Shunji Iwai

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Shunji Iwai
岩井 俊二
Shunji Iwai.jpg
Born (1963-01-24) 24 January 1963 (age 58)
OccupationDirector, video artist, screenwriter, composer

Shunji Iwai (岩井 俊二, Iwai Shunji, born 24 January 1963) is a Japanese film director, video artist, writer and documentary maker.

Life and career[edit]

Iwai was born in Sendai, Miyagi, Japan. He attended Yokohama National University, graduating in 1987.

In 1988 he started out in the Japanese entertainment industry by directing TV dramas and music videos. Then, in 1993, his TV drama, Fireworks, brought him critical praise and the Directors Guild of Japan New Directors Award for his portrayal of a group of children in the town of Iioka.[1]

In 1995 he went on to start his career in feature films, starting with the box-office hit Love Letter, in which he cast pop singer Miho Nakayama in dual roles. Love Letter also launched the movie career of Miki Sakai who won a Japanese Academy Award as 'Newcomer of the Year' for her portrayal of Itsuki Fujii as a young girl. Iwai collaborated with cinematographer Noboru Shinoda to produce a film praised for its evocative winter cinematography. Love Letter made an impact in other east Asian countries too, notably South Korea where the film's success helped break down the post-World War II barriers to Japanese films being shown there.

In 1996 came the commercial and critical success of Swallowtail Butterfly, a multifaceted story of the fictional Yen Town, a city of immigrants in search of hope and a better life with three separate and distinct main characters. Ageha (Ayumi Ito), an orphaned teenage girl, Glico (Chara), a prostitute turned pop star, and Feihong (Hiroshi Mikami), an immigrant who manages Glico's career and owns the Yen Town club. He also wrote the lyrics of a theme song for the film Swallowtail Butterfly (Ai no Uta) with Chara and Takeshi Kobayashi.

In 1998, Fine Line Features released Love Letter in the United States theatrically under the new title When I Close My Eyes; it was the first Iwai-directed film to be released in the United States theatrically.

Iwai enjoyed another kind of success with this film as well, having teamed up with Takeshi Kobayashi to create the music for the film and the Yen Town Band, headed by Pop star Chara. The band they created became a commercial hit in Japan. He would team up with Kobayashi again in 2001 for the harrowing High School Drama All About Lily Chou-Chou. Kobayashi would create the music for the titular pop star, Lily Chou-Chou (voiced by Japanese singer Salyu), that is spread through the film (as well as Debussy), and later be released as an album entitled Kokyu (Breathe).

In 2002 he released a short, ARITA, in which he composed his own film score for the first time. In 2004 Iwai released Hana & Alice, his first comedy. He once again composed the film score himself.

He has recently[when?] directed a commercial airing in Japan featuring Matsu Takako, whom he has not worked with since 1998.

October 2006 sees the Iwai-produced film Rainbow Song released in Japan. The film is directed by Naoto Kumazawa and was written by Ami Sakurai. It stars previous Iwai actors Hayato Ichihara, Yū Aoi and Shoko Aida. Also in 2006, Iwai spent time documenting and interviewing Kon Ichikawa while filming The Inugamis (Inugamike no ichizoku - 2006) to create a feature-length documentary about the director's life.

A more recent project, a piece he wrote about the Japanese indie rock scene in the early 1990s called Bandage, was released on January 16, 2010. Apart from being in charge of the music production, "Bandage" represents Takeshi Kobayashi's first time as a movie director.[2] The project was originally taken by Ryuhei Kitamura, but was dropped in 2006. The filming started in 2008 and Kobayashi chose a completely different cast for the movie, casting j-pop singer Jin Akanishi and Kie Kitano for the main roles. It also included other actors who have worked with Iwai before, such as Ayumi Ito and Hideyuki Kasahara.[3] The release of the horror film Vampire marked his English-language film debut.[4]


Year Title Role Notes
1991 Unknown Child Writer-director TV horror drama for Kansai TV's DRAMA DOS;[5] available on Initial: the Shunji Iwai Collection DVD
1991 The Man Who Came to Kill Writer-director available on Initial: the Shunji Iwai Collection DVD[5]
1992 Ghost Soup Writer-director available on Initial: the Shunji Iwai Collection DVD
1992 Maria Writer-director TV drama;[5] available on Initial: the Shunji Iwai Collection DVD
1992 A Tin of Crab Meat Writer-director Fuji TV's third series of Tales of the Unusual;[5] available on Initial: the Shunji Iwai Collection DVD
1992 A Summer Solstice Story Writer-director available on Initial: the Shunji Iwai Collection DVD [5]
1992 Omelette Writer-director TV special for Fuji TV's La Cuisine;[5] available on Initial: the Shunji Iwai Collection DVD
1993 Fireworks, Should We See It from the Side or the Bottom? Writer-director
1993 Fried Dragon Fish Writer-director Final TV special for Fuji TV's La Cuisine;[5] available on Initial: the Shunji Iwai Collection DVD
1993 The King of Snow Director TV drama;[5] available on Initial: the Shunji Iwai Collection DVD
1994 Undo Writer-director Short film (47 min)
1994 Lunatic Love Director TV drama;[6] available on Initial: the Shunji Iwai Collection DVD
1995 Love Letter Writer-director US title: When I Close My Eyes
1996 Picnic Writer-director
1996 Swallowtail Butterfly Writer-director
1998 Knit Cap Man Director Music video for Moonriders [7]
1996 Mirror of the Sky Director Music videos for singer-actress Takako Matsu
1998 April Story Writer-director
1999 The Kids Who Wanted to View Fireworks from Another Perspective Director A follow-up documentary on Fireworks (1993) [6]
2000 Ritual Day Actor
2001 All About Lily Chou-Chou Writer-director
2002 Jam Films Director segment "ARITA"
2002 Triumphal March and 30 Days of Their Own Producer-Director-Editor Documentary about the Japanese National Football Team for Japan Football Association[5]
2004 Hana & Alice Writer-director adapted from his short-film series of the same title [5]
2006 Rainbow Song Producer-writer Writing credited as Aminosan
2006 The Kon Ichikawa Story Writer-director
2007 The Bandage Club Writer credited as Aminosan
2008 New York, I Love You Director Short film, segment 3
2009 Baton Producer-writer Director Ryuhei Kitamura's rotoscope animated film, starring Hayato Ichihara and Ueto Aya
2009 Halfway Producer Eriko Kitagawa's film
2010 Bandage Producer-writer
2010 I Have to Buy New Shoes Producer Eriko Kitagawa's film
2011 Friends After 3.11 Director and co-editor Documentary that explores the aftermath of Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami[8]
2011 Vampire writer-director English-language feature film debut
2015 The Case of Hana & Alice writer-director Prequel of Hana and Alice
2016 A Bride for Rip Van Winkle writer-director
2018 Last Letter writer-director The Leading Actress Zhou Xun
2020 Last Letter writer-director The Leading Actress Takako Matsu


Unknown Child




Love Letter

Swallowtail Butterfly

April Story

All About Lily Chou-Chou

Hana & Alice

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Nihon Eiga Kantoku Kyōkai Shinjinshō" (in Japanese). Directors Guild of Japan. Archived from the original on 22 November 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2010.
  2. ^ Keisha Castle-Hughes, Kristin Kreuk join Iwai Shunji's Vamprie
  3. ^ Bandage Official site
  4. ^ First Report, Images from Iwai Shunji's 'Vampire'
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j [1] Shunji Iwai's Works
  6. ^ a b [2] Rockwell Eyes: Staff
  7. ^ [3] Moonriders Official Site
  8. ^ Halligan, Fionnuala (13 February 2012). "Friends After 3.11". Screen Daily. Retrieved 29 December 2012.

External links[edit]