Interview with Yukiko Mishima,
Director of “Shape of Red（The Housewife）”
Interviewer :Sang Hyun Hong
First of all, I would like to say "welcome back" to the director. You came to the Jeonju International Film Festival for the first time in 2015 with "A stich of life" and again in 2017 with "Dear Etranger", and that summer you won the Special Grand Jury Prize at the Montreal World Film Festival. He came to Jeonju for the third time with "Red," his first new film in three years. The words "to return to one's hometown" come to mind. How do you feel about returning to Jeonju International Film Festival?
Mishima) I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I am very happy to be able to say to everyone at the festival and in Korea, "I am home. The Jeonju International Film Festival is a very important film festival that first discovered my film. It took me 10 years to make " A stich of life " after I planned it myself, and it was the people of Korea and the Jeonju International Film Festival who discovered the merits of this film before anyone else. The Jeonju International Film Festival, which I visited for the first time, was a very passionate film festival where the audience was able to see the film from a pure perspective and discover the diversity of the filmmaker, regardless of fame or power, and the people of the city were very excited. When " Dear Etranger " was screened as a world premiere, I remember being overflowing with joy and saying, "I'm back! I remember how overflowing with joy I felt when I saw the world premiere of "Born to Be a Young Child". I am happy to report to you that the film was released in Korea and won an award at the Montreal World Film Festival thanks to your support. Thank you very much. And I am truly honored that "Shape of Red" was also screened. If it wasn't for the Covid Disaster, I would have liked to fly to Jeonju, but I couldn't make it, so I am very disappointed. I am truly happy and elated that everyone in Korea, who has a high aesthetic sense to judge the quality of a film, will be able to see it. I am very much looking forward to hearing your impressions.
Let's go back in time to the 1970s. A four-year-old girl who was learning ballet saw "The Red Shoes" (1948) with her father at a famous movie theater. This has two major implications. First, the girl's dream after seeing this film was to become a film director after that day. Second, the Korean title of this film is "The Peach-colored Shoes", but the original title in English is "The Red Shoes". When she became a film director, the international title for "Red" was "Shape of Red," which opened up new horizons in filmography. Red is a somewhat fateful color.
Mishima) For me, the color red reminds me of something that I cannot resist. Your analysis of "fatalistic" reminds me of that.
The Red Shoes" is based on Andersen's fairy tale, which tells that "if you wear red shoes, you will have to dance forever. In "Red," the red flag is a warning sign, and the two are led to a car (Kurata's Volvo) by a snowy wind. Moreover, the two of them easily cross over without even glancing at the red flag. It is as if they have no idea how big it is.
The same is true of the "red" in the sky in the last scene. No matter what kind of place it is, they have no choice but to face it. Red" is something that is born from an impulse, something that cannot be resisted, something that cannot be resisted, and that is what I was thinking while filming.
It is no exaggeration to say that filmmaking is "Red" itself.
No matter how difficult the situation may be, once the urge to "make this film" has sprouted in your heart, you cannot nip it in the bud, not even by yourself. No one can resist it, and I feel that this is what "Red" is. This work, for me, could be called "Red" itself.
I think my later life was very different from that of my contemporaries. As a child, my idols were François Truffaut and David Lean. In high school, I was exposed to theater. I think those experiences must have influenced director Mishima's tendency to cast actors who truly fit the character of her films, not simply popular stars, and to create the best possible result through deep communion.
Mishima)As Mr. Hong said, whether an actor is a star or not is not a high priority for me. What I look for in an actor is very simple. First of all, someone who can build a trusting relationship with us, who can work together on a single piece of work, facing the same direction and suffering from the same problems. Even if we have different approaches or disagreements, we face each other properly and communicate with each other through words and acting. Since a relationship of trust is important, I also take great care to make sure that the actors can perform with ease.
Another important thing is to make sure that the actor is prepared as much as possible to become CHARACTER. For example, I take the time to delicately imagine the time spent by the CHARACTER. And it gives us time to build a relationship with the actor who will be performing with us.
Also, when casting, the voice is important. If you ask for an actor whose voice is close to the image of the character, you will usually get a close image of how he or she will look. It is said that the voice is the tone produced by a musical instrument using the body as a vessel, and I truly believe this. So I try to find a balance so that no two people have similar voices.
As Mr. Hong told us, I have been going to the great movie theaters since I was a small child. The people in the films of David Lean, Truffaut, John Cassavetes, Mikio Naruse, and Shohei Imamura that I saw there never once seemed fictional. The actors certainly create a person who has lived that life. The balance of the voices is also in very good harmony. I wanted to achieve that in the films I saw at that time, " La Femme d'à côté," " Jules et Jim," "Ryan's Daughter," "Faces," " When a woman ascends the stairs," Kenji Mizoguchi's " THE LIFE OF OHARU," and the characterization in Agnes Varda's "Le Bonheur". Now, Lee Chang-dong, Stephen David Daldry CBE
. I am also studying character development in Im Kwon-taek's "西便制 Seopyeonje ," and acting by Jung Do-young, Song Gang-ho, Ethan Hawke, and others.
During his college years, he devoted himself to working part-time, and his purpose is very interesting. In high school, the words "I write scenarios even during class" were written on your report card, and your part-time job was done for the purpose of making your own films. What made you so passionate about film?
Mishima) When I was in high school, I wrote short, medium, and feature-length screenplays during physics class. I wanted to shoot it as soon as I wrote it, but the high school I went to had a school rule against part-time work. I followed it, so I guess I was serious (laughs).
At that time, 8mm film and developing costs were expensive, and the production cost about 500,000 yen for a film of less than one hour in length. So I thought I would do my best to pass the entrance exam, get a part-time job right after entering university, and shoot the film.
05 Why you went that far to make the film?
Mishima)It is clear.
It is because when I was six years old, I was sexually abused by a man I did not know. It was an incident that changed my life forever. At that time, I felt that I was unclean and that I did not deserve to live, even though I really did not. For a long time, I could not escape that pain. One day, I found a movie pamphlet from home and remembered "The Red Shoes," which I had seen for the first time. The movie was more beautiful than anything I had ever seen before, and the main character, unable to choose her life, commits suicide. As I thought about the main character who committed suicide, I thought to myself, "Like that main character, I too can die at any time. Thinking that made me feel lighter. I am free to live and to die. I realized that.
Then, I started going to a small movie theater. Around that time, in fact, I also started learning ballet ...... (laughs). Ballet lessons and going to a classic movie theater became a habit. That's where I saw a lot of movies when I was in elementary school, and they taught me. I don't know if I am worth living. But "this world is worth living in." Daveed Lean, Truffaut, Chaplin, Naruse, Ozu, Agnes Varda, Spielberg.
So I thought I would make a film for people like myself, who have been hurt and lost the power to live, that would make them think, "This world is worth living in. That is the reason.
" Bread of Happiness," the first film by the director to be introduced in Korea, was released on 13 screens in June 2012, and his book of the same title, published in November of the same year, sold 170,000 copies. The only other Korean writers to have sold as many copies are Umberto Eco ("Foucault's Pendulum") and the great Korean writer Choi In-hun ("The Plaza"). I think you have a great talent as a literary writer.
Mishima) Thank you very much. I am afraid to be lined up with all these Great Novelists, and there is no comparison. However, I am very happy that everyone in Korea loved it as well. After all, the name Yukiko Mishima was given to me because my father loved Yukio Mishima's novels. I have always felt that name as a burden (laughs).
In "Bread of Happiness," I wanted to make a film as if you were traveling through the world of a picture book that you turn page by page, so I depicted the story from an objective point of view. As you can see in the last scene, the story is told by the spirits, or the lives that will be born in the future. To begin with, the theme of this work is "share," and I wanted the audience to feel the "circulation" in the structure of the story. Various people appear, each influencing the other, and eventually, as a result, life chooses this place to be born and prepares to be born.
When I thought about this, I first thought that it would be a kind of polyphonic crowd novel.
First, I wanted to carefully depict each person's raw emotions, with the subject matter changing from chapter to chapter. As for the form of expression of the emotions, the style will change from the conception of a written composition, an interview from a reporter, a diary, a letter, and a picture book that the main character cherishes.... This is the result of our search for the most natural way to convey each person's humanity.
And secondly, we wanted to look at the same time we shared, but from a different perspective. We wanted to make the same event seem multifaceted.
I also wanted the scenes, the descriptions of food, and even the emotions of the characters to be pleasant to read aloud. Since I am a filmmaker to begin with, it would be poor if I aimed for beautiful writing techniques. Therefore, I wanted the film to be read as if someone were reading and listening to someone else's diary aloud.
Films are made together with many people. I believe that film is a comprehensive art form, and that the power of many people creates a groove that results in a powerful work of art. On the other hand, a novel is almost a one-person process. The meaning can change drastically with a single expression of one's own words. This is an interesting but also frightening part of the process. I think it is a very good balance for me to do both the act of writing, which is a painful pursuit of the self but infinitely free, and film expression, which expands infinitely through sessions with many people.
After graduating from university, I started working not on set, but at NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation). For the next 10 years, you lived as a documentary director. I believe that you became the source of the "dramaturgy" (dramaturgy) of drama, which finds dramatic elements in the everyday life of ordinary people.
Mishima)Yes, that's right. As Mr. Hong mentioned, the documentary experience had a great influence on me.
I think there are very dramatic elements hidden in everyday life. When I shot my first feature-length documentary, the theme was "aging. An elderly woman who was watering flowers with a peaceful expression on her face and appreciating them with her fingers suddenly looked at one point with eyes that were not focused on any object and said, "Flowers respond to me. If I water them, they grow and bloom. Humans don't work that way," she murmured. The change in her expression at that moment was very significant, and it was a moment of accumulated complex emotions. Another time, a woman sitting in a room where all she could hear was the pendulum, suddenly slowly put on her already deceased husband's glasses. They were the wrong power and too big for her face. It was, I thought, a moment of great drama created in reality.
One 80-year-old woman, her eyes sparkling like a teenage girl in love, suddenly put on a sunny dress, bought flowers, and headed to the graduation ceremony of the boy with whom she had corresponded.
In a documentary about one family, I felt a war going on within the family. They are jostling for survival. Of course, there is no murder or abuse going on. The sisters are fighting a daily battle to win or lose. They smile at the love they receive from their parents and the recognition they receive from their teachers, but the smallest things hurt their dignity and each other's. ・・・・・・ One day, out of the blue, the younger sister decided to go to church. And her sister decided to go too. They had never talked about what had happened before, but through silent prayer, there was a moment of connection between them. It was a moment when their relationship was greatly moved by the intervention of an unrelated third party. I was taught that by carefully looking at one family, we can see the human being.
In the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, evacuees in a park secured food, divided up space, worked together to set up tents, and put up nameplates. Eventually a leader was chosen. Of course, there were differences of opinion. This was the process of community formation as it was, and the basic form of community came into view. Seeing them share food, space, sorrow, and small joys, I was taught that to live together among humans is to share. This theme is directly the theme of Bread of Happiness. Sharing bread. I thought that by showing this visually, I could convey this idea in a striking way.
This is a story from my own experience. After the Kobe earthquake, I was taking a bath and ran out into the kitchen completely naked. I was soaking wet, and my mother covered me from above. After the shaking stopped and the furniture fell and shattered, my mother took a lipstick from the mirror stand in our badly damaged house, put rouge on her lips, and began to clean up. I think this was the moment when I saw her strength and determination to live. At this time, my room was half destroyed.
In this vein, I came to the conclusion that in my film I wanted to depict the great drama in ordinary everyday life.
The reason I mention this period specifically has to do with the art world of Jane Austen, an English writer whom the director associates with me. Jane Austen created an elaborate world of work grounded in realism while experimenting with a variety of techniques common to the literary genres prevalent in her day. Ultimately, it may also have something to do with the director's background as a director of documentaries.
Mishima) Somerset Maugham, whom I admire, said of Jane's novels. 'There is one merit which Miss Austen has and which I have almost omitted to mention. She is wonderfully readable – more readable than some greater and more famous novelists. She deals, as Walter Scott said, with commonplace things, ‘the involvements, feelings and characters of ordinary life’; nothing very much happens in her books, and yet, when you come to the bottom of a page, you eagerly turn it to learn what will happen next. Nothing very much does and again you eagerly turn the page. The novelist who has the power to achieve this has the most precious gift a novelist can possess."
In 2021, I planned and directed NHK's drama "5-meter radius," and I thought that if we look at what happens within a 5-meter radius of ourselves, we can see society and people.
My short film "Ode to Joy," which was invited as a master class at the Venice Cafoscari Short Film Festival, is about an elderly woman who is worried about the cost of living after the Covid disaster, and who gets involved in an insurance crime with a young man. During the Covid disaster, I kept thinking about what peace of mind means. Many old people looked out to sea every day. In one diner, three women about 70 years old were talking. 'Now our life expectancy is 100 years. We have to live another 30 years. What should we do?" Given the economic situation in Japan, everyone is worried about how long the pension system will last. On the other hand, I heard a volunteer story from a person who had lived in India. She said that in India, there are volunteers who carry people who are dying on the streets into buildings and hold them and take care of them until they die. They said that when they hold them like babies, they all die with happy smiles on their faces. At that moment, I thought to myself. I began writing the script with these three elements in mind: "If there is someone who acknowledges that you are indeed present, people will feel secure. The result is a work that, in my mind, strongly moves toward hope, in that the two of them, having shared the fear of crime, were able to find love beyond it.
Certainly, I think I am a person who observes and interviews, but Jane's insight is extraordinary.
So, with the desire to get as close as I can.
I want to make films that "nothing much happens, but you can't help but watch them, and they stay with you. I always struggle to make a film that "you can't help but watch, even though nothing much happens, and that will leave a deep impression on your heart.
The next keyword is Montreal. Geographically located in North America, but more European than European, the Montreal World Film Festival is a symbol of the diversity of this city, which was first introduced outside of Asia in 2014 with "A Drop of The Grapevine," and in 2019, with the step-family bonding "Dear Etranger" was awarded the Grand Jury Prize. At first glance, Mishima's tendency to lyrically depict the everyday lives of individuals let us know that he actually has a fine observation of society and a sharp critical eye. In particular, when we focus on the aspect of cultural diversity, we find that although Mishima is an Asian filmmaker, there is an exquisite mesh with the director's pursuit of a cinematic world that is never confined to a single region.
Mishima) I am very happy that you take it that way.
I think being from a documentary background has had a great influence on me. The most important thing for me is what I want to convey. What kind of world I want to depict and with what kind of touch is the next thing I think about. So the moment I chose this subject matter, I wanted to depict it experientially, as if peering into this family problem that people around the world may be facing.
When a divorced man and woman each remarry with children, and the wife becomes pregnant with two children, we begin to see the fraying of the family. ......
I wanted to make this film for three reasons.
One is because I lost my father and my family home in Osaka, my hometown, and I wanted to think about what a father is. I wanted to think about fatherhood. Fatherhood, in my opinion, is a being that presents a certain guiding philosophy. In this context, children have the choice to either follow or rebel against that philosophy. In Japan, fatherhood seems to have been increasingly lost since 1945. The man in this film, makoto, played by Tadanobu Asano, begins as a father who is unable to present his own philosophy, just wandering and drifting since the failure of his first marriage. This could be considered a symbol of Japan as it is. Eventually, however, makoto attains paternity and is able to present his philosophy. I feel that we, as adults, need to have a philosophy and become people who can present it.
And what is family? It is a person who continues to watch over the process of a person's life.
Isn't it a relationship that includes those who keep an eye on the process of a person's life, those who hide things, those who deceive, those who hurt, and even the lees that accumulate between them? At the very least, I feel that we are all in the same boat. I think I wanted to ask myself such a question.
Second, I strongly felt that it was time for contemporary Japan to reevaluate ties other than blood ties. The divorce rate is increasing, and the number of parents and children who are not related by blood is also increasing. To begin with, Japan is home to many different ethnic groups, and today it is made up of even more diverse ethnic groups. I felt that even if we are not blood-related, if we do not cherish strong bonds, we will only head toward loneliness.
There is a saying in Japan that "blood is thicker than water. This is a metaphor that the bond between blood relatives is deeper and stronger than any deep relationship with strangers. Family" is also written as "家" and "族" (family name), meaning those who are related by blood, "000家".
but I believe that the time has now come for us to face the connection between the "individual" and the "individual" more.
Third, this is the most important. This is about "myself and others," which I believe is universal. The title of this work, "DEAR ETRANGER," makes this point more clearly.
In the first place, whether we are related by blood or not, we are all "others" except for "ourselves," and we cannot completely understand others no matter how hard we try. However, in the sense of never giving up trying to understand, we have included our desire to always face others as "DEAR ETRANGER" as an important existence.
In the winter of 2019, I heard from the director that he was preparing a new film that was slightly different from his previous works, and I have been curious about it ever since. I was very surprised when I saw the completed "Shape of Red". Usually, when people hear about an original work, they often misunderstand that it is just a novel that has been transferred directly to film, but " Shape of Red" was a new work while maintaining the setting of extramarital relationships between the characters.
Like Stephen Daldry's "The Hours" (02) and Todd Haynes' "Carol" (15), I wanted to depict, vividly, a person who had previously suppressed his or her own desires, but who, even if it was not the right choice in the world, decided to drop everything and live honestly with himself. I wanted to depict this vividly. I thought this would make the film more powerful in questioning the way of life of each person, so I decided to make the ending different from that of the novel.
The mother of Toko, played by Kimiko Yo, asks, " How deeply can you love someone before you die? ".This was actually said to me by an older woman.
She felt that "when you find something that you can love strongly, it is a happiness that cannot be replaced by anything else. If you are asking me if toko's choice is right or wrong, I don't know. There is no right answer. There is no right answer. However, life goes on.
However, I wonder if TOKO has consciously made even the smallest choices in life and has lived with responsibility for those choices. But after the time depicted in the film, she will go on living with determination. I remember when I started preparing for this project, I wanted to rethink what kind of life I could truly live through the life of Toko.
Now it is time to talk about why Jane Austen appears repeatedly in today's story. In 1802, Jane Austen accepted a proposal from a wealthy man, but the next day abruptly called off the engagement. Twelve years later, she advises her own nephew, "Do not choose a marriage without love. I believe that this is not just a union out of love, but also has something to do with female agency, or desire. It meshes with the theme of “Shape of Red”. This was the director's intention in directing this film, wasn't it?
Mishima) That is correct. Unlike the strong-willed protagonist portrayed by Jane Austen, I felt that there are a surprisingly large number of people who live a life like Toko. I think there are many people who desire to know how the world is reacting to them first, before thinking about "how they feel," in other words, people who place the scale on society and common sense. I sometimes even feel fear in an age where there is no balance in the distance between such individuals and society. In the midst of such a trend, I am wondering "Who am I, what do I choose, and how do I want to live my life? I wanted to make a film that questioned how individuals should live their lives. Therefore, although there are many depictions of sex in the original story, I wanted to depict "sex is only the beginning," and what I wanted to depict was "life choices" beyond sex.
There is another crucial element in "Shape of Red" that keeps the audience engaged in the narrative. It is the song "Hallelujah" sung by Jeff Buckley, who is of a similar generation to the director. Being of a similar generation to the director and having lived a life of fireworks, his song gives the impression that it was prepared for the OST of "Shape of Red".
Mishima) Yes, the first time I heard jeff sing "Hallelujah" was deeply impressed for me. I came across the album "Grace" containing that song when I was in college. I listened to it in the room of a senior who was making an independent film with me. I was so taken by Jeff Buckley's voice and the lingering sound of his guitar that I found myself listening to it over and over, alone, with my knees in my arms. I listened to the song over and over again, clutching my knees to myself. Jeff Buckley left this world shortly thereafter, but "Hallelujah," in particular, lingered with me like a fragile spirit, forever asking questions about "purity.
I needed Jeff's "Hallelujah" for the film "Shape of R e d". I wanted the man of destiny (Satoshi Tsumabuki) to be like "Hallelujah" for me. His voice is like a breath, but it is full of certainty, and asks questions about the essence of the world, moving back and forth between despair and hope. I wanted to set them as two people who used to listen to this music, and I wanted to see how lonely they would feel if they heard it again. What do you see at the end of their love? I hope you can see it for yourselves.
"Love is cold and fragile. That is why those who love seek salvation and glorify God with our every breath. Hallelujah," I hear him singing.
I feel that Kaho, the lead actress, is the biggest beneficiary of "Shape of Red". Many Korean audiences, in particular, still have an image of her as a high-teen actor more than a decade later, perhaps because her image in " A Gentle Breeze in the Village," which was released in Korea in 2008, was so strong. What kind of direction did you use to re-create her as such a character who makes choices for her own desires?
In terms of the experience of creating a three-dimensional character, I think it was a great opportunity for you, Kaho.
Mishima) Toko is a person who has lived her life by suppressing her emotions. By doing so, she has learned to get along with her surroundings and society, and now she has lost sight of what emotions she has. However, by meeting Kurata, he is able to see that he too has feelings, and what is pleasant and what is unpleasant. When I thought about what would best express this in the play, I thought it would be the eyes. In other words, when something you "want to see" appears in your eyes that you could not see anything, you can see everything.
The eyes of the actor Kaho are very distinctive. They are like marbles, and sometimes they feel like dolls that can't see anything, but when they become emotional, they become powerful and see through everything. The expression on her face is so transformative that some people consider this film to be a film about Kaho's eyes. Therefore, a major part of the direction of the film was to carefully scoop up the delicate performance centering on Kaho's eyes from the closest vantage point.
The first sex scene with Kurata. The process of her releasing her mind and body and eventually reaching the angelic smile of a fulfilled woman was very important. Scenes like that are nerve-wracking on set, and I think Kaho was also nervous as she took on the challenge. I did not want to stop the flow of her uncontrollable impulse to open her heart and body to the other person and accept him, and all the cells unravel and come to life. So, I decided to shoot this sequence in long takes. I know it was a burden on the filming and technical departments, but I thought it was the best way to capture Kaho's expression. As she told me later, thanks to everyone's focus, she lived her time as Toko to the extent that she "no longer remembers it because she was so immersed in it.
Also, and I believe this is one of the necessary elements for a great actor, Kaho-san is a wonderful actor with great reactive skills. I think the wonderful thing is that it creates a great session with the other actors and the appearance of the staff. This time, I think that her scenes with Satoshi Tsumabuki, Tasuku Emoto, and Shoutaro Mamiya brought out completely different aspects of her in each session. This was a result of Kaho's highly sensitive and responsive performance and the strength of the actors who played the opposite roles in each of them. Therefore, I think that the casting of these three actors and Kaho was a great strength for the film.
The rest of the time, I was waiting and believing in the power of Kaho's performance, which I had not yet seen.
I was waiting for her to show us that she is more than she has ever been. She is more wonderful than ever.
She gave a powerful performance as a woman who had repressed her true self, awakening to the process of living her own life in the rough and tumble, transforming from a doll into a living person with a strong will.
There is an advantage that "Shape of Red" has as a work that speaks about women. It is that it makes effective use of Satoshi Tsumabuki, an actor who appears to be a late-blooming star, but who actually has his own deep and firm philosophy of his own. Did you envision casting him from the time you wrote the scenario?
Mishima)Yes, that's right. I had an image of him from the beginning.
Kurata is a man who is as fragile as snow, stoic, solitary, and loves by observing and peeling off the top layer one by one to discover his true nature.
He is a person who understands that the time of life is limited, so who do you want to live with and what do you want to see? How does the other person want to live? I am trying to deeply pursue these questions. So I am a person who has a stronger desire to live life this way than anyone else.
In the novel, Kurata's job is IT-related, but in the film, he is an architect.
I think the act of designing a house is the very plan of life, "with whom and how to live." The most important of all is the direction and shape of the windows. It is the basis of the architecture of a house to design it with the importance of "with whom, what, and how to see". So, after consulting with the producer and assistant director, we decided to change to an architect.
The scene in which the two build a small model of their ideal house, which they will probably never live in together forever, is considered an exchange of love. Mr. Tsumabuki understood the importance of this and helped the two breathe as one.
Mr. Tsumabuki's eyes are always wet and thoughtful, as if he accepts everything in the world, yet he has a thirst for new expression. I find sexiness in those who crave it. I will never forget the moment when "Kurata" appeared on the day of the crank-in, on a diet and with her senses sharpened. Not only did he live through it as Kurata, but he was my best "creator to challenge with" in terms of the overall direction of the film.
If the narrative of a woman's desire and her eventual decision of her own destiny in "Shape of Red" can be compared to an architectural structure, Tsumabuki plays a decisive role in showing us the whole picture of this structure. He is also known as an actor who deeply communicates with the director, and I am wondering how he communicated with the director and acted while shooting the film.
Mishima) Anyway, we had to create a character named Kurata, who does not even exist in the world. When we first met, I gave him a timeline of Kurata's life and told him that he was like a violent snowflake. But then, when Mr. Tsumabuki showed up in his black turtleneck, I had a premonition that Kurata would be born. Because my image of Kurata was a black turtleneck. That is why I prepared a brown sweater for the last scene, even though Kurata wears black all the time, because I wanted to express through the costume that there is a space to accept others at the end and that his weakness is born.
It was also characteristic that we were able to share our inspirations with each other in areas other than words.
When I was on set and wondering what to do, I would quietly look at Tsumabuki-san. Then, Mr. Tsumabuki would think for a moment and say, "Let's give it a try," and start the play. In other words, he understands what the problem is and what I am struggling with.
One of the staging techniques I often use is the indirect method. The scene of the reunion between Toko and Kurata in the snowy world. He, who should not be there, is standing there like a ghost. Toko looks incredulous and, without thinking, touches his cheek to confirm his presence. At first it was difficult to create that theatrical pause. So I asked her to stop the play once and return to the waiting area. Then I spoke only with Mr. Tsumabuki. I told him, "I just want you to stand there as if only your soul is standing there. He said, "I'll try," thought for a while, appeared on the scene, and began. Then he stood as if the body was not there, and Kaho responded to it, and her play was born naturally.
Even in their final sex scene, I said, "This is sex where we confirm each other's existence on a cellular level, where we feel each other alive. Then, Mr. Tsumabuki said, "I want it to be just the director, myself, and Kaho for a while," and we created that environment and built up the play. That kind of... really... actor who thinks about what he can do for the work.
Kurata's presence does not mean just being attractive as a man, standing in the way of a married woman. He must have intelligence and be there to look deeply into Toko, to free her from oppression and open the door to a new life to live as the Toko she really is. I believe that he is an angel and a guardian deity, so I was happy to be able to work with Satoshi Tsumabuki on this film.
Usually, Japanese films do not have an art director, but I do not think an art director was necessary for the director's film. I don't think an art director was necessary for the director's films, because he was always able to express the beauty of the form that maximized the beauty of the work, while concurrently fulfilling his role. Could you explain how you set up and visualized the visual concept for "Shape of Red"?
Mishima) There are art directors in Japan. However, as Mr. Hong mentioned, there are no production designers in Japan who grasp the whole picture of colors, art, costumes, and images. It is true that I may be the one who sees the whole picture, but in the case of my films, I consider the art director who serves as the art director and the director of photography to be very important. What is important is to be able to make a film with a crew that suits my taste and the content of the film.
I myself judge the design and psychological effects of costumes, art, color grading, etc. based on my self-study and psychological studies, such as studying paintings in museums and observing architecture since childhood.
In my case, I often use a single painting or a single photograph as one guideline to share the world of the work.
Of course, this does not mean that I want to trace the painting as it is. It means that I want to use it as the source of my image. For "A Stitch of life," I gave Hammershøi's painting " Interior with Ida Playing the Piano" to Miki Nakatani, the lead actress, and the crew. In "Ode to Joy," I used Andrew Wyeth as the starting point for the image.
In "Shape of Red," however, I intentionally decided not to shoot in a painterly way. I wanted the viewer to feel the world that the two of them were feeling in a vivid way. Therefore, I focused on the people, as in the photographs of Ken Domon, and dared to omit many cuts that explain the situation or show the whole picture. I thought that if I depicted the sounds they were feeling and the world they were seeing, I would be able to convey a vivid picture of one woman's life choices. As a result, I ended up using a hand-held filming method similar to that used in documentaries. I think this was born out of my own film work, " Dear Etranger ". I am now very interested in the idea of suppressing the explanation of events and just following the emotions relentlessly.
On the other hand, it is also a film of colors, so I wanted to show changes in Toko's mind through changes in the color of her costume, and to have various reds scattered throughout the film, so that the audience would pick them up and see what reds they would see in the end, working backwards from the final cut. Discussions were held with the staff on the theme of the meaning of each red and its relation to specific colors.
I think the biggest highlight of "Shape of Red" is the open ending, which exceeds people's expectations for dramas dealing with so-called extramarital relationships. I am curious how you conceived of such dramatic fun.
Mishima) That's right. The film "Unamplified" was intended to be a modern version of Ibsen's "A Doll's House".
Is Toko's situation anachronistic? Not at all.
There is a line that says, "Men will still be men after a thousand years," and there are many realities that we women have unconsciously accepted. Of course, there is the line from Toko that I wrote, " It's all me. It's my decision," but everything is the result of your own life choices and you must take responsibility for that. That is why we need to be prepared to make choices. But as the movie "Pride and Prejudice," written by Jane Austen, says, "People make mistakes.” I think everyone has the right to change course at that time. I am not saying that you don't have to put up with it, and I don't think it is a good thing at all to abandon your children. However, I feel that it is not true that we cannot demand complete motherhood for all women, and it is not true that women who become mothers give up on the idea that they cannot live their own lives.
I discussed these issues with Yumi Arakawa, the producer of this film, and we decided to depict the final scene in which a woman leaves her husband's house, including her children, and lives her own life, even if it is morally wrong to do so, as a film that will be presented to the world in 2020.
I would like to know what you have planned after "Shape of Red," which opened the "Version 2.0" era for the filmmaker, Yukiko Mishima.
Mishima) There is something that slowed down a bit after the covid disaster that came to light.
In fact, I also shot and completed a short film called "I, Jiro Kawakami of IMPERIAL" in 2022. I shot this film as a "record" of the closing of the restaurant "Imperial," which was located at the foot of a bridge in my hometown of Dojima, Osaka. A childhood friend and the chef who owned this restaurant told me, "The restaurant is gone, but I am still making the demi-glace sauce that I have been making for 55 years. Hearing this, I felt that we had not yet lost everything, and I wanted to capture a faint glimmer of pre-dawn light in the film. I wanted to depict one man's life, and I took on the challenge of expressing it in a single cut of nearly 12 minutes, 800 meters long. It is a very personal work.
Anyway, we are still alive. We hope you will see it in the near future.
As for the new film...
In Japan, the number of female suicides is really increasing, and I would like to depict the tough and dry women who "choose to survive first" through the action of singing.
I want to portray these women through the actions of their songs.
In 2022, I don't think the world we live in is going in the right direction. Where is the anger that is somehow smoldering within us? I would like to capture the source of the anger as well, which is inescapable in a system that disrespects human dignity.
Please introduce your film "Shape of Red" and give a message to the audience.
Mishima) There is a reality that we women have unconsciously accepted. I am sure it is the same for men. I would be happy if both men and women could watch this film, look back on their lives, and reexamine the reality that they have unconsciously accepted. And I hope that they will run towards a place of passion and love (affection) with an honest heart.
I hope that this film will reach everyone who appreciates truly high quality films. And I am deeply grateful to all of you who have discovered the filmmaker Yukiko Mishima, and I will continue to focus on making films.
I sincerely hope to meet you all in person as soon as possible.
We will meet you.
Thank you very much.
Sang Hyun Hong :
Member of the steering committee of CoAR, a korean web media specializing in films. Advisor of Jeonju International Film Festival and Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, Senior Producer of Takasaki Film Festival, DigCon6 Asia(hosted by TBS) jury member. He is a member of the Japan Foundation's "Symbolic Japanese Films of the Year" selection committee. He holds a master's degree in political science and visual arts, and studied at the University of Tokyo(He was a member of the Shimizu Laboratory, which conducted a joint project with Ecole d'économie de Paris). His serial interview articles with Japanese filmmakers on "CoAR" are among the most popular in Korea.