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Whenever a job is done, I sit down over a strong drink to have a conversation with my alter egos. I have several coexistent personalities, and they all assist in producing my work. When I’m writing how a woman feels, describing a brave warrior’s frame of mind or tracing over the moods of a young person, these other personalities emerge to take over my pen. By this means, I have sent a hundred or so books out into the world.
Not content with only writing, I also ventured into the world of cinema. Creating screen images aroused these other personalities much more than plain old writing. Starting out as a musician myself, I found that the film medium was the ultimate creative means of crystallizing everything I had in me. In my work, I have created infinite versions of myself. As an act of self-expression, I really get a kick out of doing this. At times I am scriptwriter, at times film director, at times singer in a rock band, and at times, a lonely father.
I look at myself in the mirror of my dimly lit room and ask, “What will you do next? How are you going to surprise the world now?”
My Collaboration with Yoshihiro Hanno
I made my first independent film in 1995 and have made six films so far. Right now, I’m preparing to make the seventh. And because I’m also a musician, I have views about film music as well.
In the past, I have handled the music for my films, but for the last one, Acacia, I left the job up to a composer I trust, Yoshihiro Hanno. It’s thanks to our collaboration that Acacia received a formal invitation to enter the competition section of the 22nd Tokyo International Film Festival. Although it didn’t take the prize, it was certainly a worthwhile experience. This film opens on June 12 in Japan and will gradually screen around the country.
Hanno―the Blue Period
Let me tell you more about Yoshihiro Hanno. Hanno sometimes comes over to my place. He’s tall, and like a tough mafia boss in appearance at first glance, but I don’t know any artist who possesses such subtle, rich lyricism as he does. The conversations I have with him make me smile, and even feel bored at times, but conversely, I can never hide my astonishment at the breadth and depth of the musical seam that runs through him, and even feel jealous of the gift the gods have blessed him with.
When it was decided to make a film of my novel, Sayonara itsuka (Goodbye, sometime), my wife, Miho Nakayama, who absolutely adores Hanno’s music, recommended him to the Korean company making the film, and he was given the job of musical director. But later he was let go for reasons that weren’t made clear, so I persuaded him to take the position of music director for my seventh film, Acacia. If you want to speak in superlatives, Hanno created a score for Sayonara itsuka that is comparable to works by Bach in its degree of perfection. It’s easy to imagine what happened between Hanno and the Korean director, but I won’t touch on that here. Suffice it to say that Hanno, who comes from Kishiwada―a part of Japan known for the inhabitants’ straight-talking personalities―doesn’t hesitate to push his opinion onto anyone and everyone, and could well have annoyed the Korean director. But that aspect of Hanno is what makes him the person he is.
Yoshihiro Hanno has worked with the likes of Chinese film director Jia Zhangke and famous Taiwanese director Hou Hsiaohsien, receiving more critical claim overseas than in Japan. His immense musical genius seems to move the continental souls of Asian film masters in particular.
Personally speaking, I was happy that Hanno lost his job on Sayonara itsuka and was in a slump. For me it was a one in a million chance to ask him to become musical director. That’s how Hanno came to create the score for Acacia, one which blew me away as director. Each and every piece was filled with a sheer forceful lyricism, and woven together like a collection of poems.
The opening sequence is a close-up on old people’s faces accompanied by a musical piece to fit the image. This exquisite melody immediately heightens expectations about the world the viewer is about to enter. It’s exactly the kind of blue-tone melody that Hanno so superbly creates; I call this entire frame of mind “Hanno―the Blue Period.” To record this music, Hanno took command of a group of orchestral performers in a huge hall. I was captivated by the melody―a delicate hum vibrating the air of the huge studio. Judges in the Tokyo International Film Festival gave high praise to the opening sequence that begins with this music. It’s another extraordinary result of our collaboration; if Hanno had indeed worked on Sayonara itsuka, this particular opening section would never have come about. Sometimes a director can be inspired by music to expand his vision. Like the thought trains of a French philosopher, or dreams of a great architect, listeners will certainly be struck with admiration at the breadth of imagination that Hanno’s meticulously crafted music conveys to the audience.
On nights when I can’t sleep, I like to rely on Hanno’s music. Melodies that tunnel into the folds of my heart and crevices of my brain are better than any kind of sleeping pill for an insomniac like me. You might say that listening to his music while making the transition into the world of endless dreams and stories is my favorite part of my day.
His music draws upon thousands of eternal stories, engulfing us forever. As a Japanese film director, I am proud of having been able to work with Hanno. Despite the giddiness induced by his appearance, words and actions, I gaze from the shores of the human world to the world of music he creates―a shining swell on the horizon―and am transformed by his visionary power, just like a maiden whose heart beats ever faster over her first love.
Time Alone, Again
In the quiet of my study, after everyone else is asleep, my alter egos and I put on Hanno’s CDs to pass the time in a reverie. Listening to this visionary music, which you would never imagine was created by a big guy who looks like a Mafiosi, I open my own box of imaginative treasures. The music beckons me toward an even vaster universe.
Recommended Music by Yoshihiro Hanno
Acacia, Yoshihiro Hanno (Cirque.Mavo), released June 3, 2010; 2,200 yen (tax included)
Panic in a Spaceship, RADIQ septet (Cirque.Mavo); 2,200 yen (tax included)
Angelus, Yoshihiro Hanno (Toshiba EMI); 3,059 yen (tax included)
Film director, author, rock musician
Hitonari Tsuji became a professional writer after winning the 13th Subaru Prize for Literature. He went on to win the 116th Akutagawa Award for Kaikyo no hikari (Lights in the straits). In 1999, Le Bouddha Blanc, a French translation of his novel Hakubutsu (The White Buddha), won the Prix Femina Étranger, the French literary award for foreign novels; Tsuji was the first Japanese ever to win this prize. His novel Ugan (Right bank), published in 2008 in collaboration with novelist Kaori Ekuni’s Sagan (Left Bank), generated much public interest. He is also vocalist for the loud rock band Zamza N’Banshee, which he formed in the same year. He has been based in Paris since 2003, exercising his various talents in Japan and around Europe.
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