CANNES, FRANCE—An island of introspection in a sea of hype, anime master Mamoru Oshii is a Yoda-like figure who giggles at interviewers’ questions and never makes eye contact. His publicist warned me that he was distracted because, back in Japan, his pet basset hound was ill.
I understand that Innocence cost five times as much as Ghost in the Shell—about $18 million—and that it’s completely digital. Which scene was the most difficult to shoot?
Translator: Physically . . . the festival scene. It has nothing to do with the story—it’s an essence. Mr. Oshii likes movies that have such scenes.
It seems like Innocence might be an allegory about animation.
Translator: Yeah, definitely. Doll-making and animation are very similar.
Is the dog in the movie based on yours?
Oshii: Of course.
Translator: He showed the animators a lot of photos and videotapes. They thought it was too much.
Was there any other research like that?
Translator: Mr. Oshii and his crew visited toy factories in Germany and Italy to look at the dark side of doll manufacturing. And they went to New York for the Hans Bellmer show [at the International Center for Photography]. The very first scene [where the gynoid self-destructs] is based on New York’s Chinatown.
Why do the gynoids have blue eyes? Is that a convention?
Translator: When he was a child there was a song about a doll’s eyes being blue.
Do you know Quentin Tarantino?
Translator: No. Mr. Oshii wasn’t there when Mr. Tarantino came to the studio [to discuss the anime in Kill Bill]. Last night they bumped into each other on the street but they didn’t recognize each other. If they don’t meet on the stage [when the awards are given out], they probably never will.