"Auteur" is not the first word that leaps to mind to describe Yukihiko Tsutsumi. In a directing career that began with a segment of the 1988 comedy anthology "Bakayaro! I'm Plenty Mad," the prolific Tsutsumi has made films in a variety of genres — mystery/thriller ("Spec: The Movie"), dystopian fantasy ("20th Century Boys"), black comedy ("2LDK") and medical drama ("Memories of Tomorrow"). He has also worked in everything from stage productions to TV and music videos.

For much of his career, however, Tsutsumi has been a director for hire, making commercial projects with a characteristic visual flair and narrative propulsion, if not much in the way of personal style or concerns. When his films have screened at foreign festivals, fans have typically been attracted more by the franchise (the "20th Century Boys" trilogy), or subject matter (giant robots) than the director. Hence, though a veteran hit maker in Japan, he is little known abroad.

This may not change with his latest film, "My House," whose producers are still searching for an international festival premiere after being turned down by Berlin and Cannes. And yet this black-and-white drama about homeless folks in Nagoya, based on the nonfiction work of architect and writer Kyohei Sakaguchi, marks a radical change for Tsutsumi. Or rather, as he tells The Japan Times in a Shibuya cafe, a return to his indie roots.