Interviews with people you know well can turn awkward if you try to be the probing questioner instead of the coffee-shop companion. No such worries with 61-year-old Ryuichi Hiroki, the former pink film (i.e., soft pornography) director who made his commercial and critical breakthrough with the erotically charged youth drama “800 Two Lap Runners” in 1994.
Though we have met elsewhere many times and once spent a week traveling around central Brazil together, Hiroki quickly slipped into interviewee mode when we met to talk about “Sayonara Kabukicho” (“Kabukicho Love Hotel”), his ensemble drama set in a love hotel in Shinjuku’s biggest entertainment district. But when I asked him why the film has been such a hit on the festival circuit — playing to enthusiastic crowds at Busan, Toronto and Tokyo Filmex — he smilingly turned the tables on me. “What do you think?” he asked.