An Interview with Jessica Yu (Director)
People Who Take Full Responsibility for Everything in Their Lives
Q: How did you find the four protagonists in this film?
JY: At the start, I wasn’t specifically trying to find four men. Rather, I was looking for four people with something in common. It took eight months. Out of the four, two were personal acquaintances of mine, so it was not difficult to convince them to give their consent to appear in the film. However, getting the last two to agree took a lot of effort. At the time they agreed, I’m not sure if they actually understood what kind of film this would become, but I was somehow able to convince them to appear in it.
My conditions for selecting these four were that I was looking for people who lived dramatic lives, who had something in common, and who were good speakers. On the other hand, it would have been a problem if they were too much alike on the surface. In the end, I researched over 200 people, using various methods including the Internet and magazines.
Out of that, there were only four or five women. I needed to find people who have experienced a major turning point in their lives, but I think that women tend to change gradually over time, rather than suddenly going through a big change. I think that is the reason for this disparity in numbers.
I was looking for people who took full responsibility for everything that happened in their lives. People who went down a particular path seeking something for a variety of reasons, but along the way they were gradually overtaken by obsession and lost sight of their original goal. That is what I wanted to express. I was searching for people who become more and more fanatical, but the film would not have worked if they simply ended up as fanatics. I wanted to film people who eventually realize their mistake, but who find it is already too late to return to what they once were.
Q: Why did you incorporate puppet theater into this film?
JY: At first, I wanted to use animation to link all four of these stories. The puppet sequences in the film are all based on the dramas of Euripides. I was really drawn to the masks that were used in performances of traditional Greek tragedy. They always used masks during the plays of Euripides’ era. The theaters at that time were quite large, so the actors wore masks so that the far away audience could understand what they were expressing. I thought I could use these kinds of masks effectively in my own film. I felt they would be a useful medium for expressing personal feelings.
Q: I noticed that all the subjects of the film spoke incredibly frankly about themselves, without any hesitation.
JY: I think this is probably because they all accept the things they have done. I very rarely had to speak with them about what to do before shooting a scene. I feel very lucky to have found such gifted speakers.
However, the Kung Fu fanatic is actually my husband, so I’ve heard him talk too much already. I could more or less imagine what he would say without actually listening to him. Also, Joe Loya, the bank robber, is one of my husband’s friends. So, with these two I paid a lot of attention to just how naturally I would have them speak at first. I decided to write down questions, give them to my husband, and my husband would explain his answers to Joe Loya. I didn’t want my husband to fall into the trap of talking as if he were repeating the same story that he had already told me time after time. I interviewed my husband and Joe Loya at the same time, and then I interviewed the other two men individually.
I asked these men similar questions, and their responses sounded a lot alike. I could make out shared intentions and ways of thinking between the four of them in their answers, and I started to feel like I really could make these interviews into a film.
(Compiled by Matsumoto Miho)
Interviewer: Matsumoto Miho / Interpreter: Saito Shinko / Translator: Christopher Gregory
Photography: Yamamoto Shoko / 2007-10-07