Kiyoshi Kurosawa Composes “Tokyo Sonata”
The "Cure" director shifts gears to find out what ails the Japanese family.
There are plenty of scares in Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Tokyo Sonata,” but none of the serial killers or ghosts that have populated his earlier films like “Pulse” and “Cure.” Instead, in his latest film the director focuses on the effects of Japan’s long-term recession on a nuclear family. After being laid off, patriarch Ryuhei Sasaki (Teruyuki Kagawa) pretends that he’s still going to work, donning a suit and tie to hang out at the library and go to an open-air soup kitchen for free food. His wife (Kyoko Koizumi) and two sons are equally troubled. For once, Kurosawa has made a film that feels connected to earlier, more traditional Japanese cinema. His penchant for apocalyptic endings has come full circle — “Tokyo Sonata” is about what it feels like to live in a society undergoing massive, disorienting change. I spoke to him by phone during a recent visit to L.A.
Do you feel nostalgic at all for an older, more stable Japan?
I actually don’t feel any nostalgia for something like that, because I don’t remember that there has ever been an economically or socially stable time in Japan. There was a lot of economic growth, definitely, but no real stability in the past few decades.
You’ve cast Koji Yakusho in many of your films. What attracts you to his work?
Obviously, he’s a very talented actor, which can’t be underestimated. An important point is that he’s exactly the same age  as me. He’s not only easy to work with as an actor, but he’s very similar to me as a person. He has similar values and sensitivities. We’re from the same generation. That’s a big reason why I enjoy working with him on the set.
Do you feel much kinship with other Japanese directors of your generation?
I think my peers generally started making films in college on Super-8 and eventually moved into commercial filmmaking. I do feel some kinship with them, but the types of films we make are all over the map.
You honed the script of what would become your 1999 film “Charisma” at the Sundance Lab in 1992. How did the experience influence the final direction the film took?
It’s been a long time since I participated in it, so I don’t remember it clearly. I can say that participating in it was a very valuable experience for me. Up to that point, I had loved American films. I had watched many of them. The Lab made me realize that the ways of making films in America and Japan are very different. Even though I had harbored hopes of making a film in the U.S., I realized how difficult it would be.
“Tokyo Sonata” is the only one of your films that seems to have much connection to classic Japanese directors like Yasujiro Ozu. You’ve talked a lot about the influence of Robert Aldrich on your work, particularly “Charisma.” Do you feel you’ve been influenced more by American or Japanese cinema?
In the beginning, I idolized American films. I started off very influenced by American cinema, but I was always aware that I was going to be making Japanese films. After I started making my own films, I studied Japanese cinema. At this point, I’d say I’m also influenced by Japanese films.
What are your favorite of those?
There are many Japanese filmmakers I admire, but if I had to choose one, I’d pick Ozu.
Which film of yours would you describe as your most personal?
It’s difficult to answer. I would probably have to say that the student films I made on Super-8 are my most personal. I shot and edited them myself. Once I started making commercial films and working with a large cast, D.P. and crew, I’ve never felt that I could call any of the films I made in this format personal.
Pages: 1 2Tags: Charisma, J-horror, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Koji Yakusho, Tokyo Sonata, Yasujiro Ozu
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