terça-feira, 3 de agosto de 2010

An Interview with Hisayasu Sato (Survey Map of Paradise Lost)

(Hard-Focus: Nusumi-Giki, 1988)

By Nakashima Yasushi

Q: In order to make a living, do pink film directors have to shoot as many films as possible in a short period?
A: Yes, but pink films aren't always profitable and you sometimes end up bearing some of the loss. It's a very hard industry. The budget is always small from the beggining, but when shooting starts it's hard to keep it as low as the producer wants. Because you want to make a good film, so the spending rises.

Q: So if you keep costs low then your fee will automatically be higher?
A: Yes, I guess so.

Q: But I guess it's difficult to work in that way... Is it the same for actors and actresses?
A: (Laughs) I don't tend do ask what they do, but I'd guess most have a second job. For actresses when they're young, they get offered many projects but as they get older, roles for them in pink films become less and less. Up to a certain age they might be able to make a living from it. But you can be young or old, a man or a woman, it's hard to make a living out of it without some kind of a second job.

Q: Adult video is another thing they try, I guess?
A: Well, I suppose, but it depends on how the AV industry is doing.

Q: Is there much difference (between Pink and Adult Video) ?

A: I suppose the main difference would have to be the subject matter.

Q: Is working in pink films just like studying at film school, where you learn new technical skills?
A: (Laughs) At the time, it was very difficult to become a director, after having only three years of assistant director experience. I was 25 years old when I became a director, and it was almost impossible to have such an opportunity elsewhere. It's different now as many young people do good work in the TV film industry, but that's how it was for me at the time.

Q: I guess it's difficult to get into film...
A: Yes, that's right.

Q: What do you think the biggest differences are between Japan and the West in understanding your films?
A: Well, how can i put it? As regards to my own films, because i've been influenced by western culture since i was a child, you'd think my films would be rather westernized. But when I make a film, my origins are clearly projected on the film and it seems obvious. At the end of the day, I'm japanese, and I think that's something unexplainable very deep in my soul. For example, the coolness and brutality you sometimes see in my films are things I don't think about all the time but it's naturally portrayed in my films. If I and a western director were both given the same screenplay, the two films that we'd both make would probably be very different. And that's something very difficult to analyze and explain.

Q: ...
A: Japan is turning towards individualism more and more thanks to western influences. It used to be as if you would open a door to a big room and your parents and grandparents would be there in the family environment, but now they're in small private rooms and society has become rather twisted. Japanese people are known for liking to be in a group, such as when they go abroad. So it seems that even now, although we all have small private spaces we still like to feel that we belong to a group and experiencing human contact. That's why you hear of young kids creating a fictional family or friends in their own fantasy world that they can control through their computer. I think it's very unnatural behaviour.

Q: So you think it's rather twisted when kids rely on fictional families?

A: I see a very strange world full of twisted and selfish emotions. Kids decide how to perceive reality on their own.

Q: How did you come to make "Survey Map of a Paradise Lost"?
A: I was asked to shoot a film that used an eavesdropper as a subject and I saw Francis Ford Coppola's film... what was the title?

Q: "The Conversation"?
A: Yes, "The Conversation". I like that film. At that time, there was a story on the news that a member of staff at NTT (Telecom) had been exposed as an eavesdropper and I thought that it wasn't really suited to be an regular entertainment film, so I decided to make into a pink film by using the incident at NTT and I expanded the story into a complete fiction.

Q: In the film, you used NDT instead of NTT.
A: Yes, I changed the name.

Q: But it's quite obvious, isn't it?

A: (Laughs) Yes, it is!

Q: So you used the social conditions of the time as a motif.
A: That's right. And I'd always been intrested in the subject of eavesdropping. I think there's a kind of thrill in secretly listening in to someone else's conversation using electronic waves. And if you take it a stage further, it's like you're invanding someone's mind, almost like telepathy. It's almost a realization that people have two faces. They might be wearing a smile on the outside but you can see they probably aren't smiling on the inside. And you see the two faces that human beings have. That's what i wanted to portray.

Q: Talking about the actors. How about Ms. Ito?
A: Yes, Kiyomi Ito...

Q: Kiyomi Ito seems to be the heroine of your films at that time.
A: Yes, she's been the heroine since i shot my debut film. She's actually the same age as me.

Q: Is she the best actress that you've used?

A: The best actress? I guess so. Well, she's not the sexiest actress, and she's very short. So, I didn't like to use her because she is sexy, but because she has individuality and a strong personality. She's very different to others from the mainstream. She's good at bridging the gap between herself and the mainstream.

Q: So you like her expressive qualities?
A: Not only that, but also her way of thinking and personality. Technically, she isn't the best actress or anything, but she adds something extra to what i wanted to portray. She enhances the atmosphere. She breaths life into a film as if she's dancing. I'm not saying she actually dances, though (Laughs).

Q: She adds meaning to your vision?
A: Yes, that's right. She understands what i want to portray very well. So I cast her as a leading character in many of my films.

Q: I couldn't find much for Kiyomi Ito's personal profile, but it is right that she started working on original video?

A: Video.. well I think she was doing many things. But originally she belonged to a theater company and worked in the costume department. And I believe she was doing that sort of video work as well as film work as part-time jobs in order to make a living. I guess she was about 22 years old when she started pink movies. I first met her at an interview when I was an assistant director.

Q: I see. You were a interviewer then?
A: Well, I had to do casting as well and that's how I met her. I saw this dull quiet-looking girl walk into the cafe we were casting in. And she said "good-afternoon" in a very soft voice. We were looking for an actress for a comedy, so we thought she wasn't suitable at all. But we used her for SM films a couple of times and that's how we started working together. A director called Umezawa, who's dead now, directed those. Anyway, she's been in so many films. I guess she was in around 100 films a year. Now she owns a hostess club in Golden Town.

Q: So most of the actors have come from some kind of acting background?
A: Well, some of them are from theater and others are from Adult Video. We get different types of people all the time. We sometimes get actors from drama school. Actor's backgrounds are getting broader and broader nowadays.

A: I just remembered about Rio Yamagawa. "Survey Map of a Paradise Lost" was her last film. She didn't even turn up for the post-recording.

Q: Is that so?
A: Yes! (Laughs) Perhaps I shouldn't have tell you this.

Q: So, it's not her voice?
A: No, it's Kyoko Hashimoto's. Do you know her?

Q: Do you mean...?
A: Yes, Yes. I think she was the most popular pink actress at the time. We asked her to do the job on the day of post-recording. So it ended up being a better film.

Q: There's a scene on the top of a building.

A: Wait a second. Do you mean the last scene?

Q: I think it was in the middle of the film...
A: Ah.. I think it was the scene I shot in New State Mega

Q: It's when they're talking about Yukiko Okada commiting suicide.
A: Yes, Yes! She's talking about the lunchbox shop. Yes, I remember now.

Q: After that scene, she's wearing red clothes, and the scene is shot with a kind of blue effect.
A: I got you. Yes I remember. That was the top of our production company's building. It was called New State Mega. At the time, we used that location quite a lot.

Q: So, it's Rio Yamagawa in the film, but it's Kyoko Hashimoto's voice?
A: That's right. I spoke to Rio the day before and told her what time the post-recording session would be. But she didn't showed up for recording. A couple of months later, I was reading a magazine and saw a face that was very familiar. She looked like Rio but her eyes were different. She'd had cosmetic surgery and went into Adult Video under a new name.

Q: So it was her re-debut?
A: That's right. She had a very strong personality, but she was originally from Northern Japan. And she had a very strong accent. But Kyoko Hashimoto came in and voiced her character in the film. So everything turned out okay.

Q: So, when you shot "Survey Map of a Paradise Lost" did you complete it within four days?
A: Well, I'm not sure if we finished everything within four days. It might've taken five days to finish everything. We normally use twenty reels of film with one reel containing about 400 feet. So in total it's around 80 minutes and the finished film should be an hour. And there's unused film between takes that we have to cut. Anyway, the editing process takes around a day to complete. We edit it to a rough version and then we start to tweak it. After that we move onto post-recording. And as we're doing that we're still tweaking one or two bits, but we do that in one day too. We work in a studio to create any necessary sound effects such as the incidental noises that aren't picked up during filming. Then we spend a day on dubbing. We call it MA. That's how we complete a film. Because we used quite a lot of video shots it took a comparatively long time to edit the footage into a film. There were times when we couldn't find the necessary footage and realized that we'd shot over the scene and deleted it. (Laughs) So we do sometimes have this kind of trouble. That's what caused us to delay the completion of the film. Also when we get into a shoot, there's a strange atmoshphere. I tend to become absorbed in the process and it's hard to maintain a normal mentality in such an environment. I got very excited and the tension is very high. I forget the time and I don't get tired even if it turns into a night shot. It doesn't seem to matter. My mind is fully awake. Not only with "Survey Map", being on location is always exciting, it's just like being in a film itself. I got very emotional.

A: I think it was this film... Sorry my memory is not that good. Anyway in the film, Kiyomi Ito's character has an itchy skin condition that she has to scratch. So she can't have normal sex with her husband, and he has to apply a lot of lotion to her and chill her skin during intercourse. So that portrayed a kind of itchiness, which is accompained by pain. In Japan, people call sex scenes, "a wet place". So we tend to think of wet skin as being very erotic. So when I shoot a sex scene, I tend to consciously use wetness. I like using a mucous membrane or imagine sex in amniotic fluid. For this film, I wanted to look at things from a different perspective and decided to use a slightly different visual expression using such scenes.

Q: I guess you needed a lot of effort to make that happen...
A: Yes, It's like I said earlier about eavesdropping, trying to get into other people's emotions of what they are thinking deep down. I wanted to portray communication, not just linguistic communication, but communication through human senses. But communication through the body inevitably distorts the messages. But their desire to share something with someone drives them mad. Then their sense of touch becomes dysfunctional. Then we realize how vulnerable the human senses are. Well, that was the kind of thing i was thinking when i made this movie. I think human beings are leading a more and more twisted existence. For example, you hear that because of poor construction standards, we're actually unconsciously inhaling harmful substances such as asbestos. When talking about our culture, we're becoming somewhat disabled. Because of all the problems that you hear about nowadays and looking at our current society, I can't help think there is a link.

Q: So the electric shocks you used are a way of communicating?
A: Oh, well yes. They are. A lot of time in my films, the theme or subject I use is carried across from the other films. In my film, "Abnormal Ingyaku" (Re-Wind, 1988), I wanted to portray a reality that only exists in the film. And with "Survey Map" I explored the relationship between man and machine. I think i wanted to portray a human being replaced by some sort of eavesdropping device or a person that has become a kind of telephone receiver.

Q: A human as a machine.
A: Yes, just like a machine. The communication between the a receiver and a transmitter represents human communication.

Q: They're human, but not totally.
A: Right.

Q: "In Survey Map", Rio Yamagawa plays a girl called Midori. Do you think Midori was the victim, or was she the assailant?
A: Such a difficult question (Laughs).

Q: She was trying to trick Kihara but at the same time she was also being abused by him.
A: But human beings are victims and assailants at the same time. That's how our existence works in everyday life. We use a lot of metaphor to portray reality. So I'm not interested in categorizing individuals as just victims or assailants.

Q: So she can be both?
A: Yes. And she flips from one to the other. Even more if she's a teenager, because teenage years are a very sensitive period and teenagers can experience two very opposite worlds. Midori's a sensitive girl, but she can't yet fully understand what she really is. And she can't controll her emotions. I'm interested in that kind of mentality. A personality that is totally fluid. She's sensitive but at the same time possesses cruelty. As if she's carrying a concealed knife.

Q: Is it more evident because she's a girl?

A: When she's thinking of death, she's kind of in a fantasy world but ends up mixing this world with reality and committing a crime.

Q: Is "Survey Map" a film that portrays hatred towards women?
A: I think the film portrays respect towards women! (Laughs) I adore the fact that women can possess a kind of poison. The side they think is in their womb. It's something very mysterious that, as man, I can't understand. Only the actresses in the film can do this and add a delicacy and a sensivity so I have to entrust it to them.

A: We talked about the electric cable scene earlier. Anyway, that's their way of feeling their nature as women and making it tangible. I'm not talking about the pain, it's more of an exchange of love for them. It's not abuse; it's something mutual between men and women. Because she wants to understand a deeper side of her man, she uses her body to communicate. And the pain isn't something important to her and she wants to tap into the emotions and minds of men. If I call it love, it might sound too much but she does that because she wants to penetrate into men's emotions.

Q: So it's not hatred.
A: No, it's not.

Q: You were saying that it's one way that love can be expressed. And you're not wishing to humiliate women.

A: I used this kind of expression in the film but actually some of my films use a completly opposite portrayal. One of my films is about the lives of gay men and that film has the same theme but portrays things in an opposite way. But i can't deny that is much easier and more effective to portray this theme using a female body.

Q: Out of all your films, how would you rank "Survey Map"?
A: It's one of my favorites. The films i shot from 1988 to 1989 are probably my best films. I managed to shoot the films I wanted to in that period. I think i shot around five or six films that year. But I managed to shoot what i wanted for all the films.

Q: So, they are your greatest films.
A: (Laughs) Greatest films! You can say that!

Q: In any case, your best films
A: Yes, I suppose.

Q: Thinking about how society was at that time was there anything that consciously affected you?
A: Well, it was just before the crash of the bubble economy. Everyone seemed to be weak and idolizing money. But my life was very hard. So there was this massive gap between society in a bubble economy and myself trying to shoot pink films. And I asked myself: "Has something gonw wrong?"

Q: So the feelings you had led you to shoot these kind of films?
A: Yes, I suppose so.

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