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All Human Life

All Human Life

Filmmaker in Focus Kobayashi Masahiro’s films are always personal, and sometimes semi-autobiographical. Yet they still make sharp observations on Japan’s social milieu. A self-confessed Francophile when it comes to cinema, Kobayashi says that Truffaut is his master. IFFR is screening seven of his films, including Bashing, which is based on a true story about the terrible treatment meted out by the Japanese authorities and media to Japanese aid workers taken hostage in Iraq. His latest film, the bleakly redemptive The Rebirth, also screens.

DT: You’re sometimes referred to as the most French of Japanese directors, and you praise Truffaut in your first film, Closing Time. Where did your interest in French cinema arise from?

Kobayashi Masahiro: When I was young, my father often used to take me to the cinema to see French films. They have very much become a part of me. French films have certainly influenced me, but it’s not something I am aware of when I’m working – it’s unintentional. I like films featuring Alain Delon a lot, and they have influenced me.

DT: Closing Time has something of the mood and look of Truffaut. How did you go about transposing a French aesthetic to the Japanese tradition?

KM: I do dwell on the look, the visual elements of the film. I take time to plan the best way to film a landscape, the best way to shoot a character. I think that probably came from watching French cinema. I think that my interest in French cinema made me focus intently on the visual aspects of a film. How it looks is important to me.

DT: Films like Bashing are socially engaged. You have said that you feel Japan has many problems. Do you feel that it’s currently important to make socially engaged movies?

KM: I didn’t set out to make a socially engaged film with Bashing. It has a tight focus on the girl who’s expelled from Japanese society and it zeros in on her daily life. I feel like I am removed from society myself, so the film also has something to do with me as well. But it did reflect what was happening in Japan at that time – it was a film about what was in the air.

DT: Does a film like Bashing have the power to change the public’s perceptions of events in Japan?

KM: It has no power at all. I don’t think a film can change anything in Japan. But I still want to try. The films should have a personal element to them, too, though.

DT: Your work takes in aspects of many genres. Flic is a police thriller, Bootleg Film is a dark comedy and a road movie, and Man Walking on Snow is a loosely autobiographical drama. What’s your interest in trying to work in different areas?

KM: I don’t like films that end seriously – I like a happy ending, and an open ending, if possible. Only Bashing differs in that respect. Films should have happiness, anger, sadness, and fun. I don’t want to make a film that’s just happy, or just sad. I like the expression that a film is like a human life, with all that it contains.

RJH