Many, many thanks to good friend Andrew Howitt for conducting this interview and to producer Yoko Hayama, who was instrumental in setting things up and a great help in translation.
About six weeks ago, I caught a train and went out to Gotanda to attend a cast and crew screening for Tokyo Gore Police. I had the chance to meet the director Yoshihiro Nishimura briefly and congratulate him on the novel splatter film he’d made. I won’t repeat anything that Todd’s already said in his review of the film, but I was really impressed and think it’s truly a gem of the genre. It’s slick, clever, perverse, and funny, and positively saturated with blood. I don’t want to ruin anything, but I have to say that there’s an unreal fight scene close to the end that blew my mind. Though the initial plans for an interview were changed, Nishimura was good enough to sit down and respond to some questions about himself and his experiences making this movie.
I’d like to formally thank Yoko Hayama of Media Blasters (one of the producers of the film) for extending the invitation and for facilitating everything to make this piece possible.
ScreenAnarchy: Is this your first time directing a film yourself?
Nishimura: It’s my first commercial film, but since I was in junior high I’ve made many movies independently. I made the movie Anatomia Extinction, which is the basis for Tokyo Gore Police, with a small crew, and I worked as director, art and lighting director, and did the special effects. It received the Special Jury Award in 1995 at the Yubari International Film Festival.
T: How do you find the change from doing effects to directing a film? Did it give you the chance to experiment and use your imagination more fully?
N: There’s no difference between them. I made this movie based on things I had imagined and by thinking about how to improve on the work I’ve already done. I did what I could within the budget. Really, the only difference was that as a special effects technician, I got to take a nap during the breaks in some corner on set, but as a director, it was out of the question, so I tried to finish the day’s work quickly so I could get a good sleep. But that was usually too much to ask.
T: Your effects work has ranged from really high budget films to really low budget splatter, do you prefer one over the other?
N: With high budget work, the jobs are neatly divided, so you just do what you have to and that’s it. That’s not really for me. Since there are so many people working on the project, it’s hard to make changes. There’s less flexibility and spontaneity. And there’re lots of issues over responsibility between departments. It’s annoying. With low budget work, there’s much more freedom. The quality of the special effects, props, make-up, art production, sets may be lower, but low budget movies have a special power to transcend the budget. It’d be ideal if high budget movies could do this. I’d like to try one day.
T: Where do you get your inspiration from? What sort of films do you watch?
N. I rarely watch TV, other than news programs, and I haven’t been watching many movies lately. I don’t read novels, either. I read philosophical books and non-fiction related to the script I am working on, Movie Treasure (Eiga Hiho, 映画秘宝) magazine, Spaceship (Uchu-sen, 宇宙船) magazine, Fangoria, and books on movie making. I have dreams every night. Crazy stuff all in colour. Real nuts.
T: When it comes to violence, sex, or bizarre content on screen, is there any such thing as too much?
N: Is there such a movie? You mean fantasy? Something that makes an impact on society? Horror? Is there a scale for “too much”? Who decides? Do you hesitate over watching a movie you want to see if it’s got these three things in it? I understand that these three elements have an effect on society. But the kind of influence they make depends on the person. My scale is bigger than others’, so there’s still a lot of space left before it gets filled up.
T: How involved were you in writing this?
N: I thought of pretty much everything for this movie. Based on my ideas, I got the scriptwriter, Mr. Kaji, to shape it into a script, and then I worked together with Sayako Nakoshi to make it into a shooting script. Crocodile Woman was in the original script, but other characters such as Haruka Yoshioka and Hayame, the policeman with the long sword, were created by Sayako. In the end, I think we made something that everyone was proud of.
T: You have a respected actress in Eihi Shiina, how did you get her involved? How was she to work with? Was she reluctant to do anything you asked her to do?
N: She was suggested by Media Blasters (Fever Dreams). I knew about her, but since the shooting schedule was going to be tight and pretty strenuous, I thought someone younger would be easier to work with. But after we started shooting, I realized that this movie wouldn’t be complete without her. She totally got the way I had imagined the facial expressions and physical gestures for her character, and really took it and made it her own. I must say, I think she’s the only actress in the world who can look so beautiful just standing in the midst of a gushing spray of blood.
T: How did you find working with Tak Sakaguchi?
N: Tak and I have worked together on many projects. I had decided at the beginning that he and his action team would be part of the project. He’s someone I’m sure I’ll continue working with. The first job we did together was the independent film “The Snotty Detective” (released through Tokyo Shock in North America) with director Yudai Yamaguchi. It was at Yubari for a week. Yudai, Tak, and me, along with Mr. Karasawa, the leader of Tak’s team, got along really well. And then we went off to start shooting “The Meatball Machine”.
T: There's definitely an anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist strain running through the film. What made you depict the police in such a way? Was there some experience in your life that triggered this portrayal of them? (In other words, why did you make this movie and what was its inspiration?).
N: I like making social statements. I guess it would be best to make documentaries then, but I’m most interested in making movies that are entertaining. Everyone has complaints and criticisms about society. Isn’t it sickening sometimes? Why do such unreasonable things keep happening? Doesn’t it make you suspicious? I just happened to use the police as a symbol, but it would’ve been just as good to use hospitals, or parliament, or major film studios...