Busan 2019: Hirokazu Kore-eda discusses “The Truth”


Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest work, “The Truth,” made its Asian Premiere at the 2019 Busan International Film Festival.  Notably, this is the Japanese director’s first film made outside of his native country.  The French-language film co-stars Catherine Deneuve as the neurotic actress Fabienne, who thinks that both life on- and off-set is a movie, and Juliette Binoche as her non-actress daughter Lumir, who travels with her family to France to celebrate the publication of her mother’s autobiography.  It is immediately clear upon Lumir’s arrival that their relationship is testy at its best and absolutely dysfunctional at its worst, and Ethan Hawke playing a supporting role as Lumir’s American D-actor husband Hank can’t do much to diffuse the situation.  Meanwhile, in a case of life imitating art but in a role reversal, Fabienne has taken on a role in a science fiction movie where she ages, but her mother in the film does not.

Kore-eda’s family drama includes light touches of humor and a wickedly funny turn from Deneuve in particular.  Just two hours after landing in Busan, he gave a press conference about the film, which opened the Venice International Film Festival earlier this year.  Some excerpts follow; direct quotes were interpreted by a translator:

On the casting: Kore-eda became friends with Binoche a decade ago, and she had expressed an interest in working with him at some point.  In 2015, he sent the script to her, noting that he already had Deneuve in mind to play the grandmother/mother/actress role.  “I wanted to express her very vividly in this film, so that was the biggest task for me,” he said of Deneuve.

As for Hawke, Kore-eda said it took no convincing to bring him on board.  Hawke was eager to work with him during his initial meeting with the director in New York due to Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or win at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival for “Shoplifters.”

On other Asian filmmakers who have influenced him: Kore-eda mentioned Jia Zhang-ke, Lee Chang-dong and Hou Hsiao-Hsien.  “He is a very big figure to me,” he said of Hou.

On filming in France vs. Japan: Kore-eda wasn’t used to the size of the house in France – where the majority of the movie takes place – so before he completed the script, he spent two nights there.  He read lines out loud while walking the routes, and realized that, for example, the distance between the kitchen to the door was much longer than he anticipated.  “I finished reading before writing, so the timing was not right,” he said.

On communicating with cast members who did not speak the same language: Kore-eda handwrote letters to the cast, and an interpreter worked on the set for six months.  Although this was the first time Kore-eda had completed a film outside of Japan in an entirely different language, he had worked with non-Japanese actors before, citing Bae Doona in his 2009 work “Air Doll.”  “You can overcome the barrier and boundary of language,” he said.  “I can sense that I belong to a wide community called “film.”  Everyone can be united and exchange ideas through film.”

Video: 是枝 裕和 (Hirokazu Kore-eda), “THE TRUTH” Press Conference – 2019 Busan International Film Festival (in Korean and Japanese)
video by Wade-Hahn Chan / Meniscus Magazine