After divorcing, Rie has found happiness with her second husband Daisuke and formed a new family. But when Daisuke dies in a tragic accident, she discovers her new husband was not the man she thought he was. Rie calls on the attorney Kido to help her find the truth about the identity of the man she loved. A quest that will open larger questions about the nature of identity itself, and what makes a person real at all.
Kei ISHIKAWA was born in 1977 at Aichi-Prefecture. After graduating from Tohoku University in physics, Ishiawa studied at Polish National Film School. After his return, he worked on several documentaries and shorts. In 2017 he directed his debut film, Traces of Sin won many awards as an upcoming director. In 2019, he directed Listen to the Universe which won many awards including best picture for Hochi Film Award and best director for Mainichi Film Awards.
Selected director’s filmography:
2010 Re: Play-Girls
2010 It's All In The Fingers
2013 Conversation (s)
2017 Traces of Sin (Gukoroku)
2018 Innocent Days
2018 Ten Years Japan (Jyu-nen: Ten Years Japan)
2019 Listen to the Universe (Mitsubachi to Enrai)
2022 A Man (Aru Otoko)
COMMENTS OF THE DIRECTOR
When we fall in love, what is it about the other person we fall in love with? What if the person we fall in love with turns out to be someone completely different? What if their hidden past harbors the most unexpected secret? And when we hate someone, what is it about the other that we hate? Can we hate a person’s entire being just by examining one side of them or a small incident from their past? This profound question—along with the question of “What am I?”—is one that has tormented me for long. In today’s world where intolerance and isolation abound, I feel this question is no mere personal problem.
This intricately intertwined mystery film tackles this matter from a variety of angles. As the identity of the man —“X”— named Daisuke Taniguchi comes to light, it becomes even more uncertain just what part of him was the truth. This is not a mere mystery movie wherein a simple answer to “Who is X?” is offered at the end. Rather, it is a labyrinth with no escape. The title A Man is purposely vague to show that X could be anyone. I wish for the audience to witness the light that X would have found at the end of his long, challenging labyrinth of life, because I strongly believe that it will remind us of how precious life is.
IN CONVERSATION WITH
A MAN’s story is intricate and multilayered, moving between different genres, but the film never leaves the audience behind. How did you approach this balance between complexity and approachability?
This film’s themes, genre, and principal characters all keep transforming. Of course, ensuring that a film conforms to a single dimension makes it easier to put together, but in this case those elements intersect on multiple levels, and display completely different faces in different situations, so that structure itself has meaning. Just as the life and personality of any man takes on a totally different visage depending on the time period in which they’re seen, this film itself adopts a starkly contrasting complexion according to the scene.
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I took care to maintain balance so that viewers wouldn’t lose their way, but when you watch the film, you get the sense you’re stumbling into a vast maze, and I personally love that kind of sensation.
Also, in order to address fundamental questions, it was necessary to make the entry point as accessible and smooth as possible, which was another key factor. After all, when you’re faced with a vast maze with no end in sight, no one’s going to put their hand up and step forward to go in first.
What motivated you to bring depictions of social realities that we don’t often get to see in Japan into the film: a single mother raising children, remarrying, the pressure of work ethics and society’s expectations on the individual?
What you see depicted in this film is the true shape of Japan that we’re dealing with today. Just like anywhere else in the world, Japanese people get divorced, and there’s deep-seated ethnic discrimination. The plight of Zainichi Koreans (Japan-born Koreans) is one good example, and most Japanese films until now have either shied away from it, or focused on it exclusively.
There’s been a tendency to avoid addressing social issues, but for my generation, I get the feeling that’s changing somewhat. I wanted to make a film set in the real world that’s beset by such complex problems, concentrating primarily on universal personal issues in an incisive way.
Family is at the core of the film. What does family mean to you, and what does it mean for your film?
Love within families is by no means transient. Even if we were to make a discovery about a family member’s past, and learn of a side to them that would have been unimaginable before, we are able to accept that newfound aspect, and renew our love for that person. I believe that love keeps evolving in such a way, making it increasingly resilient. That in itself is the driving force that binds families together.
However, that love can sometimes be suffocating. When you get up in the morning and hop on a train to work, you might suddenly feel an urge to take a different train to somewhere you’ve never been before, and I think we’ve all experienced that impulse in one way or another.
I get the feeling that, especially these days, a tenuous balance exists between families and individuals that’s just barely functioning. When you’re with your family, and when you’re drinking at a bar, you might exhibit completely different sides of yourself, but they’re both equally you. Societies which promote a belief in a one-dimensional concept of love and universal personal identity make life almost unbearable for individuals.
You studied cinema both in Japan and at the famous Polish National Film School in Lodz. How does this translate into your filmmaking, and what inspires you?
My cinematic language is half Japanese and half Polish, but it’s not something I deliberately utilize. Japanese and Polish cinema share a similar avant-garde approach and have cultivated unique cinematic cultures that set them apart from neighboring countries, to name just a couple of the many things they have in common.
I view my ability to take the best aspects of both cultures and apply them when required to different themes and genres as one of my greatest strengths.
I continue to be inspired greatly by such filmmakers as Denis Villeneuve, whose genre-spanning works retain a strong authorial voice, and Krzysztof Kieslowski, with his reoccurring themes of coincidence and destiny. In terms of authors, I’ve been an avid reader of Paul Auster’s writings, which frequently deal with identity, and they were a source of inspiration for this film.
I set out to make this film in the same vein as the many superb socially conscious mysteries from the golden age of Japanese cinema, so I revisited several prime examples including Akira Kurosawa’s “High and Low” and Tomu Uchida’s “A Fugitive from the Past.”
But I suppose my greatest inspiration is the awareness that cinematic culture is universal, and that quality films will be well received anywhere in the world. I don’t consciously make films in a specific European or Japanese style; I just try to stay faithful to the inspiration that each story demands.
MAIN CAST BIOGRAPHY
Born in 1980, from Fukuoka Prefecture. Tsumabuki starred in his first feature film leading role in WATER BOYS (2001, directed by Shinobu YAGUCHI), for which he won Best Actor and Newcomer of the Year awards at the 25th Japan Academy Film Prize. He has since gone on to win countless awards, including the Japan Academy Film Prize’s Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for VILLAIN (2010, directed by Sang-il LEE), Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for Rage (2016, directed by Sang-il LEE), and Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for The Asadas (2020, directed by Ryota NAKANO). In 2009 he starred in the NHK historical drama Heart of a Samurai. His most recent works include Shape of Red (2020, directed by Yukiko MISHIMA), and Detective Chinatown 3 (2021, directed by Chen SICHENG). This will be his first work with Kei ISHIKAWA in the director’s seat since TRACES OF SIN (2017).
Born in 1986, from Tokyo. Ando made her acting debut in Eiji OKUDA’s 2007 film out of the wind. In 2014, she won a number of awards for 100 YEN LOVE (directed by Masaharu TAKE), including the Japan Academy Film Prize Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role and the Blue Ribbon Awards Best Actress in a Leading Role. In 2018, she once again won the Japan Academy Film Prize Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for Shoplifters (2018, Hirokazu KORE-EDA), which won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. From 2018 to 2019, she played the heroine Fukuko in the NHK drama series Mampuku. Other notable feature film appearances include 0.5mm (2014, directed by Momoko ANDO), Asleep (2015, directed by Shingo WAKAGI), and REMINISCENSE (2017, directed by Yasuo FURUHATA).
Born in 1988, from Kanagawa Prefecture. After making his acting debut in 2006, Kubota won Best New Actor at the Yokohama Film Festival and Best Supporting Actor at the Takasaki Film Festival for The Cowards Who Looked to the Sky (directed by Yuki TANADA) in 2012. In 2020, he starred in FIRST LOVE (directed by Takashi MIIKE), which had the distinct honor of getting selected for Directors' Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival, and also played the leading role in the NHK drama series Yell. Other notable performances include the Tokyo Ghoul series (2017–2019, directed by Takuya KAWASAKI, Kazuhiko HIRAMAKI), Poupelle of Chimney Town (voice actor, 2020, directed by Yusuke HIROTA), The Sunday Runoff (2022, directed by Yuichiro SAKASHITA), and the TV drama movie adaptation Radiation House: The Movie (2022, directed by Masayuki SUZUKI).
as Akira KIDO
as Rie TANIGUCHI
as Daisuke TANIGUCHI
Director: Kei Ishikawa
Author of the original story: Keiichiro HIRANO
Scriptwriter: Kosuke MUKAI
Based on the novel by: Keiichiro HIRANO “A MAN”
Music by: Cicada
Cinematography: Ryuto KONDO
Lighting Director: Kenjiro SOH
Production design: Hiroyuki WAGATSUMA
Editing: Kei ISHIKAWA
Sound: Takeshi OGAWA
Costume design: Sayaka TAKAHASHI
Special effects: Satoshi AKABANE
Original title: ARU OTOKO
International title: A MAN
Duration: 121 min
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Original language: Japanese
Country of production: Japan
Shochiku Co. Ltd.
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