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Hey, yíall, 2013ís The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky was one of my favorite offerings of that yearís Japan Cuts. The director of that film, Yuki Tanada, visits the Festival with her latest feature, Round Trip Heart, a beautiful road trip around Mount Fuji and Hakone that teaches one young woman to take the road less traveled.

Dig it!


Japan Cuts 2015

Yuki Tanada


The Lady Miz Diva:  Please tell us the inspiration behind Round Trip Heart?

Yuki Tanada:  First, there was an offer to do a film with Yuko Oshima.  Iíve always been curious about the work of an attendant on a "Romancecar" train.  Itís very unique work and I always thought Yuko-san would look great in the uniform, as well, so thatís how it started.


LMD:  Iím also curious about those attendants and how efficient they are.  Did you have Ms. Oshima work with a real attendant as part of her research?

YT:  She was very busy, of course.  Her schedule is very busy, so she couldnít do too much with it, but I did ask her to do some training in between.  She absorbed everything very quickly, so she remembered a lot.


LMD:  In Round Trip Heart, Hachiko begins talking about how much she loves the dependability of the round-trip trains, yet she finds herself after going off course on a road trip all around Hakone.  Was that your plan for her arc, to leave that rigidity of a life where she just goes back and forth every day?

YT:  So, as I began working on this story, I always was fascinated by this idea that when we all meet someone, we always must part from them.  Thatís an inevitable part of life.  The way we separate is either we make a decision to part, or one of us dies and thatís how we separate.  Lovers, families; we all must part one day.  I was interested in delineating a protagonist that is not fully conscious of the fact that we have to separate one day.  By separating at the very end, the character, Hachiko, definitely in a very small sense, but in an important sense, she learned to confront and face her life with a much brighter outlook.


LMD: Was the ďOld ManĒ Sakuraba, meant to be played by an older actor?  I didnít think he was terribly old.

YT:  The actor, Mr. Koji Ookura, he turns 41 this year; heís one year older than me. But I think Japanese actors tend to look a little younger, so perhaps thatís why he looked young to you? But he got very tired during those running scenes, so I think that heís his age.


LMD:  Is he like a spirit guide, or a kind of fallen angel in her life, teaching her to live well?

YT:  I think so, in a way, because I really wanted to depict how Hachiko grows up from the point of their first encounter, to when they separate.  So he enables her growth.


LMD:  Please talk about the beautiful location in Hakone. What was it like to shoot a feature in a huge tourist spot?

YT:  I think one of the challenges was the fact that for the majority of the time, people were very cooperative, but especially for the tourist destinations, a lot of them asked us to shoot in the early morning, so that we wouldnít get in the way of the tourists and their experience.  So, that was one of the challenges.


LMD:  After they were introduced I wanted to know more about everyone like Sakuraba, Hachikoís father and even the clumsy friend on the train.  How do you know when to stop writing for these secondary characters and find a balance for the film?

YT:  So, I do think of the background to the characters, but in regards to how much I actually show in the movie, Iím not so sure.  But I can say that this was my original work, so I really wrote very freely, as I wished.  I was very careful about making sure that Hachiko is the protagonist, that sheís depicted that way, that she is the leading force.


LMD: Specifically, Iím curious if you had any intention of filling in the mother a bit more as she looms so large in Hachikoís thoughts?

YT:  Not really, I think I depicted just the right amount, and I think if I had depicted the mother too much, the film wouldíve gotten a bit too heavy.  And especially considering my last two works, The Cowards Who Looked To The Sky and Mourning Recipe, also dealt with the issues of pregnancy and not being able to become pregnant, so for this film, I want to take a little bit more of a relaxed approach.


LMD:  How important is the theme of transformation in your films?  All of the women in your films are on personal journeys that take them out of what was a normal, easy life.

YT:  Thereís a very famous saying in Japanese, that goes, ďPeople should suffer as much as possible when theyíre young.Ē So, I do feel when youíre young, you should experience as much failure as much as possible.


LMD:  Cowards, Ainít No Tomorrows and Moon and Cherry are some of your films that deal with female sexuality or females taking the lead, sexually.  Is the idea of showing that women are sexual beings who can take the initiative a theme you consciously put forward in your films? 

YT:  I donít know if I particularly think that the women are taking the initiative in regards to their sex life, but I think I just want to depict it as a regular part of life.  I just propose that it is a part of life.


LMD: I asked a popular female Korean director {Yim Soon-rye} about whether actresses felt more comfortable working with a female director and she gave me a very surprising answer.  What has been your experience?  I would think for some of the nudity or sexuality in the films, it would be a relief?

YT:  I think that there are good points about working with a female director for an actress, but at the starting point, I think thereís a very particular anxiety and nervousness that they feel because I am a female director.  But once we get over this, thereís a great partnership that we can establish, but I think that when we start out, weíre both very nervous because we are of the same sex.

When we start out, I think because we are of the same sex, thereís no hiding anything; we can sense each other out.  But I think when it works in a good way, itís amazing.  And for me, fortunately, all the actresses that Iíve worked with in the past, we have formed a great partnership. 

I think when we do get along, it makes my work so much easier. Take choosing costumes, for instance, itís very fast with actresses; they can just decide like that, instantly.  But with actors, they take so long, and they wonít listen to me, and they meander and get lost, in a way, but then theyíll just come back and say, ďOkay, what you chose for me in the shoot is fine.Ē  The actresses will just wear what I chose, so that makes it easier.  The men are very sensitive, in general.


LMD:  Sakura Ando from Ainít No Tomorrows will be coming to the festival.  Do you have any comments about working with her?

YT:  She was wonderful.  We decided on her to do an audition and everybody that was there at the audition, as soon as she started acting, were just so absorbed by her, so taken by her.


LMD:  You mentioned that Round Trip Heart was your own story, but I know youíve done adaptations of novels and manga.  Do you prefer the freedom of writing your own story, or is it easier in a way, to structure your film from an adapted work?

YT:  I would say itís half-and-half.  Thereís positive and negative sides to adapting from manga or novels.  And when it is an original work, I think my conflict and what I struggle with most is that actors - flesh and blood human beings - have to perform what is written on the page and in order to figure out how to do that, I do struggle, but sometimes I do enjoy that struggle, as well.


LMD:  Director Tanada, do you have a new project coming up?

YT:  Not yet. {Laughs} It hasnít been decided yet.  In Japan, the film industry, itís very difficult for anything to get produced these days, and I do have a few projects in progress right now.  Any one of those works in progress can be terminated at any time, so all I can say to you is that Iíll do my best.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 10th, 2015


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 by L.M.D.


Stills courtesy of Tokyo Theatres/ Slow Learner















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