The Oscar-winning movie “Okuribito” (“Departures”) passed ¥6 billion in sales over the weekend after pulling in an estimated 5.25 million viewers, producer and distributor Shochiku Co. said Thursday.
However, director Yojiro Takita, 53, said he is not satisfied. He expected the numbers to be higher. A lot higher.
“The sales should have far exceeded ¥6 billion,” given the Oscar effect, Takita said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. “This means few young Japanese have seen the film.”
“Departures,” a story about “nokanshi,” or people who specialize in preparing bodies before they are placed in coffins, was expected to be one of the most successful movies in the domestic film industry. But Takita said that although Japanese producers have picked up speed and are probably turning out around 400 movies a year, audience levels are stagnant.
“The Japanese are not going to the movies. I want to know why,” he said, adding that overseas accolades do not always turn movies into hits in their home countries.
“Departures” tells the story of an unemployed cellist who returns to his hometown and lands a job as a nokanshi after mistakenly thinking the employer was seeking a travel agent.
The musician finds the job demanding in light of public prejudice against his line of work, but the situation gradually changes as he begins to explore the meaning of his job.
Takita said “Departures” was accepted by international audiences because it “depicts fundamental emotions, such as sorrow, anger, and joy, that you can find anywhere anytime.”
“This is a film for living, depicted through the eyes of nokanshi, and I think the audience understood that,” he said.
Another reason why the movie attracted attention abroad is probably because it deals with the subject of death, which everybody has to face, he said.
“Japanese in fact do not want to touch the death issue,” he said. “But that’s probably why I ventured to deal with it.”
Takita said the Oscar proved he can follow his convictions, which will motivate him to direct more movies. He also hinted he would shoot for another Oscar.
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