Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda is known for the small details, vivid characters and delicate but relevant stories in his films. With “The Agent,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, he decided to both stick to his strengths and make changes. It’s the director’s first Korean-language film, but it tells a different story from Shie, about social outcasts coming together to form a makeshift family. The agent started many years ago; it was Yee who came up with the idea for the story while writing “Little Thief,” which later won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival . He quickly rounded up a star-studded cast of South Korean actors — Sang Kang-ho, Kang Dong-won, Bae Doo-na, and IU — and moved on from there.
Last week, Yee, who just started developing his next project in Japan, attended the Venice Film Festival to receive Besson by Ente dello Spettacolo Awards, ahead of the Broker’s October release in Italy 13. The Hollywood Reporter had a brief chat with him at the Lido to discuss the influence of Italian cinema on his work, the inspiration for agents and the state of contemporary Japanese cinema.
The tone of “The Agent” is more ironic than your previous films.
This lighter tone is partly due to Song Kangho’s performance. He has this skill, and he can find sarcasm and subtle veins in any situation.
How important was the influence of Fellini and Italian Neorealism on you?
Fellini has been a very strong presence in my life because I’m just 16. My first choice as a director was influenced by him. He gave me a clear understanding of what a director is and what it means. Fellini has a two-faced side, sandwiched between character and poetry. Especially in the second half of his career.
As for neorealism?
Working with non-professional actors has always fascinated me, which is exactly what I tried in my first work as a director.
You mentioned “poetry” in other interviews as well. How would you define in this case?
2018 There is a scene in Fellini’s “Lastrada” where Gersomina is in a bad mood and Irma Tow tried to cheer her up. He picked up a stone and said, “Everything has a purpose, even this stone; you have a purpose.” You see, that rock and that speech is poetry.
How is the situation of Japanese movies today? Several Japanese films, thanks to you and other authors such as Ryusuke Hamaguchi (2022Oscar Best International Award Winner feature films), which are widely viewed and discussed around the world today.
If this is the outside perspective, it means we’re on the right track again. Hamaguchi Ryusuke is younger than me. We’re talking about a difference of at least 20 years, and the same can be said for Yasushi Fukada, who is living this Venice Festival with love. I am very happy to see the new generation of Japanese directors grow and succeed. For me, this is an amazing thing. Especially since the old director in the spotlight has always been the same for the past 2018 years. We have done our best, but we need fresh blood. With a new generation, we can move on.
Is your international success also reflected in Japan? If we also want to find some kind of error in this success, it has to be mentioned that this visibility is not reflected in Japan in industry. Instead, there are cracks. So far, the Japanese film industry has been shut down. As the population shrinks, so does the demand for new films. Currently, several issues are overlooked at the local level. This results in a double-sided element. This is why we end up with a deep divide between the development of the art of cinema and the stagnation of the industry itself.