An Interview with Kazuya Shiraishi, Director of “Last of the Wolves” [New York Asian Film Festival 2021]

All bets were off with Last of the Wolves. It was the highly anticipated sequel to The Blood of Wolves, a gangster epic that was a throwback to Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles Without Honor and Humanity series what with its yakuza politics, police corruption, and fearless depiction of brutal violence. This crime world is based on the critically-acclaimed novels of Yuko Yuzuki so there is a lot of material to work with but with a number of major characters dead or locked up in the slammer, just where would the sequel go? To the younger generation as yakuza wars heated up in Hiroshima Prefecture!

Blood of the Wolves Level 2

This is the latest work by Kazuya Shiraishi (The Devil’s PathTwisted JusticeOne NightDawn of the Felines). He has a knack for filming edge-of-your-seat crime thrillers and Last of the Wolves managed to do justice to the first film and take things to the very next level thanks to two intensely physical performances, one from the intimidating presence of Ryohei Suzuki who plays a murderous yakuza thug, the other from Tori Matsuzaka who is wilier than a fox as a cop dodging death while double-dealing with gangsters. Director Kazuya Shiraishi explained more about the film, what drew him into the project, the talents that Suzuki and Matsuzaka have, and more in this interview done as part of the New York Asian Film Festival 2021.

Image taken from: https://news.yahoo.co.jp/byline/nakanishimasao/20191030-00148849

This interview was done with the help of Takako Pocklington, who translated my questions, Koichi Mori of the New York Asian Film Festival, who set up the interview and translated the answers, and also the film festival staff who pulled off an excellet NYAFF 2021! Many thanks go out to them and, of course, to Kazuya Shiraishi who participated!

The Japanese transcript is first and it is followed by English. Click on a link below to be taken to one or the other.

Japanese English

Last of the Wolves Film Poster

Japanese

この映画を作って下さってありがとうございます。

次の作品制作でご多忙中にもかかわらず、このインタビューに応じて下さり本当にありがとうございます。

監督は、柚月裕子さんの小説のどんなところに想像力をかきたてられたのでしょうか?

A1970年代に作られた「仁義なき戦い」のような世界観を持ちながらも警察内部のパワーゲームやミステリー要素もとても素晴らしく、その重層的な物語に惹かれました。

原作、及び、監督のこの映画「孤狼の血」どちらも、内容、舞台設定、撮影スタイルの点で、深作欣二監督の作品が引き合いに出されています。日本映画界においての深作欣二監督の存在を監督はどのように捉えてられるのでしょうか?また監督ご自身が、深作監督から何か影響を受けた、ということはありますか?

A:深作監督は既に伝説的映画監督であり、映画史においても重要な監督です。日本の映画人で深作作品を見ていない人はいないでしょう。

私もことあるごとに深作作品を見直しますので、大きな影響を受けていると思います。

監督は、「ひとよ」で鈴木亮平さんと一緒にお仕事されていますが、あの映画での鈴木さんの演技は、とても心に響くものでした。「孤狼の血Level2」では全く風貌を変え、前作とは異なる気迫に満ちた演技をされています。監督が鈴木さんをキャスティングされたのは、彼が役者としてどういう資質を持ち併せているからなのでしょうか?また、鈴木さんとの映画作りはどんな風ですか?

A:鈴木亮平さんは思慮深く、入念な役作りをします。また、体も大きくとてもスケールの大きな俳優です。演出家としてとても頼もしい俳優です。

松坂桃李さんは日岡として再び登場していますが、彼の個性が第一作目とはがらりと変わっていました。大上に似てきたというか…。松坂さんはこの役を演じるにあたり、どんな役作りをされたのでしょう?また監督は彼にどんな演出をされましたか?

A:狼に育てられた犬、というつもりで演じていたそうです。松坂さんの日岡という役にかける気持ちが強く、僕がそれほど演出しなくても、日岡の3年後のキャラクターを見事に作ってくれました。

村上虹郎さんをキャスティングされたことについて少し伺いたいのですが、彼の俳優としての強みは何だと思われますか?

A:とても芝居が上手であると同時に、フォトジェニックです。どんな場面でも演出家に想像力を与えてくれます。

監督は、この映画のラストにカーチェイスシーンをもってこられました。「ひとよ」の中でのカーチェイスシーンに、監督ご自身が触発されたのでしょうか?

A:『ひとよ 』のカーチェイスに触発されたわけではありません。それぞれの物語に必要なシーンであるカーチェイスがたまたま両作品にあったということです。でもラスト近くの「孤狼の血LEVEL2」のカーチェイスはとても気に入ってます。

Blood of the Wolves Level 2 Image 2


English

Thank you for making the film and for taking the time to answer the questions even though you are working on a new project!

What was it about the novels of Yuko Yuzuki that caught your imagination?

A: I was attracted to their multilayered stories, which have a worldview like the 1970s film series “Battles Without Honor and Humanity.” There are also wonderful power games and elements of mystery within the police force.

Both the novels and your film “The Blood of Wolves” have been compared to the works of Kinji Fukasaku in terms of subject, setting, and style of shooting. How do you regard Kinji Fukasaku’s place in the Japanese film industry and did you draw any inspiration from him?

A: Fukasaku is a legendary filmmaker and an important director in the history of cinema. I think there are no Japanese filmmakers who haven’t seen his films. I also watch Fukasaku’s films occasionally, so I think his films have a great influence on me.

You worked with Ryohei Suzuki in “One Night” where he gave a really moving performance. In “Last of the Wolves,” he completely transforms himself again and gives another strong performance. What qualities does he have as a performer that made you select him and how is he to work with?

A: Ryohei Suzuki is thoughtful and meticulously prepares for his roles. He is also a magnificent actor and is physically commanding. As a director, hes a very reliable actor.

Tori Matsuzaka makes a return as Hioka but his personality has changed and he is closer to Ogami’s character from the first film. How did he prepare for the role and what sort of direction did you give him?

A: I heard he was playing the role as if he were a dog raised by wolves. Mr. Matsuzaka’s passion for the role of Hioka was so strong that he was able to recreate the character of Hioka three years after the first film without relying on too much direction from me.

Could you talk a little about casting Nijiro Murakami. What are his strengths as an actor?

A: Hes very skilled at acting and he’s photogenic, as well. He brings the power of imagination to every scene.

You end the film with a car chase. Was that directly inspired by your work on “One Night?”

A: I wasn’t really inspired by the car chase scene in “One Night. It’s just that car chase scenes happened to be necessary in both films. But I really like the car chase near the end of “Last of the Wolves.”


Last of the Wolves is currently on release in Japan

It was recently announced that there would be a sequel to “Last of the Wolves.” We will have to wait and see what happens next in the hard-boiled world that Yuko Yuzuki created.

Thanks once again to Takako Pocklington, Koichi Mori, and Kazuya Shiraishi!

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