Meeting with directors: Eiji Uchida.

“When shooting in Tokyo, Uchida and his crew once bet on how long it would take for the yakuza to show up: one minute after they started shooting.”

Introduction

Yesterday, we had the chance to meet Eiji Uchida, the director of Greatful Dead (2013), Lowlife Love (2015), and Love and Other Cults (2017) at the Belgian premiere of the latter narrative. After the screening, a small Q&A was held and, later that night, we even had the chance to have a more personal chat with this wonderful director. What follows is not  interview in the true sense – an interview might come later based on this meeting, but an impression of our meeting.

On Ghent And Flanders Eiji Uchida was quick to underline that Ghent, in his eyes, was a beautiful city – the kind of city Japanese people really like. When Japanese people think of Flanders and Belgium, they usually think of the famous story the dog of Flanders, which tells the sad narrative of Nello and his dog Patrasche, but, to his surprise, nobody seems to know that story here.

29314794_10214623079664568_3177669195038982144_nIn our personal chat, I felt the need to ask Uchida – as he was drinking Cuvée des Trolls – if he liked Belgian beer. As one can guess, the answer was positive.

On the international reception. Uchida considers his narrative to be a true Japanese narrative, as the story ultimately concerns life at the countryside. As such, he is surprised that his movie is doing so well internationally.

On my blog and Sion Sono. Uchida showed an interest in my blog and we eventually ended talking about which Japanese directors I liked. After Sion Sono’s name entered our conversation, telling him that I especially enjoyed his latest narrative, Tokyo Vampire Hotel (2017), Uchida told me he went out drinking with Sion Sono until daybreak a couple of weeks ago. Apparently Sion Sono can drink like no other.

On the ‘unforeseen’ costs of shooting in Japan. Uchida explained that for shooting at a public space, yakuza have the tendency to show up to ask money (around 60.000 yen) to allow the crew to shoot at that specific place. At one place, Uchida and his crew had to pay the police – around 5000 yen – as well as the yakuza. When shooting in Tokyo, Uchida and his crew once bet on how long it would take for the yakuza to show up: one minute after they started shooting.

20180317_223559.jpgBecause of stricter anti-yakuza laws, Uchida felt that the Yakuza were getting weaker. But as a result they are eyeing even ‘weaker’ people for money, which is of course an problematic evolution.

On the true story that the narrative is based on. Uchida revealed that the girl that formed the basis for the main character of the narrative was also present in the movie, but only for 10 seconds. And the actress who played Ai’s mother was in fact the mother of the girl who invited Ai to live with her family.

The extras Uchida used in his narrative were real delinquents. The motorcycles belonged to real gangs. He recalled that getting permission to use the motorcycles was not that easy.

On the safeguarding of the image of the prefecture. At one point of shooting the narrative, Uchida and his crew were surrounded by the police. They started writing down the license plates of the cars, … etc. Ultimately the police demanded that the shooting would stop, because the movie concerned delinquents and Yakuza. As there were no delinquents and Yakuza in the prefecture, the movie would hurt the image of the prefecture of being Yakuza-free.

On bad characters and good characters. Uchida doesn’t like to portray good characters in his narratives, because they are ultimately boring. “Bad” characters on the other hand are interesting to portray. In this respect, he found it enjoyable to cast Sairi Ito and Kento Suga – both famous child-actors – in their first ‘bad-person’ role.

On the difficult scenes to frame. Uchida told that convincing Sairi Ito to reveal her chest in public was difficult. Many conversation with him and the crew were needed, before she was convinced.

Another scene that was difficult to shoot was the scene in the porn-shop. As they were shooting during business hours, real customers would often disturb the shooting.

On his new project Uchida is currently working on an american internet series, that is planned to come out in the summer of next year.

 

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