Special Interview with Mayu Nakamura, a Japanese film director from "Intimate Stranger"

"Intimate Stranger" (Shinmitsuna ta-nin/新密な他人 in Japanese title), is one of the films in Nippon Cinema Now category, world premiered at 34th Tokyo International Film Festival on November 2021. By courtesy of TIFF, Mayu Nakamura, a film director from her psychological thriller movie "Intimate Stranger", kindly shared us what she thought when she start making this film include the ideas behind the scenes and features the special interview in InStyle Asia.

"Intimate Stranger" depicts the story of a homeless boy (Fūju Kamio), the phone scammer gangster (Shogen) and a single mother (starring by Asuka Kurosawa) who lose her son (Yu Uemura) and attempted to find him. Not only it was premiered during the pandemic, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic like the calm ambient, the feeling of lose, loneliness, hope in the darkness from each character also can be seen as well.

Director Mayu Nakamura after the special interview 

Q: We heard your previous work (Among Four of Us, short film) also premiered in Osaka Asian Film Festival on March 2021. This times, we are so happy to watch "Intimate Stranger", your latest work in Tokyo International Film Festival this year. It's really interesting movie. Let me ask you some questions. What is your main reason to make this film?

Mayu Nakamura: One of the main reasons that i make this film is, it's diffecult to find the Japanese films telling about the older female character who plays as a main character. Most of the Japanese films usually like middle age men heroes, highschool boys and girls, 20s or 30s women, it seems there is no place for a middle age woman as the main character. Even if they filmed the women in her 30s, but they're portrayed them as hard working mother or wife character. It seems like there is no place for women who are single or divorced person. I feel like i want to make a film that mature women can enjoy. It's a reason i make this film.

Q: What is the reason you picked up the homeless people in Japan who earning his life like a scammer. Many foreigners may don't know about this side in Japan. What is your idea to show this kind of the story?

Mayu Nakamura: One of the reasons I make this film is, also because i grew up oversea. I spent 15 years in London and New York, i was raised up in western world. So, I came back to Japan over 10 years ago, I was stucked by the idea about mother and son. The mother and son relationship in Japan, may be Asian, mother don't love their son so much, it's very different from mother and daughter relationship. So I only portraits this kind of obsessive love between mother and son. I thought that the scared scam is somehow a kind of symthematic of this love. A con man calling to asking money from grand mother and mother, is unheard tell in the west. I heard this kind of scam also happened in Korea, it's very happening phenomenon. I wanted to portrait this, i imagined what if this boy who loved mother and knowing the mother's love, meet this woman who is a failed mother or wife.

Mayu Nakamura, the film director from "Intimate Stranger", World premiere in Tokyo International Film Festival.

Q:  Homeless society is a kind of subculture or minority which is overlooked in Japan. What do you think about this in your film?

Mayu Nakamura: You means the boy who living in internet cafe? 

Q: Yes, because the scammer group and the homeless people is appearing in the film.

Mayu Nakamura: I think Megumi, the mother is also a homeless. She doesn't have a place to go. She pretending to be married and pretending to have a social position, but her emotion is a kind of nowhere, same goal with the boy. So I want to portrait the people who have no belonging, no place they are belong. They are similar, the woman who is a kind of homeless and the boy who have no family, have nothing. 

Q: Why Megumi (mother), start wearing an marriage ring after she allowed Yuji (homeless boy) stay at her apartment. What is your idea from this scene?

Mayu Nakamura: It's a kind of pretending in her workplace, to upscale herself at the clothing store (her workplace) and pretending like she is married. I discussed with my costume designer. i referred this character to Kei Komuro's mother, princess Mako's mother-in-law. She looks shady. She is a single mother and had self-image like a wealthy modern. I studied Kei Komuro's mother pictures and said to costume designer to find this clothes, like her clothes. This is my ideal person who putting on it to upscale and modernize her real-self. By putting on it to show and modernize as a comfortable wife or mother. I think it's a kind of societal pressure.

Mayu Nakamura posed after the world premiere for her film "Intimate Stranger" in Yuraku-cho, Tokyo

Q: How about the reason you casted the main characters? (The mother, the homeless boy and gangster head)

Mayu Nakamura: For actress Asuka Kurosawa, i have always thought that she is very interesting actress, she is very versatile, have different faces. Sometimes she is so sexy, but  something she looks so scarely, or very common, her expression changes a lot. We don't see this kind of actress in Japan so much, may be like French actress "Isabelle Huppert" or "Juliette Binoche" who is very mercurial and spontaneous transform. I wanted to cast Asuka Kurosawa. She is so excellent in her films like "a Snake of June" (by director Shinya Tsukamoto) last 20 years ago. Lately she plays the role as a good wife and mother. I wanted to cast her and bring back her aspect, different aspect. 

For Fūju Kamio, I found him through casting. Since i making this film, it was under pandemic time, some part of the screening time, you wearing mask which means you have to have very strong eyes. You have to act through your eyes, because we don't see it through your face. Fūju Kamio have very strong fiercing eyes somehow dark, he have this gloomy eyes. He is good looking and it have something about him, so I thought he is kind of interesting. 

Shōgen, actually he is my friend, he is also an interesting actor, he have very shark look so i thought he is very good for this role. 

The feather of Bluebird make him a hope and he also share the hope to other hope even he living in the dark side society.

Q: Although everyone's life look so painful and no any choice to choose but you added some symbol of hope and spiritual meaning by using the bluebird feather or happiness, to encourage their life moving on in their own way, what is your idea about this?

Mayu Nakamura: Oh, the bluebird feather? It's a kind of symbolic piece from a boy plays by Fūju Kamio, he yearning to the happiness in elsewhere, he wants to be anywhere from here, basically he wants to escape the world he living, but he had nowhere to go. And Megumi trapped in this. She living lonely, pretending to be a love mother. The casted idea on the happiness in the bluebird feather is like "Wong Kar-Wai's love desire matter on his earlier films through the characters starring by "Leslie Cheung", a man who living lonely and no place to go.

Q: Do you think the mother who lose her child and a homeless who lose his family, they sharing the same feeling?

Mayu Nakamura: They are finding their rest place and the needs they are lacking and finding each other basically.

Megumi, a single mother who lose her child and living lonely in an old apartment 

Q: What is the story behind the angels painting at the room?

Mayu Nakamura: it's a famous painting called "Pity" by William Blake who is a famous English poet, it's a kind of really bizarre painting, possibly reflected from a scene in Macbeth. But it's not look like that, for me, it looks like mother and somebody taking away her child. I found that image is really haunting and somehow since i grew up in England, i loved watching the artistic works and i liked the images that i saw, i could use that imaginary in the film, symbolise it to what the main character going through, a kind of lose her child, a kind of yearning for the lost person. May be in the old Japanese films like in 60s era, they put the pictures in the film. It's not happened lately. So it's interesting to put the imagery or painting in the film. I think, it's the old style, but it mentioned something about the film.

Megumi (Asuka Kurosawa), a single mother who lose her son and Yuji (Fūju Kamio) , a homeless boy who said he knew where her son is

Q: You compared the characters' feelings with something we see everyday when we are staying at home during the pandemic. For example, the mother's painful is compared to the pressure from the kettle's whistle, the sound of washing machine. You showed many rooms in apartment like bathroom, kitchen, bedroom. What is your reason behind this scenes?

Mayu Nakamura: I imaged this apartment as Megumi's rooms, it's like her body since she living there alone, especially washing machine making a lot of noise, so many things making noise, in the way of a woman who staying and spent time at home, making the rooms like her body, and also portraits a room where she hid the boxes inside. A boy character by Fūju Kamio found something inside there, so I tried to make this small apartment into the film like her body. We have low budget, no computer graphic or anything fancy. I tried to make this small apartment into something interesting, like the closet, the rooms where the characters in or the internet. 

The conversation between Yuji and Megumi at her apartment. Who telling the truth?

Q: How about your most favourite scene in the film?

Mayu Nakamura: i like the Kettle scene. The kettle's shrike always sound terrified. The inner room ambient put it very terrified. When i came back to Japan, i found and thought that the women in Japan always be asked by some questions like "Are you married?", "Do you have kids?". If you don't, they may asked you "Why not?", "What is your problem?". It seems like people think that the women who is getting married, they have kids. They feel like If you are not part of that, there is something wrong with you. It seems like a lot of pressures from exterior. If you want to be accepted in society, you have to fulfill those role, if you are not, you may feel it's a kind of that pressure. Although the time is changing, but we still feel about this. If you are married and you don't have kids, you feel like you are not living like human being, so i think of this kind of the scene and that feeling of pressure. You just feel like it's a feeling of press. I tried to portrait it in the kettle scene.

Q: How about your next project? and What kind of genre you want to make for your next one?

Mayu Nakamura: Actually, I already made a short film  last month, presenting in Osaka Film Festival but because of the COVID, so it's like another COVID film section (laugh), That's my next project.

Yuji and Megumi appointed to meet outside during she finding her missing son

Q: This movie will be showed in Japan (March 2022), you also plan to release in abroad?

Mayu Nakamura: Hopefully, I getting some international film festival for the international distributors to pick up my film, i tried to do that since i grew up oversea and I like to make films as well, hopefully it will showing in the near future.

inStyle Asia: The story is really interesting, the actors also famous, many international fans  wanted to see this film. Currently, Fūju Kamio is also popular in Asia from his roles in manga-based highschool themed series and movies. Thank you so much for sharing us your thoughts and ideas behind the story.

Intimate Stranger is coming in theater (Japan) from 5th March 2022. Update more information about the film on the official website (English): http://www.cine.co.jp/shinmitunatanin/eng/

Interview photo & text; InStyle Asia

©2021 シグロ/Omphalos Pictures

Intimate Stranger

English Title: "Intimate Stranger" (Japanese Title: 新密な他人)

Film Director & Screen writer: Mayu Nakamura/ Camera: Tomohiko Tsuji /Producer: Tetsujiro Yamagami /Distributor: Omphalos Pictures/ Sound: Takuya Kawakami/ Music: Takashi Nigaki/ Editor: Yuji Oshige

Running time: 95 minutes/ Main language: Japanese/ Released date: 5th March 2022 (Japan)

Main cast: Asuka Kurosawa (黒沢あすか), Füju Kamio (神尾楓珠), Shogen (尚玄), Yu Uemura (上村侑)

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