One thing I love about interviewing directors is the chance to quiz them about their influences. The Korean-American filmmaker Kogonada is especially open about his. Ahead of closing this year’s EIFF with his sublime sci-fi drama After Yang, he’s programmed a mini retrospective of films that inspired him. “They’re really films that are in conversation with After Yang,” says Kogonada of his choices, which include 2016 body swapping anime hit Your Name, Olivier Assayas's playful 1996 movie Irma Vep and Hirokazu Kore-eda's 1998 sci-fi parable After Life.
The last of these was particularly influential. “It’s about determining what memory is valuable,” says Kogonada, pointing out the obvious thematic link to his own film’s tale of a malfunctioning “techno-sapien” robot whose digital memories are accessed by his owner. “The film isn’t just about what happens post-life, it’s about the pursuit of life,” he elaborates. “And that’s why I called my film After Yang. It’s about life after Yang, but it’s also about Jake’s [Colin Farrell’s character’s] pursuit of Yang and trying to understand who Yang is.”
Sadly, one film you won’t be seeing is the cult Japanese movie All About Lily Chou-Chou, about an enigmatic pop singer who entrances a nation of teenagers. It’s been almost impossible to see since coming out in 2001, but the fictional band’s song Glide has haunted Kogonada ever since. “I was like, I wish this song existed,” he says. “And when I was writing [After Yang] I thought, ‘This song should exist in this world, and this fictitious band should exist in this world.'” Reaching out to singer/songwriter Mitski to cover it, it now features during a key scene where Yang (Justin H. Min) meets a girl at a gig. “It’s my homage to this movie.”
After Life screens on 15 August, Irma Vep screens on 16 August, Your Name and After Yang screen on 20 August.