Where contemporary neuroses meet unconventional therapy.
An frenetic, offbeat comedic collaboration by the most potent trio in Japanese entertainment: Matsuo Suzuki, lead actor (Koi no Mon), Satoshi Miki, story and direction (The Fountain of Trivia) and Hideo Okuda, original story (Trapeze).
Contemporary life produces inordinate amounts of stress on urban dwellers, seen and unseen as they struggle to live within the boundaries of common sense, acceptability and decorum. The precarious mental balance we try to maintain through our relationships, be they at work, school, home or in society at large, can easily be eroded away by a growing cloud of doubt, anxiety and inhibition that lurks within. At any time, we can become unwitting slaves rather than the drivers of our own psyche, emerging in the form of quirky and inexplicable neuroses for which conventional medicine has no cure. Perhaps what is needed is a doctor more unconventional and eccentric as the patients themselves; someone with whom they can relate... or even take pity upon. Patients with peculiar conditions clash head on with a twisted therapist in a bizarre, high-tempo comedy, resulting in "Ordinary People" on acid.
The patients include a brash up-and-coming executive with a sneakily growing dependence on taking an after work swim, a male divorcee hampered by a constant erection, and a young female journalist with an obsessive-compulsive disorder. All are plagued by extremely neurotic conditions yet these are very "ordinary" people. The only difference is that something inside of them has snapped. They seek medical help by turning to a lewd, obstreperous and harebrained shrink, Dr. Ichiro Irabu, whose crude and impromptu practices seem to have no medical or ethical foundation whatsoever. His patients, though wary of him, oddly find solace in the fact that he is worse off than they are, accepting his treatment with a certain "It couldn't hurt" resignation. Many seemingly meaningless and absurd sessions later, the patients find themselves miraculously cured! The film parodies contemporary urban life and the mental damage it inflicts on ordinary people by making a hero out of a grumpy, iconoclastic psychiatrist who rages against a conservative and self-serving medical establishment but who, deep down, cares about his patients. In the end, what you have is a charmingly refreshing comedy that leaves the audience, strangely, feeling good. Sometimes you just have to stop bashing yourself against a wall, ratchet down the intensity and accept a little mediocrity in life, to keep the stress levels from redlining. And there's no one more fit to play the part of the irascible Dr. Irabu than the man dubbed a "peerless talent" by the entertainment world. Matsuo Suzuki, whose film acting debut came in the recent box office hit "Koi no Mon" and heads up the acting troupe, "Otona Keikaku" takes on his first starring role in a feature film. Responding to impassioned solicitations by producers that only he could play the highly charismatic, high-octane role, Matsuo obliged by exceeding all expectations with an extremely agile performance that brought the character to life. In particular, the theatrical impact of his rapid fire barrage of puns, myriad facial expressions and physical gags makes one feel as if one's watching him live on stage.
In charge of writing the screenplay and directing the film was Satoshi Miki, "the comedy prodigy" who has had a part in creating some of Japan's most uproarious television comedies and groundbreaking programs, such as "Downtown's Gottsu-Eh Kanji", "The Life of a Laughing Dog" and "The Fountain of Trivia", along with writing and directing feature films such as "City Boy's Live." Satoshi Miki has garnered a huge following as a rare talent for creating what, on the surface seems conventional comedy, yet if scrutinized reveals an enchanting comedic universe all his own. Based on Naoki Prize winning author, Hideo Okuda's Dr. Irabu Series, "In The Pool," Miki gives three-dimensionality to Dr. Irabu, infusing him with a rhythm, pacing and style unique to the "world of Satoshi Miki" that explodes onto the screen.
Miki has assembled an extravagant cast for "In The Pool." In the role of a young up-and-coming middle manager, Ohmori, whose dependence upon swimming in a pool to relieve stress begins to border on a neurosis, is first-rate actor, Seiichi Tanabe ("Hush!", "Life is Journey"). Top rising actor, Joe Odagiri ("Bright Future", "Blood and Bone") throws everything he's got into the role of a hapless young company man, Tetsuya Taguchi, who still pines for the wife that left him and wakes up one day troubled by a painfully constant erection. The role of the obsessive-compulsive female journalist, Suzumi Iwamura, who lives alone and is constantly rushing home in the middle of work to check if she's left the gas on or the door unlocked is fittingly played by character actor, Miwako Ichikawa ("Another Heaven," "Concent"). Meanwhile, Dr. Irabu's extremely voluptuous yet utterly disinterested sidekick nurse, Mayumi-chan, is played by gorgeous fashion model, Maiko. Filling out the charismatic cast in various supporting and cameo roles are Kitaro, Ryo Iwamatsu, Noboru Mitani, Leo Morimoto, Chiharu, Toshiki Ayata and Eri Fuse. Opening and ending theme songs feature classic hits of musician Eiichi Otaki's "Niagara Moon" and the group Sugar Babe's "DOWN TOWN."
Original story, direction, production staff, performers and music all come together for an exquisite blend of talent to produce a highly energetic and idiosyncratic world. If the stress of daily life is taking its toll on you, step back and take a refreshingly therapeutic dive "In The Pool."
The vast majority of modern urban dwellers harbor pernicious seeds of neurosis that could surface at any time in any number of bizarre forms. Irabu General Hospital is visited by many such people, all ordinary, but who suffer from extraordinary conditions. The cause of their illnesses? Stress, something we all know much about.
In the basement of Irabu General Hospital is the office of psychiatrist Ichiro Irabu (Suzuki Matsuo), who has inherited the hospital from his father. His unkempt, scraggly appearance belies his credentials. Under his white smock, he wears a leopard-striped shirt and army boots. His demeanor is gruff and unprofessional. He's loud, harbors a severe Oedipal complex, is prone to violent outbursts and barely hears a word his patients are saying. In short, he seems a complete slacker. But somehow all these detracting qualities add up to a strange magnetism that draws his patients to him out of, if nothing else, a sense of a shared fate and empathy. At Dr. Irabu's side is the voluptuous nurse, Mayumi, who seems to take no interest whatsoever in her job or her boss. All they share is a fondness for needles. Dr. Irabu, meanwhile, has taken to swimming at a local pool during his off hours.
At the pool, Irabu regularly runs into a man who seems quite obsessed with swimming. He is Kazuo Ohmori (Seiichi Tanabe), a brash, confident young company man who has been put in charge of a large outlet mall development project. He has a wife, a mistress and a reputation for getting the job done. But the project has him very busy and more anxious than usual. Wondering how to best deal with his accumulating stress, he happens upon a magazine article that prompts him to take up swimming. He finds it to be just what the doctor ordered. But as the demands of his job begin to get in the way of his newfound ritual, he sees his health deteriorating, which only further fuels his craving to swim, eventually implanting a "pool dependence," which he must satisfy.
Meanwhile, a salesman at medium-size manufacturing company, Tetsuya Taguchi (Joe Odagiri) one day wakes up to find himself with a 24-hour erection. In great discomfort and pain, he rushes to an urologist who offers little help except to pass him on to Dr. Irabu, who quickly realizes that Taguchi is a man who can't express his feelings, particularly to women, and is highly suppressed. Irabu is direct. "There's something you're not telling me." In fact, Taguchi's wife, Sayoko, recently left him to be with a company friend, with whom she had an affair. But Taguchi has never let her go emotionally, and has bizarre nightly dreams of her. He knows he must stop being such a pushover but how? Fixing his constant erection takes primary concern, however, which is increasingly causing him more pain and embarrassment, especially at work. At one point, he is ordered to go on a business trip with clients at a hot springs resort. With his erection showing no signs of receding, Irabu finally tells him he must confront his ex-wife.
Irabu is visited by one more patient, a serious, hard-working magazine writer by the name of Suzumi Iwamura (Miwako Ichikawa). Her meticulous investigative instincts make her a good expose writer but they also threaten to be her undoing as she craves verification. Once a thought gets into her head, her mind won't let it go. This leads to a neurotic condition where she constantly worries about whether she's left the gas or electricity on at her apartment, or the door unlocked. At one point, she even worries that she left the burner gas on at Korean barbecue restaurant. She finds it increasingly difficult to go anywhere and repeatedly leaves in the middle of her work to rush home and check her appliances. Irabu prescribes a series of highly unconventional exercises such as going and throwing rocks at a rival hospital. Suzumi, though suspect of Irabu's seemingly self-driven methods, gradually comes to trust him until the day he jars loose a startling incident from her childhood that lies at the root of her problem. An incident with criminal ramifications, no less. The two have no choice but to investigate further in hopes of reaching closure.
|Director Satoshi Miki's Production Sheet
1) On adapting the Naoki Literature Prize nominated work "In The Pool" for the screen
The idea came from the producers, Nagamatsuya-san and Sasaki-san, with whom I discussed the possibility of a screenplay after reading the original work. I told them it would probably come out quite different from the original work and wondered if that was okay. My concern was that here were already complete characters that when brought to life by real people, would inevitably become tainted once filtered through my style of directing and each actor's performances. So we all agreed to rework the original story including the characters and implement some fairly drastic changes. What was very gratifying was seeing how readily Mr. Okuda, the author, consented to our interpretation and how enthusiastic he was about enjoying his work in a new form. I think, for example, the character of Dr. Irabu presents a slightly more stoic rather than undisciplined personality you find in the book. So I must apologize to anyone who is expecting to see a faithful depiction of the book, but I believe they can still enjoy the end result.
2) On seeing Suzuki Matsuo as the only actor for the role of Dr. Irabu
In spite of the fact that Suzuki Matsuo and I have a lot in common, particularly friends, this was surprisingly the first time we'd worked together. In all honesty, I was a bit intimidated at first to be working with such a talent. When we were considering who would play Irabu, it was one of the producer's who tendered his name, but I had no objections whatsoever, and eventually we built the screenplay around him. Matsuo has a magical ability to create a wonderful rapport with his audience. So we had complete trust in his ability to create the kind of character we were looking for - particularly with respect to his being kind of a positive force but with a cooler demeanor than is found in the original. So we wrote just the Taguchi episode and had him read it, to which he said, "Okay, let's do it." When I visited his agency for the first time, I remember stopping by the bathroom and seeing someone had written "the charismatic hairstylist" on the wall. I knew I was in the right place.
3) On the casting of a highly charismatic ensemble, beginning with Suzuki Matsuo.
Casting is always very, very important. One film director has said that it is often the casting that makes or breaks a movie, and I completely agree. First of all, for a director, having good actors makes the job easy. I was very pleased with Joe Odagiri's performance, for example. He did a remarkable job living up to the variety of demands I made on him without falling prey to the tendency of allowing one's performance to get too warped. It was a very credible performance. I especially like one of the final scenes in the film where Dr. Irabu (Matsuo) and Taguchi (Odagiri) are walking down a flight of stairs. In the screenplay, the scene has no real significance at all but there's something about the two performers that makes it special. Seiichi Tanabe has the burden of playing the only truly tragic character in the movie and he does a wonderful job of conveying the underlying compassion of his character, perhaps the only character in the film that exhibits any. The original screenplay has him being a bit more eccentric but I think the compassion that Tanabe gave him results in a much more three-dimensional and tangible character, and is a quality that some might even see as, on the other hand, extremely detestable. And I just love Miwako Ichikawa's deportment. Perhaps it's the way she stands, her long arms or her sense of restlessness but she has this uncanny talent for melting all of that beautifully together in the service of a nonchalant neurotic, with whom the audience is supposed to feel some irritation towards. I also had wanted to cast Ryo Iwamatsu and Eri Fuse from the very outset. Iwamatsu's performance is truly a joy to watch. He really knows how to put flavor into a role. Fuse only appears with Matsuo at the end and they hadn't worked together for a decade, but they immediately clicked onto each other's wavelengths and rode with it. I hadn't worked with Kitaro since City Boy's Live four years ago but I always find him delightfully the same in rehearsals, which I hold for my films, and am reminded each time I see him of how funny a man he is. Surrounded by so many interesting and talented people on this film made this a very happy shoot indeed.
4) On an extremely troublesome shoot
First of all, there was a lot of moving around on this shoot. The staff looked high and low to find locations that would fit the image I had, which meant we went all over the Kanto area, particularly since I didn't want to shoot anywhere that looked too "ordinary." My hat is off to them. They really worked their tails off. For some reason, we wound up doing a lot of filming at sewage facilities. The location for Dr. Irabu's subterranean office had no air conditioner and so was extremely hot. Of course, we were blessed by good weather throughout the filming, which is strange since it was the height of the rainy season. I guess if you seek the impossible, the impossible is just what you might get. Cinematographer Gen Kobayashi worked with me on almost all my films and he certainly had his work cut out for him on this one. But he is an immaculate planner and really knows how to capture the actors' performance brilliantly, and for that, I am in his debt. And I really appreciated his help in pointing out things we might have missed in shooting when watching the dailies. I'm not one of those directors who are obsessed with taking really cinematic shots or fancy editing so I need a staff that can work to bring the performances to life on film. With lighting, Hori-san and then with sound, Takahashi-san, really worked to capture the atmosphere we had created on the set. The art department, too, had their hands full. I always make so many demands on the art department but Hanaya-san, who I was working with for the first time, was amazing at making my impossible demands possible, all the while getting chewed out by art assistant, Suzumura-san, who also had the unenviable task of keeping things under budget. Takeshita-san in charge of makeup brought another great asset to the mix. Overall, this was a staff that wasn't going to compromise on results and so we ended up with something far greater than I had originally imagined. But this couldn't have been easy on my A.D., Kawamura-san, and others in charge of scheduling and keeping a tight ship. In the process, Kawamura became addicted to Frisk mints. Whenever his stress level peaked, he'd reach for one. I think he went through a crate of them. I'm not kidding.
5) On the nostalgic ending music by Sugar Babe and Eiichi Otaki!
I've had Osamu Sakaguchi take charge of music for all of my films since City Boy's Live, and it was his idea to use classic songs by Sugar Babe and from Eiichi Otaki's "Niagara Moon" album. Sandwiching the movie between the waterfall piece at the beginning and "Niagara Moon" at the end, we replicated the structure of Otaki's "Niagara Moon" album. When Sakaguchi-san presented me these songs, I thought, "Why not?" since we'd been granted use of them. We went with the tune "Down Town" by Sugar Babe for the ending for kind of an alienation effect. But I think people will come to understand how good Sakaguchi-san's score is after it is released. That's the way it always is. It may be hard to grasp the reasoning at the time of production but the genius of it comes through, say, two years down the road. Then again, the audience is much more sophisticated than I'll ever be so they may get it right away.
Under his white smock, he always wears leopard skin.
In the doctor's office, his own interests supersede that of his patients.
Most of all... he takes ecstatic pleasure in administering needles.
Is he a total quack?
Or the greatest shrink of our time?
Suzuki Matsuo as Psychiatrist Ichiro Irabu
Born Fukuoka Prefecture, 1962. Matsuo is a multi-talented performer and playwright who runs his own repertory group called "Otona Keikaku" and often appears in highly charismatic character roles in movies, television and commercials. Although his talents are in constant demand, Matsuo took time to write and direct his own film, "Koi no Mon" ('04, aka "Otakus in Love"). "In the Pool" is his first starring film role. Other works include writing and performing stage plays: "Driving in California", "Ikenie no Hito", "Noda Map - Pandora's Bell" and "Nogyo Shojo", all Project for Adults' works; while film appearances include: "Koroshiya I" (Ichi the Killer, '01), "Ping Pong" ('02), "Drive" ('02), "Chicken Heart" ('02), "Totsunyuseyo! Asama Sanso Jiken" (The Asama Siege Incident, '02), "Cutie Honey" ('04), "Mask De 41" ('04) and "Ima, Ai ni Ikimasu" (Be with You, '04).
Compelled to divorce his wife after she had an affair, and brow-beaten by the women at his office, the world has its way with Taguchi. Soon, he's plagued by a 24-hour erection and doesn't know why. Is it due to his inability to get angry?
A true working "stiff"
Joe Odagiri as Tetsuya Taguchi
Born Okayama Prefecture, 1976. After studying acting in Japan and in the United States, Odagiri made his stage debut in "Dream of Passion" ('99), and has gone on to star in many movies including: "Platonic Sex" ('01), "Akarui Mirai" ("Bright Future, '03), "Azumi" ('03, for which he won the 27th Japan Academy New Face Award and Elan D'or New Face Award), "Kono yo no sotoe - Club Shinchugun" ("Out of This World", '04), "Blood and Bones" ('04, for which he won the Yujiro Ishihara New Face Award of the Nikkan Sports Film Awards, among other awards), "Pacchigi" ('05), "Operetta Tanuki Goten" ("Princess Raccoon" '05), "Scrap Heaven" ('05), "Maison de Himiko" ('05) and "Shinobi" ('05).
A workaholic who uses every non-working moment to relieve stress by swimming at a pool. The pool keeps him mentally stable until he begins to realize how dependent he is upon it.
An elite middle-manager with a pool swimming dependence
Seiichi Tanabe as Kazuo Ohmori
Born Tokyo, 1969. Tanabe has amassed a prolific television and movie career, winning many awards along the way, including the Hochi Film Award for Best Actor in a Lead Role ('02), Best Actor at the Yokohama Film Festival ('02) and Best Actor at the Takasaki Film Festival ('02). He wrote, directed and appeared in the film "Dog-Food" ('99), which was selected as an entry in the Berlin International Film Festival's Forum category. His films include "Hush!" ('01), "Yomi-Gaeri" ("Resurrection" '03), "Life is Journey" ('03, wrote, directed and appeared), "Gege" ("Milk White" '04), "Han-ochi" ('04), "Yaku 30 no Uso" ("30 Lies or so", '04), "Koi no Mon" ("Otakus in Love", '04), "Mata no Hi no Chika" ('05) and "Flick" ('05).
The skies are clear and yet she carries an umbrella so she won't be caught in the rain.
She's a field reporter who comes running home every time she thinks she left her door unlocked. Always imagining the worst, she fears her home will catch fire while she's away.
An obsessive-compulsive field reporter
Miwako Ichikawa as Suzumi Iwamura
The mysterious nurse who just doesn't belong in a doctor's office. Not with those perfect looks and body. She takes no interest in her work or boss, Dr. Irabu, so why is she there? And she always IS there.
The ex-model, voluptuous nurse.
Maiko as Mayumi-chan
Executive Producers: Hiroaki Miki, Naoyuki Sakagami
Executive co-producers: Hirofumi Ogoshi, Naoki Hashimoto
Producers: Taro Nagamatsuya, Akiko Sasaki
Chief publicist: Yu Goto
Associate Producers: Hiroyuki Tanahashi, Miyuki Tanaka
Line Producer: Shinsuke Higuchi
Cinematographer: Gen Kobayashi (J.S.C)
Production designer: Hidefumi Hanaya
Sound Mixer: Yoshiteru Takahashi
Editor: Nobuyuki Takahashi
Screenplay & Directed by Satoshi Miki
Original Story by Hideo Okuda "IN THE POOL"
Theme Song: "Niagara Moon" by Eiichi Otaki
Ending Theme Song: "DOWN TOWN" by Suger Babe
Presented by IMJ Entertainment, Nippon Herald Films, Pony Canyon, WILCO
Produced by IMJ Entertainment, WILCO
(C)2004 "IN THE POOL" Film Partners