Helmer Kore-eda Speaks ‘The Truth’ With Venice Fest Opener

The Truth
Courtesy Venice Film Festival

For a Japanese director, the prospect of making a film in a language other than Japanese could prove to be quite daunting. However, that wasn’t exactly the case for Hirokazu Kore-eda and his latest film, “The Truth,” which had its world premiere as the opener of the Venice Film Festival on Aug. 28.

The film, in English and French, features Catherine Deneuve playing Fabienne, a popular actress. She is paired with Juliette Binoche as her daughter, who is a screenwriter.

“Because there are a lot of performers who speak the same language yet cannot work together,” Kore-Eda said wryly by email, “maybe it is good to share something else, like taste or vision.”

A graduate of Waseda University in Tokyo, Kore-Eda got his start making documentaries for television in the early 1990s. His feature debut, “Maborosi,” the story of a woman coping with her husband’s suicide, took the Best Director prize at Venice in 1995.

Subsequent films also shined on the overseas festival circuit. “Distance,” a unspooled in competition at Cannes in 2001. Three years later, Yuya Yagira took Best Actor at Cannes for his role in Kore-eda’s “Nobody Knows,” a look at four children abandoned by their mother in Tokyo.

Kore-Eda’s movies are often highly intimate, a style that is compared to that of legendary Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu (“Tokyo Story”).

Kore-eda does not dispute the comparison, but feels that his “DNA is within” the likes of British director Ken Loach, whose works focus on social issues, and Hou Hsiao-Hsien, the Taiwanese helmer who was the subject of a documentary by Kore-eda in 1993.

“I think [they] had a profound influence,” he said.

In 2018, Kore-eda finally achieved mainstream success with “Shoplifters,” which was nominated for a foreign-language Oscar earlier this year. Made in part with public funding, the film was a hit domestically — collecting nearly $40 million at the box office — but also caused a stir. Shortly after its release, critics labeled Kore-eda “anti-Japan” for his refusal to accept congratulations from the Japanese government after he won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. (He wrote on his blog that he preferred to maintain “a distance from government authority.”)

Perhaps similar to Loach, the film, in which a group of people living together as a family survive via theft, focuses on a subject that some would prefer to ignore: poverty.

Though it might seem otherwise, simply seeking to be different or produce an atypical work isn’t the goal of Kore-eda.

“When I’m making a film, I’m not thinking about what is typical and measuring the distance I am from it,” Kore-eda said. “A film that I make is the result of my sincere desire at that time to face the theme that I want to think about.”