Interview With Yoshihiro Nishimura

Some films frighten or terrify you, grossing you out with rivers of gore. Others make you laugh. But few can do both in equal measure. The work of Japanese director Yoshihiro Nishimura is surreal creepy and silly. In films like Tokyo Gore Police and Vampire Girl Vs Frankenstein Girl (co directed with Naoyuki Tomomatsu) he delights in the extreme, in grotesque mutations of the human body and pushing things to the point of absurdity. In fact beneath the geysers of blood on his most recent outing, the zombie splatterfest Helldriver, there’s an almost slapstick quality.

“I do like slapstick comedy,” admits Nishimura via email, “but I think I prefer “splatstick” comedy, like EVIL DEAD 2, ARMY OF DARKNESS, RE-ANIMATOR, FRANKENHOOKER and BRAINDEAD!”

Yet there are also elements of everyone from Dali, Jodorowsky and of course Lynch and Cronenberg floating around in his unique hilarious body horror.

“I don’t think they’ve influenced my films directly as much as created a basic mindset within me to create similar works,” he suggests thoughtfully.

Despite directing some shorts when he was younger, it comes as little surprise to discover that Nishimura’s main involvement in the film industry was via special fx on films like Suicide Club, Horny House of Horror, Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead, and Machine Girl. In fact he runs his own sfx company, having worked on over 65 feature films. But when the opportunity to direct presented itself arose he grabbed it with both hands.

“I had been working on so many other films over the years as special effects director or makeup designer, that all the time I’d been thinking of how I could do something better than the film I happened to be working on! This was especially true with some of the more boring or uncreative films I’d done effects for. All the while I was working on these sets, I was thinking “why don’t we do this?” or “things would look so much better this way.”

His most recent film is Helldriver, an over the top take on a zombie film. With zombies with machine guns instead of arms and legs and a car made from severed zombie parts it takes extremity to a whole new level.

“I wanted to play with zombies!” He reveals. “I’d wanted to make a zombie movie for some time, but in Japan, zombie movies are a bit difficult. We burn our dead, so there was the issue of coming up with an origin for the zombies.”

“Personally, I want to see things that I’ve never seen before in a movie,” he continues. “The zombie car is one example of that. Something that I thought might be really awesome in a movie, but had never seen anyone attempt before.”

Despite people being split in half, vaginas that turn into the snapping jaws of crocodiles and zombie babies still attached from the umbilical cord flung by its mother at victims, Nishimura points out there are limits.

“I have no interest, for instance, in doing a movie about a woman who gets put into prison and tortured, stuff like that. But if other people want to do it, I think it’s okay. I just may not want to watch it as a viewer. But in terms of my own works, I will always do the things I want to do, no matter what they are or how “extreme” others may consider them. To me, they may not be so extreme.”

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Fragmented Films 28th June 09

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In You The Living (Directors Suite), with its sparse washed out palette, and quirky ambiguous characters, Swedish writer/ director Roy Andersson finds those peculiar little uncomfortable moments in life and mines them for all their dark hilarious absurdity. It’s totally deadpan, kind’ve Jacques Tati without the slapstick or Samuel Becket without the wordplays. There’s a darkness to his comedy that at times ventures perilously close to an unbearable kind of hopelessness. He’s made 4 films in 37 years and You The Living is quite simply remarkable. He’s set it up as fifty scenes, sketches if you like. Some, such as the elderly man with a walker obliviously dragging his dog along by the neck are hilarious, others are poignant or downright miserable, such as the man morosely listing how his investments have failed, causing him to have to remain at work longer, all the while being straddled by a naked moaning and writhing woman.

Tokyo Gore Police (Eastern Eye) is the kind of hysterical heightened Freudian wrongness that the Japanese do best. Borrowing shamelessly from Blade Runner, Testsuo and early Cronenburg, the mutations are over the top, highly sexual and very very funny. The entire film is drenched in gore, with spurting geysers of blood, vaginas that turn into the snapping jaws of a crocodile, and mammoth membrane penises that that shoot I’m not sure what. Capping it off is the head mutant hunter, the impossibly sexy Eihi Shiina who first seduced us with her quiet innocence in Audition (Siren) and then went on to absolutely terrify us with her sadistic torture devices. Here she ruthlessly hunts and mercilessly slaughters the mutants in a futuristic ultra violent and totally ludicrous Japan. She’s is way too classy for this – and that just makes it better.

Yet there’s also a very surreal side to Japan, best exemplified by Big Man Japan (Eastern Eye), which manages to seamlessly merge Japan’s obsession with giant monsters attacking their cities, reality TV, and the absurd direct to camera mockumentary schtick of having a film crew in toe, like The Office or Man Bites Dog. The crew follows a regular loser, a dole bludging schmo, boring us with the meaningless details of his life, until we discover that he, with the assistance of a large dose of electricity transforms into a skyscraper size super hero who battles monsters. Of course he’s lazy and a coward so mostly he waits till they turn their back and dongs them on their head. These may be the only monsters you’ll ever see with comb-overs, that smell like 500 people emptying their bowels or who’s weapon is a mammoth extendable penis with an eyeball on the end. It’s truly bizarre and wrong.

The first lesson for would be filmmakers is if you’re so desperate to have a junkie in your film, maybe you should go out and meet a few. Just cruise out of Fitzroy or Carlton or wherever you creative types live and head off to Dandenong, or Lilydale. What you’ll find is that your junkies aren’t your attractive voluptuous healthy looking things with perfect teeth. They are walking skeletons, with bad skin and a not so quiet desperation who use junk to dull the pain of life. Yet healthy TV junkies aren’t all that is wrong with No Through Road (Accent Underground), which begins as Straw Dogs and ends with as much sadistic bloodletting as Tokyo Gore Police. At some point it switches gears, possibly about the time the corpse of his father’s best friend starts inexplicably talking to him and it’s all downhill from there. It’s a peculiar film with a great beginning as our main character’s well ordered solitude is disturbed when he finds an intruder in his closet. Yet it loses track, it sets up the suspense well, yet as a result the later sadistic violence feels both gratuitous and cheap, like it’s an easy out.

Finally Beastie Boy Adam Yauch’s Gunnin’ For That #1 Spot (Aztec) provides a pumping hip hop beat to the best and the brightest High School basketballers gathered together at the infamous outdoor Rucker Park in Harlem. Using this Elite 24 game as a frame, Yauch explores these young players lives, their family, friends and reputations. They’re like lambs to the slaughter, kids who have mortgaged their adolescence, living under the pressures of becoming ‘next big thing,’ before they’ve even made it to college. It’s fascinating and a little bit frightening, and this contextual information really adds to the tension of the game as you root for the down to earth ones without dominating parents or show biz attitudes, who you hope are less likely to become cocaine addicted pack rapists.