This is a second volume of stories featuring Takuji Kameoka, a Japanese actor who, in spite of specializing in minor supporting roles, emerges as an irresistibly lovable, larger-than-life figure. The character first introduced at the age of 37 in Haiyū Kameoka Takuji (Actor Takuji Kameoka, 2011) is now 40, and has been working as an actor for 15 years. The six stories in this volume recount experiences that Takuji has while on location for films or television dramas in which he appears, and collectively function like episodes in a single road movie. Undaunted by the invariably frightful roles he is asked to play?a hit man knocked off by a fellow hit man; a peeping Tom who not only gets doused with boiling water after getting caught looking in on a bathing coed, but then gets beaten to within an inch of his life by the girl’s father as well; a victim of bullying and assault by a yakuza thug; and so forth?he continues to throw himself body and soul into his work, and to turn out one incomparable performance after another.
In the last of the stories, Takuji has been asked to come to Nazaré, Portugal, for two days of shooting with the famous Portuguese film director Felipe. He can’t read the script written in Portuguese, so his plan is the same as for jobs in Japan?to simply show up at the time specified and do as he is told. The role is that of an expatriate Japanese writer who has now been living in Nazaré for a long time, and all he has to do is drink wine and nibble on appetizers in a restaurant. The shooting begins when he has reached a suitable degree of intoxication. “I want you to exude saudade,” Felipe tells him, using a word that refers to a uniquely Portuguese sense of longing and melancholy, but Takuji, lacking any understanding of the language, uncharacteristically waves off the instructions and declares through his interpreter that he’ll simply do the drunken performance his own way. He is soon pouring his heart out in Japanese as if the floodgates have been opened, and when he is finished he has done it once again: the crew and director heap praises on him. The finished film is entered in the Venice Film Festival, which Takuji is invited to attend, but he stays at home. Basking in the foreign spotlight and the possibility of winning an award mean nothing to him.
The descriptions of fictitious movie plots and script excerpts, designed specifically to give Takuji his moments to shine, are quite marvelous. Into the brief span of each short story author Akito Inui has in effect packed both a full-length feature film and another portion of the life of actor Takuji Kameoka. Readers are sure to find themselves wishing they could see the actor performing in exactly such offbeat films, and they will come away eager to see him in action at ages 50 and 60 as well.