Arama They Didn't

1:28 pm - 01/20/2013

Gadabout's Interview with Ninagawa Mika

Enter Mika Ninagawa‘s residence-slash-office and you’re in for a treat — behind the unassuming facade, hidden from the outsiders’ eyes, is a small wonderland. Covered floor to ceiling in its owner’s signature imagery the place is a screenshot of her saturated blue-red-flower-fish works, even the air conditioner is masked with photo paper. I pull my camera out, turn the dial, click, click… Error. It’s dead. I guess some things are not meant to be captured. Besides, who could illustrate Ninagawa interview better than the award winning photographer, acclaimed filmmaker and the artist in her own right herself. Her ever present partner, Kanaya-san, nods. Ninagawa lights up a cigarette.

Interview by Andrey Bold

[Cut out]

Bold: Your latest movie, Helter Skelter the film is based on the cult manga, written b Kyoko Okazaki, and follows the downfall of a young star, Lilico, who came to prominence through continuous plastic surgeries but can no longer sustain her beauty), is about cut-throat world of show business. As a person who makes a good living out of it, why did you choose to direct it?

Ninagawa: I thought it’s a very interesting theme. I decided to direct it seven years ago. Back then I wasn’t that successful commercially. I was actually quite confused when I finished filming. Am I in denial? I chose this theme because I sympathized with the character, but at the end it was hard to even advertise the film as the process mimics the story. I even had to re-think how to take photos. I completely understand why Erika had to take a break afterward.

Bold: Did you consider Erika for the lead from the beginning?
Ninagawa: Erika was my first choice, but there were some difficulties in casting her at the time. Considering other options I only became more confident it has to be her.

Bold: Excellent choice. Bad behavior is an integral part of the celebrity phenomenon, in Japan however celebrities are expected to behave like model citizens.

Ninagawa: I think it’s a part of the Japanese DNA to fear the unconventional. When “Helter Skelter” started to receive mixed reaction I wasn’t that concerned, but I guess it’s tougher on the actors. Must be very stressful to face all this criticism. What you hear about Erika in the media is just a small part of who she is, on the set she was extremely giving and dedicated.

Bold: I think it’s only natural to act obnoxiously when you’re stressed out. It’s a part of the package. In Japan however even a slight misstep may end someone’s career overnight. Why is that?

Ninagawa: That’s so true, I wonder why. Is it an Asian thing? I think actors should be judged by their acting.

[Cut out]

Bold: Japanese media seems to be overcrowded with tarento, what are your thoughts on that?

Ninagawa: In “Helter Skelter” Lilico is an absolute star. The story takes place in the ’90s, when there were still some real stars. It’s difficult for me to translate this comic into present because there are no stars left. This country seems to reject them. There are some idols and tarento who are nice people, but rather androgynous, lacking the real character. I guess people can’t stand true stars because they are so different, they’d rather watch some stupid proxies they can sympathize with. I don’t watch TV myself, it’s too painful. Women are always treated like assistants. Japanese men like weak, submissive women, it makes them feel stronger, more confident. Women like Anna Tsuchiya don’t get much attention because she’s too strong. Many girls like me because I’m different, a rare example. I wish they free themselves from these centuries old customs already. I don’t care about the guys, but it’s my duty to help women to become happier. I once talked to a famous newscaster and asked her what she thinks is the key to the long lasting carrier, she answered “it’s important to make men think she’s great, but not better than me.” It’s crazy, but men often don’t see it! Japanese customs are strange, especially when you come back from abroad… [Sigh]

Bold: es, Girl power seems to be an underlying layer in most of your works. Do you feel the situation is gradually changing? Are women more in control these days?

Ninagawa: Hard to say. In fashion men are minority. Only when I step outside I realize how rare my case is and how difficult it is for other women. I want to change it. I hope my work will encourage these women. I won’t go fighting for women’s rights though! We start with small things, like clothes… tights to look formal, or I’m too old for this outfit… I want to free them from this burden.

Bold: Men play secondary roles in your works.

Ninagawa: There are some boys in my photos. [Smiles] I only directed two films so far and chose the themes I can relate to. Women’s stories written by women. I think the third film is also going to be a woman’s story. Also, I don’t really need a man in my life now, I
have my son. Men are like sweets to me, if I’m madly in love I’d shoot a love story. I’m like that, my works reflect my feelings. [Laugh]

Bold: What type of men do you like?

Ninagawa: [Laugh] He doesn’t have to be rich, or extremely smart, but he’s got to be sexy. I just want him to flatter me sometimes. That’s why I often get bad boyfriends! [Laugh]

[Cut out]

Bold: What is your biggest ambition?

Ninagawa: First, I want to become a household name in Asia, then — take over the world! I’m thinking of shooting films in China. I want my work to be seen everywhere.

source: Gadabout - Full Interview
wapiko 20th-Jan-2013 08:33 pm (UTC)
unf, Ninagawa Mika's work is irresistible. Her photobooks are dazzling.

I'll never forget one of the first shoots she did with Tsuchiya Anna when she was like, 13 or so.

Edited at 2013-01-20 08:34 pm (UTC)
ohprecioustime 20th-Jan-2013 08:55 pm (UTC)
ugh I hate this chick,all her shit looks the same and is so poorly done

still worried that Kuu's pv will be anti-climatic and poorly made like the rest of her stuff
tomoeicemaiden 20th-Jan-2013 09:06 pm (UTC)
this so much. i respect and agree with her views but her actual work isn't groundbreaking.
1111_am 20th-Jan-2013 08:59 pm (UTC)
I love her. I love her photography in all their brilliance and colors. Plus I love her views on women/feminism.
izabera 20th-Jan-2013 09:07 pm (UTC)
She did a great job with Helter Skelter. I was worried it would be a watered-down version of the manga but it was completely faithful to the spirit of the manga. She's spot on with her comments about women in the Japanese media.
love_keiko 20th-Jan-2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
oh good! i'll have to see it then. i thought the manga was incredible.

i REALLY wished she directed paradise kiss. the movie was such a watered-down version of the manga and she's worked with keiko before so i think they would've presented a much better movie together.
liime_arix 20th-Jan-2013 09:31 pm (UTC)
You know she would have really brought out the characters

love_keiko 20th-Jan-2013 10:08 pm (UTC)
the story is TOTALLY her style! probably one of my favorite coming of age mangas and it does it with style! AND a bittersweet ending instead of that ridiculous kid friend route the movie took.

i LOVE this photoshoot---u can tell she gets the character. keiko looks more like yukari HERE than she did in the actual movie. which was blasphemy, btw. this is the second photo shoot she and mika have done together---i hope whatever mika is planning next, she considers keiko for a role.

i've been really frustrated with keiko's career lately. i love her to death but ever since she's gotten popular stardust wont let her touch any controversial roles. i miss when she was unknown and playing bad asses.
liime_arix 20th-Jan-2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
I watched the movies with my friend and they enjoyed but I was like no no, it doesn't do the manga justice. If I had to compare it to something, I'd say a light-air teen movie, but I was not here for that.

Yes, this photoshoot just shows she knows what Yukari is like.

IA tbh, if all my favorites have to turn vanilla, I'd rather them not be mainstream popular at all. I remember when I first watched Dear Friends (first time I'd seen her too), and she was wonderful in that omg.
love_keiko 20th-Jan-2013 11:25 pm (UTC)

i always refer her haters to that movie. ANYONE who says keiko cant act watches that movie and takes that statement back. damn, i wonder if she's bored with half the characters she plays or something because i can barely finish anything she's been in recently. i liked her dinner mystery drama but the one she's in right now? i didn't even finish watching the first episode.

the last keiko drama i LOVED was buzzer beat. *sighs* and i cant remember the last movie i've seen of her that i sincerely liked...maybe handsome suit? she's appearing in magazines MUCH less than before and she's only 25 but they keep styling her like she's 40! arg! the thing that's killing me is she CAN be popular and still do compelling roles. kou shibasaki is a prime example of that. i dont kno what's going on lately. i miss her long hair and rock star clothes and sexy attitude in men's magazines!


paradise kiss the movie was SO disappointing. when i heard it was becoming a movie starring keiko i was SO excited because she hadnt played that kind of role in a long time. instead they changed everything around---she ends up with the bad boy. i guess that makes a better story but i think the whole point of george and yukari's relationship is that u CAN love someone but not be with them. they weren't good for each other but they LEARNED from each other---doesnt make what they had any less real. yukari's story was SO empowering not just as a woman in love, but as a woman trying to understand her place in the world---away from her family and in the harsh spotlight of the fashion industry. the directer of this film did ZERO justice to the story, characters, and worst of all the FASHION. every character was a cheap knockoff of their manga version. at least the director of nana made an effort to lift outfits, sets, and scenes directly from the manga even if they did change the story a bit.

good to kno i wasnt the only one who thought the movie was weak as hell!
liime_arix 20th-Jan-2013 11:58 pm (UTC)
Dear Friends, I remember watching it on recommendation from some girls who were into gyaru and I loved it. I considered watching Buzzer Beat for the two black guys in the background. But I can't stomach Yamapi's acting enough. They really need to get her out of the vanilla shtick or she'll become like everyone else (like I have my favorites, but I just know a lot of them can go for something 'more' if you know what I mean).

Omg the fashion, terribad. They are art students, they don't have to dress like Kyary, but I was thinking where is the Harajuku-hipster look (since quite a few of them are art students). They could have gone to Yoon or Mademoiselle Yulia for the hook up. I feel like they took away from a lot of the character's personality. They could have split it into two parts too. It leaves me annoyed cause I love the series and it's like, 'well we need to make a quick buck, screw the original fans'. And the way she gets back to George in the movie? Ugh, not here for that, not here for that.
love_keiko 20th-Jan-2013 09:30 pm (UTC)
love her photography. she's great at filming but does she write the films also? the stories always lack in some way. she's inexperienced but she's trying and at least she's making films about what she's interested in.

her comments about women in japanese media r spot on but really it applies to media around the world. i think if she was abroad in america we're REALLY good at HIDING it but truth be told it's the same shit in a different language.

i'm gonna go hunt helter skelter down and see if i like the movie as much as the manga.
clara_maria 20th-Jan-2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
great interview! way to go woman!
takarai_karin 22nd-Jan-2013 11:22 am (UTC)
She might wanna talk with her dad, then. He loves working with idols cause it's a slap to society's face when he can bring out true artistry from those idols.

Her photography style is nice, but I think she's overhyped, and I worry that the pretentiousness might be halting her from her growth.
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