Akiko Ooku was born in 1968 in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture. She graduated from Meiji University. In 1999, Ms Ooku made her directorial debut with “Igai to Shinanai”, followed by her internationally renowned works “Tokyo Serendipity” (2007) and “Tokyo Nameless Girl’s Story” (2012). “Tremble All You Want” is her third time working with actress Matsuoka Mayu (松岡茉優).
During the 19th Jeonju International Film Festival, we had the opportunity to interview filmmaker Akiko Ooku (大九明子) about her latest film “Tremble All You Want” (2017) and her future projects.
“Tremble All You Want” is based on the novel by Risa Wataya. How and when did you decide to start working on a film adaptation of the novel, and how close did you stay to the original?
Yuna Shiraishi, the producer I worked with on “Fantastic Girls (Deeree Girls)” three years ago, brought me this novel. I was truly happy that she wanted to work with me again. The moment I looked at the title, it felt like it was a rooting for young girls in sort of a rough way, and I was immediately drawn to it. And decided to accept the offer (to direct) on the spot.
The synopsis is very close to the original. The most attractive feature about the novel is the sharpness and the beauty of words in Yoshika’s monologue, but I didn’t want to make it into a monologue film so I needed to come up with a new format. I decided to add some characters and turn it into a dialogue play. The strange people around her such as the neighbour, station employee, knitting lady, fisherman, and convenience store staff, were all created especially for this film.
In “Tremble All You Want” we see through the eyes of Yoshika and then there is the key scene (the musical scene) which reveals her true reality. Why did you decide to reveal it through a singing scene?
The scene where reality is revealed, I’ve thought about expressing it in cinematic ways, such as changing the aspect ratio or shooting it in black and white. But that gives the audience time to think and therefore time lag is inevitable. Because I didn’t want to leave any of the audience behind and to deliver Yoshika fully, I decided to have Yoshika explain it herself with her own words. Also, I wanted to try out new methods of expression with Masaki Takano, the music composer whom I’ve been working with for the past few years. And that’s why I’ve decided to reveal through singing.
Concerning casting, did you already have a certain image of the people you wanted to have in the film? How was the process of casting the actors?
For Yoshika, Mayu Matsuoka, whom I’ve been working with constantly for the past few years in short films and movies based on music videos, immediately came to my mind. It turned out that Ms Shiraishi, the producer was also thinking of her from the beginning.
As for other casts, it depends on the role but some of them were introduced by the producer and some of them were proposed by me.
When casting for my films, I contact actors that have caught my eye when watching other films. But I also like comedy sketch TV programs so I sometimes pick out actors from there as well.
How long did the production of “Tremble All You Want” take? How was the shooting like? Any memorable episodes, good or bad?
To complete the film, it took me about a year after I was given the novel.
As for the shoot, I had only 17 to 18 days, which was a very tight schedule.
Memorable episodes… that’s a vague question. There’s just too many, I can’t narrow it down. As a whole, it was shot in the middle of the winter in December and it was extremely cold. I suppose you could say that’s my bad episode.
I consider myself as “rain-bringer (Ame-onna)” because, at each life-stage event, the rain falls on me. But for the past 10 years, during my shoots only, I’ve been very fortunate with the weather. And for this film as well, I was able to avoid the rain.
Can you tell us about the location the film was shot?
Because it’s easy to move around, I shoot mainly in Tokyo. But I prefer not to shoot at places that look familiar. It should blend in with the city’s atmosphere but there’s something unique – those are the places I look for.
In your films, you often portray stories related to youth and coming-of-age, how come? Could you elaborate on that?
The reason I portray stories related to youth is that I used to be one of them and it’s easier to feel anger towards things close to you, which gives you tons of materials to write about. I don’t have any interest in people who are happy or who enjoy their smooth-sailing life.
“Marriage Hunting Beauty” (美人が婚活してみたら) is a film that you are directing and is set to be finished in 2019, could you tell us a little bit more about this film?
It’s a story about a beautiful girl who becomes tired of her everyday life and comes up with an idea to change her future by getting married. I wanted to tell the story from a women’s point of view, so the story revolves around scenes with her girlfriends and not marriage hunting scenes.
The film was world premiered at Okinawa International Film Festival in April and it will open in theatres in Japan beginning of next year. The lead actress Mei Kurokawa often plays a muse to the guys, but I knew she has a girl-like charm and essence of a comedienne, so I’ve always wanted to see that side of her in a movie. I’m glad that it was my film she’s able to reveal.