Shinji Aoyama is the director as cinephile. That is, while winning awards for his own films, including two prizes at Cannes for his 2000 drama “Eureka,” he has long been a serious student of films by others, beginning with his days at Rikkyo University as a disciple of eminent film scholar Shigehiko Hasumi and continuing after as a writer and lecturer on cinema, with six volumes of criticism to his credit.

All of which may make Aoyama sound formidable (an impression strengthened by his impeccably trimmed hipster beard). But when we chat about his new film “Tomogui (Backwater)” in a restaurant banquet room he is invariably patient and good-humored, even when he feels my questions are wrong-footed.

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