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Directors who visited Japan and made films there: from Hiroshima to Tokyo, in rain or shine

Maria ShevchukNews
A still from the movie "Perfect Days"

Japan attracts not only tourists or fans of its culture but also people who make movies. Some allow themselves to romanticize, while others stay away from traditions and look at the culture of this country from afar. But all of them somehow portray the land of cherry blossoms, the latest technologies, and the terrible tragedy in Hiroshima as they experienced it from their European or American backgrounds.

As the film Perfect Days, which was nominated for an Oscar from Japan this year, is currently screening in Ukrainian cinemas, we have interviewed other directors and discussed how their views differ.

Directors who visited Japan and made films there: from Hiroshima to Tokyo, in rain or shine

Wim Wenders

Oscar nominee – Perfect Days (2023)

Directors who visited Japan and made films there: from Hiroshima to Tokyo, in rain or shine

Sunny morning Tokyo to the tunes of The Animals, Patti Smith, Velvet Underground and Nina Simone. In the middle of the glass jungle stands an inconspicuous house. Here lives Hirayama (Koji Yakusho – Memoirs of a Geisha), a toilet cleaner. Despite his seemingly unattractive life, the man finds happiness in the little things. Every morning he listens to his favorite cassettes in the car and spends the afternoon on his hobbies: photography, reading books, and growing plants. He considers every day to be perfect. But is it really so only when he is alone?

Directors who visited Japan and made films there: from Hiroshima to Tokyo, in rain or shine
Directors who visited Japan and made films there: from Hiroshima to Tokyo, in rain or shine

The film was directed by Wim Wenders, a pioneer of new German cinema, known for films such as Paris, Texas, and The Skies Over Berlin from the 70s. For more than 50 years, Wenders has filmed in more than 10 different countries, and this is his second project in Japan. The 78-year-old director saw Tokyo as meditative, calm, and devoid of stereotypical romanticization, which is not the case with his predecessors. The Japanese liked this view so much that they nominated the film on behalf of their country for the most prestigious film award in the world, and they were right.

Sofia Coppola

Lost in Translation (2003)

Sofia Coppola also saw Tokyo without unnecessary dynamics. Through her eyes, it is also a city of hermits, but in this story, two people on the verge of depression meet and give each other a few unforgettable days. Bob (Bill Murray – Groundhog Day) and Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson – Black Widow) have come to Tokyo for different reasons. They wander the streets in the rain, and spend hours in hotel rooms. Both of them can't even sleep at night, which helps the college graduate and the star get to know each other.

Through the eyes of the Oscar-winning Sofia, only people decorate the Japanese capital, adding color and brightness to it. Without a native soul, it always rains there. Even so, Tokyo has a chance to be remembered as sunny.

Alejandro González Iñárritu

Babel (2006)

In his star-studded film, the Spanish director intertwines four storylines. Each of them takes place in a different country. The stories of characters who do not know each other intertwine. The Japanese storyline revolves around a girl with a hearing impairment who lacks attention. She lives with her father after her mother's suicide and, having accidentally met a detective, tries to seduce him.

Iñárritu resorts to anime culture and seeks to show Japan as a cluster of people, money, and secrets. But, as in all other lines, the main thing here is to listen to understand. And even in a noisy Japanese city, this is important.

Quentin Tarantino

action movie "Kill Bill. Vol. 1" (2003)

Another Tokyo story opens with a quote from the Chinese thinker Sun Tzu: "Revenge is a dish best served cold." The story then revolves around a bride who wakes up from a four-year coma. The child she was carrying in her womb is gone. Now she must take revenge on the team of assassins who betrayed her - the team she once was a part of. Japan through the eyes of the classic American action movie is a geisha with a machete, although the fights here take place in any corner of the planet.

Alain Resnais

adaptation of Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

The French New Wave also did not ignore Japanese history. The black-and-white love story based on the screenplay by French writer Marguerite Duras is set in postwar Hiroshima. A French actress and a Japanese architect spend a couple of nights in a hotel, knowing that their story has no continuation.

In his first film, Alain Resnais has created a unique work of cinema that combines existential questions, innovation in cinematic language, and a socio-political message that he dared to show the world. What is Japan like after the Hiroshima explosion? And what is love if the world is full of death?

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