North Shinjuku 2055 is the latest film by Daisuke Miyazaki, one of the directors who regularly attends Osaka Asian Film Festival with his youth-focused works with Yamato (California)(2016), Tourism (2018), and Videophobia (2020) being screened in the past. His latest film is a sci-fi short that lets audiences listen in on an interview between an investigative journalist (Tatsuya Nagayama) and a North Shinjuku kingpin given the moniker K (played by the rapper GAMI) as they discuss the history of the titular district.
On paper, watching a conversation might sound boring but the film’s experimental style is surprising and impressive. It really sparks the imagination as images are relayed almost entirely through still images à la Chris Marker’s La Jetée (1962) and accompanying sounds consist of the musicality of the voices of the two talkers and also a myriad of street noises that create a strong urban atmosphere. Beyond this shot of originality is a depth to the vision as it extrapolates the history of the area and broader current-day social issues that affect it and imagines how they have developed by the year 2055.
Thanks to the invaluable efforts of translator Takako Pocklington, Miyazaki kindly took part in an email interview wherein he talked about capturing photographs and working with his two actors, to bring to life a unique sci-fi short.
Daisuke Miyazaki is a filmmaker who is wired into the styles and concerns of younger generations and one who is able to present them in a myriad of ways, be it a conventional coming-of-age story in the shadow of American culture withYamato (California), Tourism’s Singapore-set quirky travelogue, or Videophobia and its tech-induced existential-erasure nightmare. Moving swiftly on, his latest is a speculative sci-fi short with a surprising style that imagines the titular Tokyo territory becomes an isolated community by the year 2055.
One of the highlights of the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2020 was VIDEOPHOBIA, the latest work of Daisuke Miyazaki. A frequent visitor to Osaka, many of his works are youth-focused, with Yamato (California) (2016) and Tourism (2018) being screened at the festival. His films frequently capture the cultural zeitgeist for young people as young women with smartphones navigate various issues to carve out their own niche in the world. Yet VIDEOPHOBIA comes completely out of left-field as it’s an existential horror movie where technology drives a young woman into a fog of paranoia and fear.
Filmed around the less well-known areas of the city of Osaka and shot in black and white, it is a deeply unsettling experience as we witness melancholy 20-something Ai (Tomona Hirota) have a one-night stand with a stranger only to discover that a highly explicit sex-tape has been made of the encounter. It is a shocking discovery that plunges her into a panic that gets worse the more technology manipulates and alters her perception of herself. Things get so bad that she begins to question her own sanity and identity, realizing that the only way to rectify her situation is through total dissolution of her character. The audience is prompted to think about various social issues as Miyazaki pries apart the cracks in contemporary life and how incessant exposure to technology alters how we perceive ourselves. Full review here.
Miyazaki sat down to discuss the making of the film, the real-world topics that form the basis of the story and how he hopes the audience will engage with it amidst the ironies of our always-connected social media landscape.
There are few filmmakers capturing the zeitgeist of youth culture like Daisuke Miyazaki. His characters, often smartphone-wielding young women, make their way through a chaotic world with what little resources have been given to them by society. This scarcity of support engendered a spirit of defiance in Yamato (California) (2016) and an openness for change in Tourism (2018) which helped the protagonists of those films define their own identity. VIDEOPHOBIA is Miyazaki’s darkest work yet, one that shows the shadowy side of technology as revealed through online pornography.
Daisuke Miyazaki was born in 1980 in Yokohama, Kanagawa. A passion for analysing films turned into a career when he started making them while studying at Waseda University. In 2004, he participated in New York University’s summer school that took place in Japan. His thesis The 10th Room won the Christine Choi Award, which is the grand prix at the KUT Film Festival held by the NYU. His following film Love Will Tear Us Apart was invited to be a special screening at the Image Forum Film Festival 2006, which is the largest experimental film festival in Japan.
The next stage in his career was to work his way up through the film world from lighting assistant to acting as an assistant director for Kiyoshi Kurosawa on Tokyo Sonata(2008). Miyazaki’s first feature film, End of the Night (2011), was exhibited at the Montreal Festival du Nouveau Cinema International Film Festival, and received a special award at the Toronto Shinsedai Film Festival. His work on the omnibus film 5TO9 was screened at the Osaka Asian Film Festival 2016 (OAFF) and his second feature Yamato (California) was screened at OAFF 2017.
He returned to OAFF in 2018 with his latest feature film, Tourism, an amusingly hip youth movie following two Japanese girls named Nina (Nina Endo) and Su (SUMIRE) who get lost in Singapore, which was shot in the space of five days. This is the first of a planned five film run which could take Miyazaki around the world.
Miyazaki kindly took part in an interview at the ABC Hall in Osaka midway through the festival where he went into detail about the shoot and his background.
Daisuke Miyazaki is fast becoming a director to watch., quickly following up his last film Yamato (California)(2017) with Tourism, the second of a two-part video installation commissioned by the ArtScience Museum in Singapore and Singapore International Film Festival for an exhibition called “Specters and Tourists”. The project aimed to explore the nature of contemporary life and an under-seen side of Singapore. Nina Endo, one of the stars of “Yamato (California)”, takes the lead role here(as well as acting as stylist and co-producer)and is paired up with SUMIRE, a popular fashion model and daughter of Tadanobu Asano, to make a cute double-act that Miyazaki sends toSingapore on a journey off the beaten track.
“This story happened a while ago, in two countries on a certain planet.”
Yamato (California) is a coming-of-age tale from Daisuke Miyazaki, a graduate from Waseda University with a varied filmography consisting of indie films and experience working as an assistant director on commercial movies such as Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s family drama Tokyo Sonata (2008). Much like that film, he looks at people left trailing by the economic problems and the split in identities caused by different forces in contemporary Japan and he does so through one teenager’s rebellion against cultural apathy through the medium of Hip-Hop.
The week that has passed has been pretty mixed for me thanks to time constraints but at least I have a new television to enjoy watching Japanese films on and just in time for Shinya Tsukamoto Season which is entering its final phase. This week saw four new entries including the release details for Kotoko, a review of Tetsuo II: Body Hammer(classic!) and the extras on the Tetsuo release (which had the awesome and bizarre short film The Adventures of Electric Rod Boy!) as well as Tokyo Fist (incredible!). Look out for Vital, Snake of June and Kotoko next week!
Two of last week’s releases, Key of Life and Insight into the Universe, enter the chart at number seven and four. I am going to see Key of Life at the BFI London Film Festival (I am so hype for this) and it is great to see that there is at least one country on this planet where a film mostly about science and a historical figure can break into the top ten. Rurouni Kenshin hangs in the top three in third position and The Wolf Children Rain and Snow drops to fourteenth (another film I am hype for).
What Japanese films are getting released today? Two films full of teen talent and one genuinely interesting noir title!
Yusuke Yamada is back with another of his fiendish short stories getting adapted for the big screen. Out of all the ones I have covered this year, this one is probably the most ridiculous. It stars Sakiko Matsui (a member of AKB48) in her first motion picture role abd is directed by Yohei Fukuda who directed Chanbara Beauty and X Game.
Set some time in the distant future, the death penalty in Japan has been altered. Now a death sentence is decided by game of bingo played by the victim’s family. Masaya (Shimizu) is a prisoner who will find out if he will be given the death sentence. Mayumi (Matsui) is part of the staff who monitor the game.
A manga adaptation which stars a bunch of pretty boys in the shape of Tori Matsuzaka and Masaki Suda (The Wings of the Kirin) and the brilliant actresses Miyuki Matsuda who I can remember from Auditionand Fumi Nikaido who made me cry in Himizu.
It is Mikihiko’s (Matsuzaka) 18th birthday and he thinks of his friend Morio (Suda) who has been in a vegetative state since being involved in an accident at the age of 6. Almost as if on cue, Morio wakes up but he still has his 6-year-old mentality. This reappearance causes Mikihiko to question the direction his life is about to take
This is the debut feature of Daisuke Miyazaki who was an assistant director to Kiyoshi Kurosawa and has won many prizes for his short films. Of all the films released today, this is the one that interests me most and no, not because it is violent but because it is grounded in every day mundanity and feature black humour found in Kitano films. It stars Kuniaki Nakamura, Masayuki Shionoya who starred in Kiyoshi Kurosawa;’s horror film Charisma and Sogo Ishii’s Angel Dust and Nami Komiyama.
Akira’s (Nakamura) parents died shortly after his birth and so he has been raised by Tamegoro (Shionoya), the man who killed said parents. Tamegoro runs a futon store as a front but has been training Akira to be a hitman. After Akira’s first hit he finds himself troubled but a cosplay club/sex-worker named Yukine draws out his more human side. Still, the police are on Akira’s trail and this places Yukine in the firing line.