The 36th Tokyo International Film Festival’s Nippon Cinema Now Director in Focus is Jojo Hideo, an incredibly prolific filmmaker with some 100 titles to his name. Known for ranging far and wide in terms of themes and genres, Jojo has what can probably be characterized as a healthy attitude toward cinematic sex, as most of his films have been of the “pink” (or erotic) variety, which in Japan refers to softcore films with an equal emphasis on storytelling and titillation.
The festival selected four of Jojo’s recent films, each different from the last. On October 29, his 2021 film, Love Nonetheless, was screened in front of a packed house, after which the director and one of the movie’s stars, Sato Honami, took questions during a Q&A session.
Love Nonetheless is best described as a sex comedy. A hapless secondhand bookstore clerk, Tada (Seto Koji), is stalked by high school student Misaki (Kawai Yumi), who tells him she is determined to marry him eventually. Tada tries his best to discourage the girl but falls for her in a chaste kind of way. Meanwhile, the love of Tada’s life, Ikka (Sato), is about to get married to the cad Ryosuke (Nakajima Ayumu), who is secretly sleeping with the couple’s wedding planner, Miki (Kori Yuka). For a while the two storylines remain on parallel tracks, until Ikka suspects Ryosuke’s treachery and seeks out Tada to settle the score.
Moderator and TIFF Programming Director Ichiyama Shozo asked Jojo about working with noted screenwriter Imaizumi Rikiya, and Jojo joked that he had always wanted to work with him, even though, “I’m older, but he’s more popular than me.” As it happens, they graduated from the same university. The producer of the film had brought the two together and suggested a script swap, with TIFF favorite Imaizumi directing a script by Jojo in return. Ichiyama asked if Jojo had rewritten anything in Imaizumi’s script, and he said, “It’s still very much in his style, but I reduced it to just 30 scenes.”
Apparently, Jojo’s approach to actors is pretty loose. Sato said about her character, “Ikka is quiet and shy, and I had to really think about how to approach the role. But the director just said ‘play it as you want.’”
Many of the audience’s questions were of a technical nature, since Jojo is famous for doing his own editing and keeping the number of scenes to a minimum. This might have been tough on the actors, but apparently Jojo is accommodating on set, according to Sato.
“For the sex scenes,” said Sato, “the director and the assistant director would take their clothes off and show us how to act.” Jojo added somewhat mischievously, “It was the first time for the cinematographer to shoot a sex scene. When I was younger, I would always show how I wanted it done with the help of the assistant director. Or at least that’s what I remember.”
An audience member wondered about the scene in which Miki tells Ryosuke that sex with him isn’t good, and advises him to patronize prostitutes to get their advice. The questioner wanted to know if Ikka would have forgiven him for that, since even she eventually decides he’s not good in bed.
Jojo replied, “I’m not sure that Ryosuke would go to a red-light district. Maybe he doesn’t have the guts.” Sato thought that maybe they should make a sequel to find out, but Jojo seemed to be against the idea. “There’s no way to answer that question.”
Going further afield, another viewer mentioned that Ozu Yasujiro was also being honored as a director in focus at TIFF this year, and his films are often about “women getting married,” and Ikka is getting married in Love Nonetheless. Did Jojo see any similarities between Ozu’s films and his own?
Ichiyama mentioned that Jojo was one of the six directors chosen to remake Ozu’s silent films for the WOWOW satellite TV station. The director said that his adaptation of Passing Fancy is not about a woman getting married, but rather a poor Tokyo family. “Maybe if you added the sex element to an Ozu marriage film it might be like my films, because that’s a real relationship. Ozu’s world is not the reality I know, though they are beautiful films.”
Asked about her acting methodology, Sato said, “In acting you compete with the person you’re talking to, so I have to think about the background of each role. I don’t think about it too much before going on set, though. I try to react in the moment to the other actors.”
Jojo added, “I always rely on the actors to do whatever they can. They really know more about the character than I do. I don’t want them to think I have all the answers. They should understand the role and how to perform it in front of the camera. I make no demands.”
Q&A Session: Nippon Cinema Now
Guests: Jojo Hideo (Director), Sato Honami (Actor)