Introduction Interview Matsumura Shingo
In celebration of his latest cinematographical product, the highly entertaining Love and Goodbye and Hawaii – our review can be read here, we invited Matsumura Shingo to have a little chat with us. In this enlightening interview, Matsumura explains how he became a movie director, the joys and difficulties of independent movie making, the source of comedy, and of course about love and romance.
Interview with Matsumura Shingo
Psycho-cinematography: Can you tell me how you became a movie director?
Matsumura Shingo: At the age of 19, I stopped going to college and quickly gave up the company I worked with. I had no hope and no dreams for the future. I hated this person [I had become] and wanted to change myself. At that time, there was a feature called “How to make a movie” in a magazine. I read it and thought I could make movies for myself too. When I think about it now, why I thought like that without any reason, remains mysterious [to me]. But then I thought that I could change myself [the who I was then] by making a movie. So I started shooting short movies with 8mm camera equipment. If I completed one, I would make preparations for the next one and shoot it. And then, I suddenly noticed, 16 years had passed. But I still make movies with the same feelings I had when I first started – those feelings did not change.
P-C: If I am right, there is a period of five years between your first work Romance Road and this work Love and Goodbye and Hawaii. Was this intentional?
M.S: This was not intentional. If possible, I want to create a new movie every year, but finishing a movie is not easy. Besides my own effort and ability, it is also important [to consider] all sort of timing. Between my first work and Love and Goodbye and Hawaii, several projects became useless. That period was very painful. But now I think that [this period,] all this time that I was not able to shoot a movie, was not in vain.
P-C: In both your movies romance is the main theme. Do you prefer such themes of romance? If so, why do you prefer this theme?
M.S: My favourite theme in movies concerns [the fact that] “life doesn’t [always] go the way we want it to. Although finding hope [in such situation] is not impossible”. I am drawn to men that confront their life earnestly. How awkward this may be from the perspective of others, I see the beauty [in this confrontation]. [For a long time,] I have wanted to paint such a human attitude in my movies. [For me,] it was not important to take romance [as a theme], so it is by mere chance that my two full-length features became romance stories.
P-C: About indie movies. I think the production of Love and Goodbye and Hawaii as an indie movie was not easy. Which difficulties and obstacles did you encounter while making this narrative?
M.S: Because we had a low budget, there were a lot of things, like persons and places, that did not work out as we wished. However, since major movies with big budgets do not all go as one wishes, I do not think it is a problem. I can only do the best I can do. However, after completing the movie, it was difficult for audiences to [actually] see it, as most independent movies won’t be screened at movie theaters.
P-C: What are, for you, the positive sides of independent film making?
M.S: It is not a lucrative plan of commercialism, but a place where one can draw various stories that is attractive. Furthermore, I’m also glad that I can make movies with charming actors that are not yet famous.
P-C: I asked about the positive and the negative sides of independent movie making, but what is your honest opinion on the current Japanese movie industry?
M.S: At the present, the situation where Japanese movies are placed is very severe, both in terms of industry and culture. … If I write about a possible miserable future, I will only give myself a dark feeling and then I’ll quit. (Haha). When I’m such a situation, I feel the importance of education again. Countries and private companies have to spend money and have to nurture movie writers, technicians, theaters operations, and spectators. I think that Japanese movies, both in terms of industry and culture, are just barely at the top of the world. I think it is abnormal that in that field there are so few agencies that provide such higher education.
P-C: Are there any directors that inspired you?
M.S: There are so many directors that influenced me that I can’t write them all. However, when I watch movies from Aki Kaurismaki [Finland], Hong Sang Soo (Korea), or Nagumi Iguchi (Japan), I get the feeling of shooting such kind of movies.
P-C: For me, the conversations between Isamu and Rinko often had a sort of manzai feel. Was there any conscious influence of Manzai while creating these scenes?
M.S: I like Manzai, but I did not use it as a reference for writing my screenplay. I usually use the conversations around me as a reference.
P-C: What is, in your opinion, the origin of comedy in your narrative?
M.S: What concerns the comedy element of my narrative, there are no special occurrences or incidents that occur, but I think [that the origin is to be found in] the misunderstandings of everyday life and, in part, from the shock in emotions that those misunderstandings can cause. What for the persons in question is serious, can be very amusing of outsiders, as they have a different perspective. [For me,] the appeal of human relationships lies there. So I try to observe trivial events in my daily life from a various perspectives. And I think that that’s the origin of the movie’s comedy.
P-C: In psychoanalysis there is a basic idea that communication between men and women is characterized by a fundamental misunderstanding. I thought it was beautifully shown in your movie. What do you think of this basic idea?
M.S: Not only between men and women, but misunderstandings and differences in thinking will also be born without fail between different people. That is in itself hardly surprising. What’s important is that people talk with each other. As the distance between one’s partner can become more narrow or can become wider, one can’t expect the relationship to be as one desires, but I think that one cannot become lazy when it comes to talking with each other and thinking.
P-C: As all your movies concern love and romance in a way, I was wondering what your thoughts where on relationships in contemporary Japan.
M.S: As I have no interest in such things, I’m not familiar with the romantic circumstances of other people and even less with the romantic circumstances that are specific to Japan. I think that regardless of nationality, if you have 100 persons, you will have 100 different views on love. For me, there is nothing more troublesome than love, but there is also nothing as beautiful than love.
P-C: I felt that you wanted to evoke the fiction of a perfect happy relationship with the image of Hawaii. Can you tell us more about that?
M.S: About the image of Hawaii, there are [various interpretations and] impressions among the people that have watched the movie. If I would answer in detail, then that would seem like the correct interpretation. For me, that would not be a good thing. I do not want to see movies that provide a correct answer, so I want people that see my movie to interpretet it freely. For Japanese people, Hawaii has an image of being the most supreme place, heaven on earth. If I would actually try to go [to Hawaii], I think I will learn that not all images are correct.
P-C: In my review I wrote that I wanted more of this kind of work. So, naturally, I’m interested to know if you already have plans for your next work. If so, will the narrative again concern the theme of romance?
M.S: I’m currently thinking about writing screenplays for some new projects. Among those projects there are some romantic comedy movies, but there are also more serious drama, which are totally different [then my current work]. I do not try to decide my style too much. If there are projects that I’m interested in, I think I will take up that challenge.