Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cold Yamagami-Kun Fish

Being right smack in the middle of several large projects of my own means I don't have many interesting tales detailing my own work to report, unless comments detailing long hours spent sitting in front of a glowing computer monitor is considered interesting. However, the time since the last entry has been fun and well spent.

First up, I did a small directing gig for the UK company Third Window Films, putting together a pair of interviews for the "extras" section of their upcoming DVD / Blu-ray release of COLD FISH, a film on Nikkatsu Studio's Sushi Typhoon label.

The first interview was with Jack Adelstein, author of the book Tokyo Vice. COLD FISH is a semi-fictional tale based around a true-to-life serial murderer in Japan. At the time of the murders Jake was working for Yomiuri newspaper as a reporter and covered the story as it unfolded. He even met the killer on a few occasions. While Jake had zip to do with the COLD FISH production, he is presented here as a kind of "expert witness" and gives a fascinating look into the original case and points out where the film reflects reality and where it strays into nonfiction.

The second interview on the disc is with my buddy Yoshiki Takahashi, the scriptwriter and poster designer of COLD FISH. Yoshiki speaks excellent English (and French). From the get-go I wanted to do the interview in English, the discs being for an English speaking audience. 

Despite his English proficiency, he only agreed if I would conduct the interview with him on-screen. Although I've had tiny bit parts in films such as DEATH NOTE, GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS, HELLDRIVER, etc, I'm not the biggest fan of seeing myself on-screen. And like every other human on the face of planet Earth, I dislike the sound of my own voice. However, I thought it would be fun to capture the spirit of some of the lively talks Yoshiki and I have in private when we burn the midnight oil dissecting genre cinema over huge quantities of beer.

With my small crew, I journeyed to Yoshiki's place and with very little preparation the two of us jumped right into a discussion of... Hell, I can't even remember! It had to have had something to do with COLD FISH. That much I can recall. But it probably strayed into unknown territory as well. I suppose I'll have to watch it after I get my comp copy to refresh my memory. I do remember we drank beer out of a set of "satanic glasses" Yoshiki keeps on hand. I also remember feeling tipsy from the 1/2 way point, which might make the head of the piece, where Yoshiki greets me at his door, odd since we shot that last.

One of the many things I enjoy about living in Tokyo is its plethora of stage plays. From big to small productions, there are literally hundreds of plays running at any given time somewhere in the city.  My town of Shimokitazawa happens to be well-known for its congregation of playhouses.

Recently, we've had an unusual addition made to Shimokita's theater collection. One of our more renowned residents is the actor Akira Emoto. Last year Emoto had his home rebuilt and in a move that must be every actor's dream, he had the basement fit with a small theater. I went to the first play he and his troupe put on, which starred Emoto's wife. It was a comical tale of three people in post-apocalyptic Japan. I like end of the world stories.

Two weeks ago Emoto put on a one man show based on a play by Russian author Anton Chekhov. It was an amazing performance by a consummate actor at the height of his ability. Emoto expanded the material, played with the small audience, and showed just why he is one of Japan's most sought after actors. I went with my friend Ayano, who starred in NATURAL WOMAN, a film I subtitled last year. Like myself, Ayano was blown away by Emoto's performance.

Also this past month I put in three-days on the set of the Pabaan production of  Harapeco Yamagami-kun. I'm still a little unclear what the film is about or how Yamagami-kun is going to be released. Web content? DVD? But I can say this, it's going to be a lot of fun!

I've always been a fan of Japanese suit acting, Godzilla, Gamera and the like. Yamagami-kun features several outrageous designs by director Nishimura. Having been a while since I involved myself with suit acting, it was nice to be on set and to be reminded just what a great breed of people suit actors are. Despite the challenge of the gig, they always have smiles plastered on their faces, are talkative, and all in all, just fun to be around. Playing the lead role of the Yamagami-kun creature (a kind of mutant wild bore) is my friend Yumiko (I wrote about seeing Yumiko's action stage show last blog entry).

Eihi Shiina, best known for her role as Asami in the film AUDITION and Ruka in Nishimura's first film, TOKYO GORE POLICE (TGP), has a small part in Yamagami-kun. I first met Eihi on the set of TPG and took what I feel are iconic photos of her. You know, those cool ones of her holding out a samurai sword, the tip of which almost touches the camera lens. This is a pose I repeated with Yumiko Hara during the shoot of HELLDRIVER. For Yamagami-kun, Eihi appears dressed in a panda outfit.

I especially enjoyed my last day on the set. At one point all the suit actors wore their colorful outfits and engaged a group of attacking zombies. Anyone who knows me knows I like zombies. There was also a totally cute actress on hand whose skimpy outfit proved too much for the neighborhood kids who  had come to watch shooting. They couldn't stop laughing and giggling at her hot pants. As for myself, being a fan of genre movies, I'm happy to snap photos of attractive women caught in the grip of ugly monsters. There something so... so... What can I say? Something so wrong about it!

At Nishimura's insistence I did a small cameo. Just my head. I was at the Pabaan office two-days ago when Nishimura came running up yelling, "you made the cut!" What that means, I don't know. But, my head in it or not, I look forward to the final edit. I honestly feel that Nishimura and Iguchi are the only ones making films of any interest in Japan today.

Loads more to report, but this month's entry has reached its limit. 

Thanks for reading. 

Until the next entry...

Be cool...