Five Favorite Films

Hirokazu Koreeda's Five Favorite Films

The acclaimed Japanese director of Oscar-nominated Shoplifters and this week's The Truth also talks about working with screen legend Catherine Deneuve.

by | July 1, 2020 | Comments

Hirokazu Koreeda in 2019
(Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)

Though he isn’t a household name in the States, those who follow international film are already well aware of writer-director Hirokazu Koreeda, who began his career as a documentary filmmaker before transitioning to narrative features in the mid-’90s and making a name for himself on the festival circuit. His moving human dramas, frequently centered on themes of family, immediately set him apart from his peers and earned him comparisons to legendary director Yasujiro Ozu. In 2013, his film Like Father, Like Son took home the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, where his movies have consistently earned widespread acclaim, and in 2018, he finally won the coveted Palme d’Or for Shoplifters, which also went on to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.

This week, Koreeda makes his non-Japanese language debut with The Truth, another wry and witty family drama that examines the fraught relationship between an aging French screen legend (aptly played by Catherine Deneuve) and her screenwriter daughter (Juliette Binoche) upon the publication of the former’s memoirs. This is remarkably Koreeda’s seventh — yes, seventh — Certified Fresh film in a row as writer and director, and it marks a successful transition for a filmmaker who has found great success working in his home country. We spoke to Koreeda ahead of the film’s scheduled release to find out what prompted this change and what it was like working with Catherine Deneuve, but first, he gave us his Five Favorite Films.

Ukigumo (Floating Clouds) (1955)

One film is Floating Clouds by Mikio Naruse, which I first saw as a teenager. When I first started really watching Japanese films as a film director, obviously the films of Akira Kurosawa were kind of superficially more dramatic and appealing, but I keep finding myself going back to Floating Clouds. It’s a film that if I rewatch it in my twenties and thirties and forties, it keeps growing in complexity and it keeps kind of developing within me, and I’m sure that I’ll watch it again in my sixties and seventies, and it will resonate in new ways.

Kes (1969) 100%

Last year, I was able to have a public conversation in London with Ken Loach. To prepare for it, I watched everything that he made, starting with his programs that he made for television, and was again reminded of what a brilliant director he is. But I have to go back to his early work, his early film Kes, which takes place in a working-class coal mining town. As the wild kestrel flies in the sky and then the coal miners descend into the earth, it has so many incredibly poetic elements, and that lead character’s young boy’s face will always stay with me.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) 87%

I recently went to the Berlin Film Festival because Ang Lee wanted to have a public conversation with me. He chose to talk to me, and so I went to the Berlin Film Festival for the first time in 25 years. Rewatching his films, I saw again Brokeback Mountain, which is a film that I really, really adore. I think in a sense, it’s like Floating Clouds. It’s a depiction of an extended relationship between two people who love each other, and of course it’s a very, very wistful film. I’d have to say that, as a fellow director, what I so admire is that… Of course Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal are wonderful, but all the surrounding actors, their respective wives and parents — they deliver such great performances. I think it’s Michelle Williams who played Heath Ledger’s wife. She was especially wonderful.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) (1964) 98%

When I was in Paris, before we started filming, I was staying in a hotel in Montparnasse. I went to Jacques Demy’s grave to let him know that — I left flowers — to let him know that I’ll be working with Catherine Deneuve. While I was there, his wife Agnès Varda died and so there was a memorial by their grave, and of course Deneuve was also present. Demy didn’t make the kinds of films that I do that are suffused with kind of the details of daily life. His films are much more dreamlike, but he made so many wonderful films, and I think if I have to choose one, I’m going to choose The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.

Secret Sunshine (2010) 94%

I know that Parasite and Bong Joon-ho has done so well, but I would like to… I was with the Korean director Lee Chang-dong, who most recently created Burning. We were together in Los Angeles for the Academy campaign. We spent some time. I’m going to say my fifth film is Secret Sunshine, which is from about 10 years ago, about a piano teacher whose son is kidnapped, but that’s a film that I could see over and over and over again. I really love it. That’s my fifth film.

Ryan Fujitani for Rotten Tomatoes: I know the initial spark for The Truth came from Juliette Binoche, but what ultimately inspired you to make your first film outside of Japan?

Hirokazu Koreeda: Well, in terms of your question about what finally persuaded me to make a film outside Japan and in France, I was able to meet with the French director François Ozon several times in Japan, and he was very positive and supportive and said that, “There are a lot of people who like your films in France. I’m sure if you make a film in France, it will be successful.” I think his words really stayed with me and really helped to persuade me. Right before filming, I met with him to tell him that I was working with [Catherine] Deneuve, and he said, “Everyone says that she’s so difficult, but honestly, she’s the kind of actress who really wants to serve the entire film. So you’ll be fine.” It was very persuasive and reassuring to have him talk to me that way.

RT: On that note, it seems clear how Juliette Binoche became involved with the project, being that she met with you early on, and I read that you were eager to meet with Ethan Hawke for his part right after you won the Palme d’Or last year for Shoplifters. But what was the process like for casting Catherine Deneuve?

Koreeda: Let’s see, I had the idea suddenly in 2015 on my way back from France to Japan on an Air France flight. I had written a Japanese play for an aging Japanese actress, and it suddenly occurred to me to completely rewrite it and set it in France. And I thought, “Well, if Deneuve is the aging actress, Binoche is her daughter and Ethan Hawke is Binoche’s husband.” That’s how I start my diary entry for that day. It happened in a flash on an Air France flight.

And then I had, I would say, about a total of six hours of lengthy interviews with Deneuve, and then I processed all of that, what I got from her, into strengthening and developing her character in the script. But about half of those six hours was her talking about restaurants and movies.

The Truth is in select theaters and available on VOD on July 3, 2020.

Thumbnail image: Everett Collection, Focus Features, Cinema Service

Tag Cloud

romance Tarantino theme song Comedy Central Black History Month cooking comics Rock science fiction Star Wars independent romantic comedy social media Tomatazos Teen Pirates franchise animated south america Interview TV Land Sundance Now critics Awards X-Men Spring TV stop motion ghosts YA spy thriller casting OWN disaster CMT Nominations anthology crime drama anime crime Showtime Television Critics Association talk show Trailer NYCC rotten movies we love scary movies TIFF harry potter Funimation game of thrones concert Academy Awards cancelled GoT A&E 72 Emmy Awards Podcast award winner Mary Tyler Moore criterion screen actors guild BET 2017 Captain marvel LGBT Turner Classic Movies reviews jamie lee curtis 45 Watching Series versus Lionsgate comic ITV Women's History Month Extras cops festivals TruTV CNN USA classics Opinion breaking bad movie aliens cartoon Rocketman war Universal BET Awards E! DC streaming service spider-man kids Reality hollywood PaleyFest Martial Arts Baby Yoda space documentary sequel news Warner Bros. Netflix Christmas movies GIFs Video Games Pride Month Awards Tour television robots Mary poppins Mystery Marvel Studios justice league mission: impossible TCM The Walking Dead dogs The Purge period drama unscripted supernatural Disney Plus Writers Guild of America Box Office TNT American Society of Cinematographers indiana jones El Rey thriller YouTube Red Emmys MSNBC Premiere Dates Thanksgiving fast and furious comiccon Nat Geo Sony Pictures ESPN TCA 2017 Rom-Com transformers streaming cancelled television Esquire hist Tubi Song of Ice and Fire Crunchyroll First Look Western zombies sports Music IFC Holidays renewed TV shows Set visit Marvel Television AMC stoner screenings Pixar Oscars children's TV Character Guide TCA Winter 2020 2016 RT21 FX on Hulu The CW TBS singing competition Dark Horse Comics best comedies FX Apple cults Columbia Pictures Summer 21st Century Fox Winners Trophy Talk TCA Awards quibi strong female leads cats Quiz tv talk zombie witnail Food Network Mary Poppins Returns hispanic foreign Grammys Mudbound Acorn TV WGN Ghostbusters adventure zero dark thirty PlayStation Mindy Kaling vampires Netflix 4/20 2018 name the review IFC Films History Heroines reboot laika satire Hallmark Christmas movies sag awards Fox News Freeform cars Countdown See It Skip It BBC America politics child's play Starz dark Film Shondaland spain doctor who die hard Tumblr GLAAD Comic Book Ovation nbcuniversal parents cinemax joker toy story movies true crime Apple TV Plus werewolf New York Comic Con Hallmark FOX First Reviews sitcom Elton John Nickelodeon TV renewals dramedy FXX latino Stephen King VICE a nightmare on elm street APB Travel Channel SDCC natural history YouTube TCA free movies NBC video Superheroes green book CBS All Access Horror halloween emmy awards Animation TLC Vudu cancelled TV shows 2015 Sci-Fi Kids & Family Amazon Studios Star Trek National Geographic dragons richard e. Grant Shudder historical drama dceu biography superhero video on demand Valentine's Day slashers Amazon Prime Video HBO Max Britbox diversity technology nature Family OneApp Infographic binge Arrowverse Holiday Lifetime Christmas movies Disney Best and Worst Action indie Sneak Peek The Arrangement A24 cancelled TV series ABC Epix Pop TV Spectrum Originals Binge Guide Film Festival worst 20th Century Fox Schedule Country DirecTV Polls and Games Discovery Channel asian-american Disney+ Disney Plus Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Disney Channel adaptation batman Peacock Cosplay Sundance films elevated horror Syfy Comics on TV spanish language Comedy E3 blockbuster MCU Endgame Spike BAFTA Calendar RT History facebook Trivia dc Marvel President Black Mirror boxoffice Marathons miniseries blaxploitation Cannes Amazon Hulu Walt Disney Pictures psychological thriller christmas movies Winter TV series 71st Emmy Awards CBS Pop book Photos Turner canceled Election spinoff Red Carpet Fall TV DGA San Diego Comic-Con Paramount documentaries CW Seed Classic Film golden globes stand-up comedy serial killer 2019 Biopics BBC One Toys Musicals Brie Larson Rocky discovery Lucasfilm 24 frames Adult Swim YouTube Premium Apple TV+ Ellie Kemper crime thriller HBO Christmas directors canceled TV shows psycho WarnerMedia Creative Arts Emmys Super Bowl Emmy Nominations finale SXSW DC Comics obituary HBO Go Reality Competition composers Superheroe Crackle TV Masterpiece chucky LGBTQ all-time Amazon Prime MTV VOD based on movie Hear Us Out Lifetime Paramount Network Logo VH1 007 mockumentary crossover political drama PBS Fantasy Sundance TV medical drama Cartoon Network what to watch 2020 Chernobyl Certified Fresh Year in Review The Witch Drama Disney streaming service Television Academy police drama game show DC Universe Pet Sematary ratings Musical Anna Paquin teaser USA Network revenge SundanceTV rotten Bravo ABC Family docudrama Avengers Chilling Adventures of Sabrina universal monsters mutant travel twilight BBC