Brief Interview with Shinya Tsukamoto on Nightmare Detective

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Brief Interview with Shinya Tsukamoto on Nightmare Detective

Awhile back at Nippon Connection 2007, I had the chance to chat with Shinya Tsukamoto on "Nightmare Detective." It's not everyday one gets to sit down and chat with one of the most unique and powerful voices cinema has ever experienced. He really warmed up when I mentioned "Crazy Thunder Road" in the interview (it happens to be one of my all time favorite films and is also screening at Fantastic Fest - more info here). His coining of the term "cult entertainment" is something that really stuck with me and I thought brilliant. Enjoy the brief interview and I think we can all say that whether its 100 or 200 years from now his films are still going to be talked about and dissected. In an age where many directors just sit back and direct only, Tsukamoto nearly does every encompassing aspect of making a film himself outside of doing craft and services (providing the cast and crew food). I would also like to note that for fans of Japanese cinema, The Nippon Connection film festival has it all - diverse programming, friendly staff, sushi bar, robot dances, saki lounge, karaoke lounge (where people butchered Depeche Mode songs) and more! If you like Japanese cinema mark your calendar now to be in Frankfurt, Germany next year for Nippon Connection 2008.

A huge thanks to Chiho Mori at the Asian Film Festival of Dallas for helping me transcribe this interview. She really has one of the most diverse and charming film festivals I've ever attended and it keeps getting better every year. I would also like to thank Tom Mes for his book "Iron Man: The Cinema of Shinya Tsukamoto" which was an invaluable resource as I prepared for my interview.

A brief interview and a gallery for the film and a behind the scenes look at this interview and the one for Outcast Cinema's "Horror of Malformed Men" DVD follows.


BLAKE: Growing up what films had the strongest impact on you?

TSUKAMOTO: A big impact on me were the films of Akira Kurosawa even though they were totally different from [what became] mine. I was in high school when I saw his movies and [they] left quite an impact on me.

BLAKE: Back in your university days how big of an influence would you say Sogo Ishii was on you, especially his film "Crazy Thunder Road?"

TSUKAMOTO: When I was in first class of University, Ishii was in fourth class. I saw how he made his final thesis film and was able to get it sold. I wasn’t envious but I looked up to him and wanted to do the same kind of film [like "Crazy Thunder Road."].

BLAKE: In your previous films you have dealt with the human body and the city and I was curious with "Nightmare Detective" what themes you were hoping to explore?

TSUKAMOTO: I thought about concluding the exploration of the issue when I made "Vital." But actually, I wanted to tell a few more stories about that. "Nightmare Detective" [happens to be one] of those stories.

BLAKE: Where did the original idea for "Nightmare Detective" come from?

TSUKAMOTO: My first idea I had for "Nightmare Detective" came when I was making "Tetsuo." Over the years I got a lot of ideas and finally two years ago I sat down and wrote the script for it.

BLAKE: What was the spark in finally getting it made?

TSUKAMOTO: The theme of “human body and the city” started with "Tetsuo" and ended with "Vital." But then I realized that I still have more things to say about that. So, I really wanted to get it in production. With Nightmare part 1, [this] is still presented, but in ["Nightmare Detective 2"] and on I will explore a different theme like [perhaps] - dreams and subconscious.

BLAKE: Do you still plan on making the Nightmare Detective trilogy?

TSUKAMOTO: I initially planned on making three but now I've combined the scripts for parts two and three, so I don’t know what I’d do with any third film (laughs). Two is planned to be made now.

BLAKE: You create such rich cinematic worlds in your films. I was curious what your creative approach was to constructing visual and sound design in your films.

TSUKAMOTO: I usually have visual ideas for my films and they are very clear. I just try to bring those ideas to life as closely as possible to [match] my original visions. I guess that’s why my films naturally come out sometimes being unique, complex, and interesting looking.

BLAKE: So a combination of pre-visualizing and finding the film while editing it?

TSUKAMOTO: Basically, my visions and ideas for the film is very clear. But in reality, I can’t really find locations that closely mach my visions in most cases. But, that doesn’t mean I give up on realizing my visions. [This] allows me to be more creative and make the film more and more interesting.

BLAKE: For the character of Keiko Kirishima how in the world did you know Hitomi would be right for that role?

TSUKAMOTO: This film was intended to be a very dark cult film. But a company that invested money in to my film gave me a major film budget. If you want to make a major movie with such dark story, then you have to find a story teller that will bring light to the story. Hitomi is very popular with the public. Her public image is very soft and warm, so I thought she should be the light in the film.

BLAKE: Some have said "Nightmare Detective" is more of a mainstream departure for you. What are your thoughts on that?

TSUKAMOTO: I intended to make a mainstream movie with this film, but then I realized that it [was] very difficult [to do]. I [was] brainstorming [on] what would be the best way to present the film [in this regard]. I call my films “cult entertainment.” In the past efforts, I put more emphasis on the cult elements, so with Nightmare, my intention is to incorporate more of the entertainment side.

BLAKE: What was the shooting schedule on "Nightmare Detective" like?

TSUKAMOTO: Both the shooting and the editing took two months each. Two months is pretty long, but it wasn’t quite enough for me though.

BLAKE: Will there be a different cut on the DVD and any delete scenes?

TSUKAMOTO: There will only be a making of.

BLAKE: So there weren’t any extra scenes?

TSUKAMOTO: In “Tetsuo” (laughs) there were many extra scenes but not this one.

BLAKE: Upcoming projects?

TSUKAMOTO: I’m planning several projects but right now the production companies want me to start working on the second "Nightmare Detective" soon.

BLAKE: Lastly, thoughts on the Nippon Connection?

TSUKAMOTO: I have a very warm feeling for this festival and I always feel very relaxed when I attend.

Additional Thanks: In addition to AFFD and Midnight Eye. I would also like to thank Marc Walkow at Outcast Cinema for his further insight into this filmmaker and support. Marc's interview with Shinya Tsukamoto immediatelly followed mine and can be seen on the "Horrors of Malformed Men" DVD release.

Twitch Coverage:
Tsukamoto Heads Back For Another Nightmare Detective Right Away.
Shin'ya Tsukamoto's ‘Nightmare Detective' R0 PAL DVD from RaroVideo, Italy.
Shin'ya Tsukamoto's NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE (AKUMU TANTEI): Downloadable QuickTime trailers
Weinstein Watch - Tsukamoto's Nightmare Detective
Theatrical trailer for Shin'ya Tsukamoto's NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE (AKUMU TANTEI)
Austin FF Nabs US Premiere of Nightmare Detective
New Stills From Tsukamoto's Nightmare Detective
Teaser trailer for Shin'ya Tsukamoto's NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE (AKUMU TANTEI), starring Ryûhei Matsuda,
Shin'ya Tsukamoto's NIGHTMARE DETECTIVE (AKUMU TANTEI), starring Ryûhei Matsuda, hitomi, Masanobu A

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JMaruyamaSeptember 11, 2007 12:29 AM

Thank you Black for this great interview! I've still yet to see "Crazy Thunder Road" but hope I can get the chance to see that soon. Even though I wasn't all that happy with Tsukamoto's "Akumu Tantei" it was certainly a memorable film.

BlakeSeptember 11, 2007 1:06 AM

Logboy and JMaruyama thanks for your comments.

The second half of ND feels too much like two different movies (at least to me). From a purely technical POV the film is a real marvel to watch. Overall I enjoyed and can't wait to watch it again.

"Crazy Thunder Road" is amazing. It's out on the Ishii Punk Years DVD boxset in Japan but doesn't have English subs so I've yet to pick it up. I originally saw it at BIFFF this year. Hopefully someone will see it at Fantastic Fest and decide it needs a proper home video release in the states.

logboySeptember 11, 2007 8:23 PM

by the way, 'female', a film tsukamoto did a segment for a couple of years back, makes a short-notice appearance in korea with english subtitles in the next few days. ryuichi hiroki fans also take note - another of the segments is his.