Nobuhiro Suwa (Hiroshima, 1960) began his career while he was still in Junior High, filming brief pieces shot in Super-8. These were “filmed diaries,” which showed the influence of Jonas Mekas and Robert Frank. Then, he studied at Tokyo’s Zokei University and also worked as an assistant in various jisshu eiga films (self-produced by their creators). In several occasions, Suwa has commented about his admiration for the Nouvelle Vague films, from which he assimilated the use of improvisation. His encounter with Masashi Yamamoto, a key figure in Japanese independent cinema, was also of great significance for him.

After his first filmic works, Suwa focused on television for a few years before going back to filmmaking, in 1997, with 2/Duo, a feature film awarded with the Netpac Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. This film portrays, in a comedy tone, the agony of emotions experienced by a young couple. Subject-wise, the main motifs in his films are love life, its difficulties and the way it is affected by professional issues (M/Other, 1999), divorce (Un couple parfait, 2005; Yuki & Nina, 2009), and everyday coexistence. The symbolic weight in contemporary history of his native city, Hiroshima, became a part of his body of work in H/story, a remake of Alain Resnais’ classic film Hiroshima, mon amour and also in his participation in the film After War, where he directed the segment A letter from Hiroshima, which deals with the devastation of his city.

Often, Suwa’s films are built upon actors’ improvisation and off-screen tension. In formal terms, his films are inhabited by shadows and indirect lighting. Mirrors, doors, and windows are elements which can also be repeatedly found. His use of sound is peculiar too and, sometimes, it is almost barely audible. After Un couple parfait, Suwa’s career has developed in France, as it can be confirmed with his most recent work, Le lion est mort ce soir (2017), which had its premiere at the most recent edition of the San Sebastian Film Festival. The connection of his work with the cinematography of the French Nouvelle Vague is highlighted in this film.

  1. Nobuhiro Suwa was born 15 years after the symbolic beginning of a new era—the 1945 atomic-bomb explosion in the city of Hiroshima.
  2. Currently, he holds the President’s Office at the Tokyo Zokei University, where he also studied.
  3. He took part in the collective film París, je t’aime (2006), with the segment Place de Victoires, in which the actress Juliette Binoche intervened.
  4. For 2/Duo (1997), he wrote a script but discarded it before the shooting.
  5. His film H Story (2001) is a rework of Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour (1959).
  6. “Improvisation is the best way to make films,” states the Japanese director.
  7. Jean-Pierre Leaud, the actor, considers him the heir of Jean-Luc Godard’s filmic work.
  8.  He won the FIPRESCI Award at the Cannes Festival (1999) with M/Other, and the Special Jury Prize at Locarno for Un couple parfait (2005).

Select Filmography:
- Le lion est mort ce soir (The lion sleeps tonight) (2017)
- Black Hair (2011)
- Yuki & Nina (2009)
- Paris, je t’aime (segmento Place des Victoires) (2006)
- Un couple parfait (A perfect couple) (2005)
- After War (segmento A Letter from Hiroshima) (2002)
- H Story (2001)
- M/Other (1999)
- 2/Dyuo (2/Duo) (1997)
- Hanasareru Gang (1984)
- Santa ga machi ni yatte kuru (Santa Comes to Town) (1982)