and I wondered what the real difference between these blood types was. When I looked at the blood it looked very thick and muddy. And I thought this could be the reason why human beings are two faced and behave strangely sometimes. I thought that's all to do with this pouring blood. And if we have to have a complete blood transfusion and swap our blood completly, I wondered if our personality might also change. I was interested in that sort of thing when I was a child.

Q: So portraying blood is like portraying human beings?
A: Yes, Japanese people usually use two different faces in different circumstances. So I thought, why can't we all express what we are more honestly? What are we really? Are we actually carrying green blood and not red? Well, that's a bit of an exageration, but we all have a desire to know what the other person actually thinks. So we all want to see the naked mind os the others, but we're not able to show our own. Especially Japanese people, who seem to be wearing a mask all the time. And I am the same. And I thought I wanted to get rid of any dirty blood that I might have. And there might be a possibility that because your blood is so pure you become more agressive in order to protect yourself from evil. So I thought of blood as a root of human beings and portrayed that in my film.

Q: Did you think that it's mysterious that blood is colored red?
A: They sell bottled artificial blood for theatre use that is not harmful, even if accidentally swallowed. But when we use it, it sometimes looks a bit unnatural. It seems like it all depends on the film quality. So I was very particular about those blood scenes when shooting. So I used different ways to make the blood look darker and more realistic, rather than using the brighter stuff. For example, I put Chinese ink into it, as well as red food dye. When we make a lot of blood at the same time, we normally put red food dye in it, but it wasn't enough to make it stickier and more realistic, so I added Chinese ink and a bit of lotion. I asked the assistant director to put it all in a bucket and stir it. And I checked the stickiness of it from time to time until it got right.

Q:...
A: When I first start making films, everyone seemed to think that bloody scenes were my main focus. So when I shot "Love - Zero" I wanted to make a film that made the audience feel and imagine the blood without many blood scenes. When you think of a vampire film, I guess you think of blood as the main theme, but I wanted to make a film by portraying that theme whithout actually showing blood.

Q: Earlier you said that "Survey Map" was one of your greatest films. How about "Love - Zero"?
A: Well, this is another one of my greatest films. (Laughs) So, you've got all my greatest films. But as a film, I guess "Love - Zero" had a higher quality in the finished film. I managed to portray and visualize what I envisaged in the first place. Personally, I would say that this film could be one of the best pink films ever.

Q: Among all pink films?
A: Yes. That's my personal opinion. I know it all really depends on what the audiences think of it (Laughs). But to me it was the film I could be totally satisfied with when it was completed.

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