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A conversation with… Shinya Tsukamoto

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“I cannot stop filming”

Yesterday, the Marrakech Festival paid a career tribute to Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto, whose worksmany of which are cult films- stir mixed feelings of admiration or aversion because of their violence. He tells us how his use of violence in his films has changed with time.

Why do you make films?

This is a key question whose obviousness makes it hard to answer. When I was a child, I was full of imagination, but I was shy, withdrawn. One day I found out that the camera enables me to show to others the images that I have in mind. Since then, I cannot stop filming.

On Sunday, you received a career tribute. Is it an incentive for you to continue filming? Or an indicator that you have hit the peak of your career?

There are still many movies that I would like to shoot. This distinction is therefore an incentive for me. I will take it as a recognition of what has been achieved so far, while trying not to rest on my laurels.

The violence endured by your main characters often reconnects them to life. With these stories, aren't you justifying violence instead of denouncing it?

When I was in my thirties, my life as a Tokyo citizen was very safe and insulated from any sort of violence. This resonated in my films. It was sometimes tough for me to determine if what I was living was real or imaginary. Was I living in a dream? So the violence that I inflicted on my characters was similar to pinching myself to see if I was dreaming. Now, as I grow older and have kids, I am generally more concerned about the rising violence in the world. This concern shows in my last movie, Fires on the Plain.

Almost all of your films take place in oppressive urban settings. With the exception of Fires on The Plain, which tells the story of a wounded soldier wandering in the wilderness amid the carnage of the Pacific War. Is that a turning point for you?

It is true that until making this film, I have been working on the interaction between the city and a human being confined in an urban box. I think I reached an age where I can be easily drawn to what happens beyond urban environments. I do not want to be conclusive, but I think that it is an inflection point or a pivot that will take me somewhere.

You often undertake several tasks in your films as a director, actor, screenwriter and cinematographer. You master each of these aspects of your work, but doesn’t that make you loose something by not receiving an outsider’s input?

Sometimes I encounter difficulties expressing to others my ideas. Also, I may lack enough confidence and determination to impose my views on others. I, therefore, prefer to do things by myself. But with time, I feel more and more capable of turning to others.