Mishima Yukiko is one of the few female directors in Japan whose works have been selected for international festivals with considerable critical acclaim. She was born on April 22, 1969 in the Kita district of Ōsaka and developed her dream of becoming a director when she was only a child. She has frequently been asked if her name was a pseudonym, but in truth it is her first name chosen by her father who had a great passion for the works of the famous writer Mishima Yukio.
Over time, Yukiko develops a growing love for the seventh art, until she manages to make her very first work while she was in college thanks to the savings she had managed to put aside by working part-time. After graduating from Kobe University, she started working for NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), making a series of documentaries for NHK Special and ETV Special. In 2003, she finally managed to realize her dream of becoming an independent director and then began to work as assistant director at the Tōei film studio in Kyoto. After this experience, she decided to move to the U.S.A. to take part in a summer acting workshop at “The Herbert Berghof Studio of New York”.
Year 2009 is when she made her first feature film, entitled Shisei: Nihohi tsuki no gotoku (Tattoo: Savoring the Scent of the Moon), based on a classic work by Tanizaki Jun’ichirō. In the following years, she directed numerous films, but it was in 2017 that she achieved great success with the film Dear Etranger, winning the Special Jury Prize at the Montreal World Film Festival, the Fumiko Yamaji Prize for best film and the Hochi Prize as best director. She recently directed Shape of Red (2020), also screened in France with the title of The Housewife (2022).
Her works are real sections of life focused on everyday problems, supported by a refined production and evocative images. As she herself said during an interview: “I have always wanted to tell stories and in my opinion the best way to do this is through cinema. I am fascinated by the characters, their thoughts, their choices and their way of life in society. I think I have a strong interest in the world and in life”.
Ode to joy (2021)
The short film “Ode to joy” is part of a project developed by Sony Pictures Entertainment to support those who work in the world of cinema, from actors to directors, who in the last two years have suffered due to the hit the cinema industry took during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the title of the project “DIVOC” means “Diversity, Innovation, Value, Originality, Creativity” and each of the 12 short films deals with these issues. In her short, Mishima Yukiko decided to approach the theme of “sharing”, since, as she stated in an interview, “it is rare to see the whole world sharing the same problem (…) it made me think about what can be shared “. Focusing on the anxiety felt in society, the story centers on an elderly, retired woman living alone (interpreted by Fuji Sumiko), who one day meets a young man (Fujiwara Kisetsu) while walking on a beach and accepts to engage in a suspicious work.
Shape of Red (2020)
This troubled, sensual and meditative film is an adaptation of Shimamoto’s novel Rio Red (2014), interpreted from a female perspective. Toko (played by Indo Kaho) is leading a life that — according to her friends — seems “impeccable”, with a charming husband, a loving daughter and a beautiful house. However, Toko is struggling with an inner dissatisfaction that turns into a strong passion when she meets Kurata Akihiko (Tsumabuki Satoshi), her boyfriend from her college days. The two embark on a relationship that will almost destroy not only Toko’s marriage, but also her own identity. Toko had always thought of herself as being a good mother and a good housewife, but at this point nothing seems to make sense in her life. Through her relationship with Akihiko, she discovers how he treats her in a totally different way from her husband, Makoto (Mamiya Shotaro): he considers her as a woman in flesh and blood, with her own desires and ambitions, while her husband almost seems to want to keep her trapped inside the house. Akihito will invite Toko to work at his company where she will meet one of his colleagues, Odaka Atsushi (Emoto Tasuku) who will try to seduce her. Toko will also feel attracted to Atsushi and, in an attempt to juggle betrayal and lies, she will soon dicover that also Akihiko hides a secret.
Osanago warera ni umare / Dear Etranger 2017
Dear Etranger (2017), is a film based on the novel by Shigematsu Kiyoshi, and has been selected to take part in several film festivals around the world. The protagonist Makoto Tanaka, 40, has remarried and with his new wife he looks after his two daughters. When his wife becomes pregnant, he is forced to accept a demotion in his job, as he refuses to work extra hours to spend more time with his family. These events shake his life and influence the family dynamic.
Shisei: Nihohi tsuki no gotoku / Tattoo: Savoring the Scent of the Moon 2009
Shiawase no pan / Bread of Happiness 2012
Budō no namida / A Drop of the Grapevine 2014
Tsukuroi tatsu hito / A Stitch of Life 2015
Shōjo / Night’s Tightrope 2016
Osanago warera ni umare / Dear Etranger 2017
Biblia Koshodō no Jiken Techô / The Antique: Secret of the Old Books 2018
Shape of Red 2020
Kowareta heart o urimono ni / Broken Hearts for Sale 2015