The Stand-in Thief Plays to a Packed House
Yoshimoto Creative Agency’s new, hot film, The Stand-in Thief, played to a packed house on Saturday morning October 14 at Yoshimoto Gion Kagetsu. The work, part screwball comedy and part touching drama, drew both guffaws of laughter and tears from the crowd. The experience was made complete when director Masafumi Nishida and actor Daisuke Miyagawa took the stage for a post-screening talk.
The clever story is based on a stage play. It follows Hajime (Ryuhei Maruyama), a hard-working twenty-something who’s got his life on track after having been in juvenile lock-up as a teenager. He was handed a tough road, orphaned at an early age and not being properly educated. Hajime finally has a job and girlfriend he adores when out of nowhere appears Norio (Miyagawa), a petty criminal who Hajime used to do robberies with. Norio uses Hajime’s past, and other threats, to blackmail him into pulling a job at a rich man’s house. They break in but are interrupted, forcing Hajime to pretend to be the owner of the house. It turns out the real owner is Maezono (Masachika Ichimura), a famous author of children’s books who is now deep in writer’s block. The scenario develops where Hajime, Maezono, an editor named Oku (Anna Ishibashi) and a door-to-door salesman called Todoroki (Yusuke Santamaria) are thrown together and must try to write a Children’s story.
In addition to pratfalls, visual gags, and a classic comedy of errors scenario, each of these four characters has a painful backstory that is deftly depicted as the plot proceeds. What starts as a multi-faceted misunderstanding evolves to a place where the characters know and support each other. The film works on a dramatic and emotional as well as comedic level. The overall effort is enriched with inventive cinematic devices. Nishida uses alternate focus to draw our attention to the characters in the back of the frame; he foreshadows the action with subtle shots; and employs imaginative animation throughout. The film creates its world so thoroughly that the children’s story Maezono has written jumps to life and becomes another realm to which the story takes us.
After the laughter and tears of the screening the crowd was enthralled with director Nishida and actor Miyagawa, who spoke on stage. Miyagawa noted “when I read the script I was shocked about the ending. As the shooting progressed I realized director Nishida is really smart and knows how to film, it went really smoothly. He really took care of all of us on set.” Nishida returned the compliment, saying, “I was really impressed with Miyagawa’s body control and how he moved. This kind of acting is instinctive.” Miyagawa commented on his admiration for the entire cast. “Once we did one continuous tracking shot and it was really long. Actors had to come on and off camera. But they nailed the flow and made that shot work.”
Nishida was asked about the casting, and he responded: “I had an image of these characters before we started and the actors matched that. For example (Masachika) Ichimura has a cheerful countenance and he was perfect for the role of Maezono.”
Commenting on the fact the piece started as a stage play Nishida noted: “I had to develop many of the characters to evolve past what was in the theater script, so I really worked on that. And I also put a lot of effort into the setting of the house to make it interesting and eye-catching. These things were expanded from the original theater piece to the movie.”
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