Director Kenji Murakami has been a fixture of Japan's indie film scene for over 16 years. Born in Takasaki City, Gunma Prefecture in 1970, Murakami studied first at Senshu University Department of Art and then went on to study and work at Tokyo's hugely influential Image Forum School. His 1995 debut film "Bye Bye Primary" won the top prize at that year's Image Forum Festival, and since then Murakami has created and idiosyncratic and fascinating body of work. Best described as documentary films Murakami's work has charted the societal and sexual landscape of modern Japan with films like 1999's "Tel Club" about the world of telephone clubs where men chat with teen girls, 2003's "How I Survive in Kawaguchi City" which chronicles life in suburban Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, 2009's "The Love Hotel Collection" which captured the surreal interiors of love hotels, and "Love Doll I Wanna Hold You!" which takes a loving and disturbing look at the phenomena of more-ear-than-real love dolls. Often Murakami is the subject of his films, like with his exploration of 8mm film and infidelity "Fujica Single Date". He has also turned his camera on to some of the most iconoclastic filmmakers working in Japan today, namely Fumiki Watanabe and Kenji Onishi. Murakami most recently appeared in his friend Kyuya Nakagawa's film "Coming Future" about Tokyo's jishu eiga, or "indie movie" scene. CM
1. What movie inspired you to become a film-maker? What was it about the movie that was inspiring?
“Robinson’s Garden” by Masahi Yamamoto (1987). I was introduced to a noble place, those ruins. A way to dream while awake. "Landscape Suicide” by James Benning (1986). I learned that just scenery can make a film. “Toki ga fubuku” by Katsu Kanai (1991). I learned, more than anything else, the importance of the filmmaker. And freedom.
2. Is there someone you always wanted to work with on a project, but have never had the chance?
3. Please finish this statement: If I had not become a film-maker I would probably be a ________.
4. Which three people (besides film-makers) have had the biggest influence on you?
Comedian Tamori, Masato Matsuno, the founder of Gansokokusaihihoukan, an erotic theme park in Ise and love hotel designer Shin Amii.
5. What is your favorite book? Why is it your favorite?
“Waraugingakei” by Katsu Kanai and “The world of Yasuzou Masumura, movie director” by Yasuzou Masumura because the words of film people who I respect always propel me forward. “Love hotel, Satellite of LOVE” by Kyoichi Tsuzuki. This is a record of the art that Japan should be most proud of. Simply looking at it makes me feel like I am in heaven.
6. What moment in your career has made you most proud so far?
The moment when I shot the last scene of “Natsuni umareru (Tel Club)”.
Translation by Chikako Hirao Evans/ Photo by Nicholas Vroman
Check out Kenji Murakami's official blog here and follow him on Twitter here.