Set Adrift in Tokyo: Interview with Adam Torel from Third Window Films
With the release of Japanese comedy Adrift in Tokyo on blu ray coming out via Third Window Films, we talk with Adam Torel from the boutique label about his connection with the film's director, Miki Satoshi, and his review of 2022, their 15th year in operation.
Terracotta: Hello Adam. For Third Window's final release of the year, you have Adrift in Tokyo coming out - can you give us your two sentences about this film and what makes it a must-watch film?
Adam: Adrift in Tokyo was a film I saw around the time Third Window Films put out our first release, in 2007, and it has stayed with me ever since. I've always loved Miki Satoshi's unique brand of comedy, but Adrift in Tokyo is his masterpiece and a perfect film to watch with the whole family, especially if you've got a family who love Japan and Tokyo!
Terracotta: You've also released a boxset of Miki Satoshi films as well. How did you come across this director when other labels seemingly haven't picked up on his work?
Adam: Comedy is a genre which doesn't usually translate well across borders in a way which action, horror and other genres do. Because of that, most distributors tend to stay away from picking up comedy films from Asia, as the market for Asian cinema in itself is already quite niche. Though, in the case of Miki Satoshi and other comedy directors of his generation (including people such as Yosuke Fujita, director of Fine, Totally Fine, another TWF release), he was influenced by Monty Python and British comedy of that time, so I've always felt his work is pretty relatable in the UK.
Quirky, over-the-top and slapstick humour such as his, tends to rely on a certain energy more than anything else, so it's a lot easier to get into that than other forms of comedy. Saying that, Adrift in Tokyo is much more than a comedy and it did also receive distribution in other territories, such as Canada, US, France, Hong Kong and some others.
Terracotta: Asides of releasing his work, Third Window has championed him further by bringing him over to the UK for events and Q&As - what was that experience like to spend time with the director and did it broaden his audience over here?
Adam: To be honest, Miki Satoshi is a person who makes quite crazy and silly films, but he himself is someone who is quite 'serious' about comedy. Like the aforementioned Yosuke Fujita, you tend to find many people like that, who aren't as 'fun' to be around as you'd expect, and make it a little harder to promote their works by bringing them over! (Conversely you sometimes find directors like Shinya Tsukamoto who make incredibly violent films, yet Shinya is one of the nicest and most polite people I've ever met in my life).
Saying that, Miki's wife, Fuse Eri (who appears in all his films), is just like she is in the movies and can instantly light up an audience with some witty remarks or physical humour, and was a great help when I brought them both over to the UK to promote the Miki Satoshi box set.
Terracotta: Which one is your personal favourite Miki Satoshi film, and why?
Adam: The first film I watched (and distributed) of his was Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers, and it's always been my favourite. Adrift in Tokyo is his 'best' film and has a much wider appeal due to its beautifully flowing pace and laid back comedy, but I think I prefer Miki's female characters, and Ueno Juri in Turtles is just a match made in heaven for me!
Terracotta: Yes, Turtles is a great film. Turning to the lead actor, Joe Odagiri has been in so many films, covering so many different genres and roles; as you are also a producer, have you had any films or projects working with him?
Adam: I've worked a lot with his management company Dongyu and his manager Kunizane-san (who attended the Terracotta Film Festival with her talent-at-the-time Tak Sakaguchi), but never actually met him. Love his films though, and actually he directed a very much forgotten film called Searching for Cherry Blossoms which I actually tried to include as a bonus feature on the Adrift in Tokyo bluray, but wasn't able to.
Actually, he and Miki Satoshi made a TV show called Time Limit Detective starring Kumiko Aso (lead actress of Miki's Instant Swamp) which is a wonderfully fun show and highly recommended if you can track it down. A couple of episodes were actually directed by Sion Sono (with Hikari Mitsushima starring before she got big with Sono's Love Exposure) as he was also in the same management company as Odagiri at the time.
Terracotta: Do you think he would cross-over into Hollywood one day (there are more and more Asian roles and actors over there now) in the same way that other Japanese actors have done (like Hiroyuki Sanada, Tadanobu Asano).
Adam: The reason why you only see just a few Japanese actors in Hollywood is simply most Japanese can't speak English well. Saying that, Odagiri is huge in Asia and has been in some big productions such as My Way, Mr Go and Dream (among others) out of Korea, Plastic City out of Hong Kong, The Warrior And The Wolf from China, and others. He was also in the Japanese/ international film Ernesto.
He has a similar 'atmosphere' to him that Tadanobu Asano does, and is often mentioned in the same sentences, so I'm a little surprised that he hasn't made it more in the West, but that probably has to do with his language skills over anything else.
Terracotta: That makes sense. So, it's been a big year for Third Window Films with a celebration of 15 years of the label, some big releases as well. Which release did you enjoy working on the most, or are really happy and proud to see the final product out in the market?
Adam: In 2022, probably Funky Forest as I love working with Katsuhito Ishii a lot. Though a film like Onoda was a big challenge for me, as handling a film on that scale (Cannes competition film) is something I don't usually like to do and it was tough. I really love Onoda though, and wish it did better in the UK.
Terracotta: I'm sure many of our readers would love to know if you are planning to release anymore Nobuhiko Obayashi films on blu ray?
Adam: Would love to, but nothing planned at this moment!
Terracotta: Such a shame. But, what can we look forward to next year? (you've teased some very exciting releases on your social media).
Adam: More Katsuhito Ishii and Sogo Ishii for sure!
Terracotta: Thanks for taking time out to speak with us! How can people find out more about your wonderful label and keep up to date with what's new?
Adam: The usual social networks! (Though, that seems to be changing quicker than I thought!). Newsletter signup through the website too.
Adrift in Tokyo is released on blu ray via Third Window Films on 12th December 2022 and you can get your copy on the Terracotta store here.
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You can find a list of all available Third Window Films blu ray and DVDs on the Terracotta store.