Leftism and the Collapse of Geographical Senses
Sakai: My college years began in 1985 (the year of the Plaza Agreement) and ran parallel to those of the bubble economy. At Waseda University where I studied during the late 1970s, there had been a surge of a new type of coalition of various non-sectarian leftist elements against the onslaught of the Anti-communist League=the Unification Church recruiting on campus. This movement once declined and eventually disappeared, but such a front re-emerged during the 80s. I was in the midst of the trend where, having this front as an axis, various groups were tackling various issues. In this sense, I think I was at the end of a big current beginning from the Zen-kyo-to experience. So my impression of the 1980s’ experience does not really match that of the opportunistic bubble economy, but more of an extension of the struggle of 1968. Sometimes I felt what we were doing was really out of the joint of time, but at the same time, I was convinced that this was the most exciting thing in the world.
Thereafter I have been doing things based upon the experience. In this context, what disturbs me the most is that people tend to stress too much the United Red Army problem. I agree that that the incident thrust a big question before the activists. But the dominant historical view established in the 1990s came to explain the chronology of the activism beginning from the Asama Lodge Incident, going through a setback, and resulting in the present society of high consumerism. I have strong doubts about such a sociological generalization: if it can really bundle all the currents and experiences.
Adachi: But you said you were connected to 1968. So aren’t you the one bundling everything?
Sakai: No, I don’t think they are directly connected. That’s what I actually wanted to ask you.
Right now, along with Go Hirasawa, who interviewed you for the book, I am part of the 1970s Study Group, which reexamines the intertwined-ness of politics and culture from the 60s to the 70s. Even after 1968, there remained an ongoing conflict between state suppression and the remnants of the movement. We believe that what we should do right now is to short-circuit that period’s power relations with the present.
This is related to your cinematic works as well. For instance, one of your main themes involves the idea of “return to the mother’s womb.” In the book you use the term Moebius strip. At a glance the concept seems to grasp the feeling of a blockage of time. My observations of the dominant interpretation of your works was close to that, that in the self-closed maze of the infinite circle, your characters struggled to get out of the ring through sex and violence. But I reconsidered this interpretation upon watching your films again, that for you, the act to go outside of the closed room just doesn’t exist substantially. Rather, it is joyous truth that the world is like a closed-door, locked-up room … that’s the world your films embody.
Adachi: My tendency back then as well as now is that I lack the sense of discerning and discriminating between individual and society. Categorization isn’t my greatest gift. A typical concentric pattern of thinking — starting with an individual, there is a family, then there is a tribe, society, state — has already been broken in me. At times I was very troubled by my inability to think that way. For example, filmmaking is a collective enterprise. It often happened that I came up with an idea, and everybody else said: “Hey that’s good! Let’s do it!” but after beginning to do it, I realized that what I was thinking was different from what they understood it to be. Actually, when I read The Surrealist Manifesto, my worldview was smashed and opened up completely, with its notion that there is no need to objectify “self and other.” The basis of my assertion that the author should be an activist is my conviction that the individual can only be grasped as a movement.
Sakai: The collapse of concentric pattern is equal to the collapse of geographic senses. Gilles Deleuze once defined “what is the left” and said it’s not a position, but a matter of perception; the leftists are those who can sense what’s happening in the opposite side of the earth as if happening right next door. That is why the left is minor. I sense such a loss of perspective sense in your way of thinking. Although the world is supposed to be enclosed and seems to confine us, you went to Palestine, not for the sake of breaking the closure, but as an extension of the logic of affirming the closure. Your world seems to be one in which normal perspectives are pretty much collapsed.
Adachi: That’s scary, but absolutely right. If it’s just a matter of geographic sense, I could just mourn my bad sense of direction; but this loss sometimes creeps into my sense of time and relations between things around me.
Festival — giving continuity to that which refuses it
Sakai: I used to think that your movies and the movies you wrote scripts for, especially those by Koji Wakamtsu, were made on the line of sexual liberation, but if you watch them carefully, they are very cynical about sexual liberation per se. From “Abortion [Datai]” to “The Birth Control Revolution [Hinin Kakumei]”, “Go Go Second Virgin [Yuke Yuke Nidomeno Shojo],” “Prayer of Ejaculation/A 15 Year Old Prostitute [Funshutsu Kigan/ 15-sai no Baishunfu],” all of them, it now seems, had a message that there was no such thing as liberation vis-à-vis sex.
Adachi: I think so. I think there were influences from Marquis de Sade and Tatsuhiko Shibusawa. That is, sex is one of the processes toward liberation, and there is no liberation for sex itself. I believe that dissolution of existing relations and the positivist figures of liberation can emerge in sexual relationships, but that sexual liberation is not equal to the liberation of human existence. So, yes, I am pessimistic toward sex. By the way, I heard that Wakamatsu’s films are very popular among feminists today, is that true?
Sakai: Really? It’s unthinkable, from my own experience. I know of someone who got into a big trouble only because he organized a screening of Wakamatsu’s movies in a university (laugh).
Adachi: Oh yeah, so that’s wrong (laugh). But there are feminists in Europe, America, and Canada, who positively evaluate his films.
In my case, I tend to go to an extreme without stopping and examining sex and gender relations, but Wakamatsu had a strong admiration for women. According to him, if based upon an admiration for women, beating, kidnapping, raping, gangbanging, etc, are tolerated. He develops the notion that women are stronger than they appear. I am a little different from Wakamatsu, in that I think sex is nothing but a medium, and ask what kind of relation sex has to the future and future liberation. That is my interest and the basis of my experiment in filmmaking.
Sakai: I think that what happened in 1968 was a disturbance of the concentric view of the world that you referred to. In the domain of music, there arose a counter movement to go back to the concentric world: wasn’t the current from the lyricist folk music to the New Music an effort to reconstruct the concentric structure. For instance, Yosui Inoue was without question a towering genius, but in the context of the time, his “No Umbrella [Kasa-ga-nai]” was chanting that the problems in Vietnam are so distant as compared to the most intimate and real thing for us, that is, the sexual relationship. The counter movement, however, did not recover the original concentric structure, and the structure was already deformed. For instance, Norihiko Hashida’s “The Bride” did not just sing about the conventional male/female relationship. This current even entailed a critique toward a poverty of destroying the concentric structure. Yet again this whole was finally a reactionary that sought a reconstruction of the concentric structure. To say it in reverse, to demand liberation in sex per se allowed political withdrawal into the idea that the most real and intimate thing existed only in the intimate relations. On the other hand, the sex for you never had such a gravity.
Adachi: I thank you for understanding what I tried to do. Back then, nobody said anything like that. But let me say something about the Zen-kyo-to. I think inside their movement, there was a belief in sexual liberation. 90% of their relationship was like meeting between individuals in comradely manners, but there must have been a form of male-female relationship based on clinging, desiring, hungering for love. Somewhere in me, however, I affirm such a relationship as a sort of festival or soldiers’ off day. I have a strong feeling that I myself should not avoid such a bare self-understanding. Maybe that’s why feminists think positively of Wakamatsu, while I am seen as the enemy of women. I have always wanted to keep pushing the issue of value-less-ness of sex to such an extent, nonetheless my work might have been understood as a form of women worship.
Sakai: There has been an interpretation of 1968 as a festival, which usually turns into vulgarized Bataille with an excessive expectation toward sex. But, as in the case with “Female Student Guerillas [Jogakusei Guerillas],” the real problem is how to maintain the energy. In this sense, the 1968-festival-interpretation is the worst of sorts. 1968 has in fact continued, and the theme should be how to keep it going. Or as a paradoxical theme, how to maintain what’s not ostensibly maintained. In your case, the framework is not the “end of festival and broken promise,” but how to prolong the festival and what to do to give a form to that which refuses a form — I think such a problem penetrates your works.
Adachi: A festival starts with excitement and ends with its cooling off. But at the same time, there is something that is permanently maintained from one festival to the next. On the one hand, on the side of status quo, there is a type of festival organized around the structure of the Emperor system, in which rituals recur periodically with certain reposes. But on our side, I think that taking a break means it’s preparation time for the next one, not feeling anything different between festival times and reposes. But there are people, more in tune with common sense, who get sober after a big festival and just disengage quickly. For my part, I wanted to keep the festival going so much so that I often say that a festival is not something that ends. I don’t mean to criticize Zen-kyo-to, but it was sad to see them following the built-in system of the society in which we just stop doing things after the party’s over. We have to do another new festival in order not to end the first festival. My “Sex Play [Sex Yugi]” proposed exactly that. The reason why Masaaki Hiraoka and I became sympathizers of the Japan Red Army without so much scrutiny of their line was precisely this — they wanted to keep the party going, so let’s do it.
From the beginning, I had the conviction that one could continue to run with one teleological consciousness. Perhaps I became off from the time because of this. I worked with Palestine Liberation Movement in actuality, but my idea was that this was a part of a bigger movement toward international guerilla warfare. This was not just concerning Palestine. These days, such an approach itself, as much as the stance of the Japan Red Army, has been criticized that this was to make a teleological consciousness absolute. For example, in Europe, revolutionary movements developed with an absolute sense of teleology within the contexts of each country; and being confined in one country, they faced stagnation. It was due to the failure of forming the European Revolution Platform toward which the subjects of various European movements had worked by exchanging opinions. In the case of Bader Meinhof, after the stagnation, it simply broke up. Thereafter the former members restarted activities without organizational restraint. Joschka Fischer becoming Foreign minister through power politics was clearly the sign of such a process. Meanwhile, being Japanese, I could not behave like that, feeling that I was glued to the original teleology. When the goal was shown to be too difficult to achieve, I still had to stick with it or seek to go forward by pulling the stagnation even closer. I thought that was the difference between us Japanese and Europeans.
Party – beyond the Hypostatized Relations
Sakai: Surprisingly in your writings and books, I have never sensed the smells of internal strife [uchi-geba] that are omnipresent in Japan’s New Left related elements.
Adachi: I am a kind of person who can’t preserve frustration at all (laugh).
Sakai: In this book, you mention that during a panel discussion among you, the director Nagisa Oshima, and the film critic Masao Matsuda, there was a fierce debate over the necessity of Party, and I felt that you were insisting on the necessity of political parties precisely because you yourself have not been attached or affiliated with one.
Adachi: Yes, in fact, I have had no relationship with a party or party organizations of any sort. But the generation of activists and Communists that Oshima and Matsuda represent went through defining experiences in which they had devoted body and soul to the Party, to the extent of almost becoming one and the same with it. While Oshima persisted in rejecting it, Matsuda used to be an elite Party member, though he quit early on. So they both had very concrete experiences, and what they said came from the fact that they spent a huge part of their lives thinking and dealing with the issue. On the other hand, I almost innocuously said that we need a party. That is, at my starting point, I had strong doubt as to the effectiveness of small bands and circles of radicals and militants without awareness of how to build something akin to the Party. Only a small part of the debate was published in the magazine Cinema Criticism [Eiga Hihyo], and they persistently creamed me by saying, “Your understanding of the Party is wrong!” and “you must drop the concept of Party!” while I insisted that I just couldn’t abandon it. When we sought to reorganize the Japan Red Army, we continuously debated about the issues of party and army. But we were doing it outside of the leftist, or new-leftist terms of Party debate. Originally, the Japan Red Army was a collection of former New Left faction members and independents devoted to the idea of armed struggle. So everybody was basically opposed to the Stalinist idea of party-building. But we knew that if something like Party was necessary for the success of revolution, then it must be vigorously conceived, so we kept discussing what is Party: is it an organization, function, or more abstract entity?
Those debates and discussions were very heated. So, today, I have difficulty of talking about it with a younger generation like you, without seeing it from the vantage point of, for instance, Empire of Hardt and Negri. It’s hard for me to state theoretically, because I believe that Party is something that exists not in some realized or actualized form of factions, but it is something that comes into being beyond that point.
Sakai: Do you mean ‘telos’ when you said “something beyond that point”?
Adachi: No, I mean, for me there is Party as an image that precedes a Party induced from some organizational theory. You can say that for me, Party is a collective of masses. My image of Party is a flexible collective that moves not necessarily with a sharply focused organizing power, but with rough agreement among participants. Initially, some JRA members said that its organization should be like a train station. The reason was that Party is necessary for revolution, but at the same time, for me, Party and revolution are one and the same.
For twenty-eight years I organized and worked as a member of the JRA, and I often said that ours was an underground revolutionary organization because our principle notion was that people had power, and we considered ourselves as fighters who would actualize such popular power. And we got scolded by older activists, who insisted that there is no official or underground revolutionary party because this is a revolution and war against enemy power, and so what’s the point of deliberately calling yourselves underground? It was a debate that had no common denominator. But for all of us, it shows that we aren’t able to think fully about party organization in a concrete fashion.
(Taiji ga Mitsuryosuru Toki, 1966)
The Theory of landscape – Homogenizing Empire and the Seeping out of Venoms
Sakai: I’ve been very curious about the concept: “underground.” I think we need to invent a sort of secret space if we really want true communication. Observing the tendency of power today, surveillance is increasingly encroaching upon our lives. Can we keep our existence secret, in such a situation, not by isolating and cutting ourselves off, but because we want to strengthen communication? Probably, that’s part of your desire, that is, in you, the desire for a closed-door room and for communication not to conflict with each other. I am thinking, maybe we can call this “underground.”
Adachi: In terms of what we thought back then, you are absolutely right. We came to believe that a “common sense” — to make films, do theater, or just communicate with others generally, that you must appeal to and please a majority in the audience — shouldn’t concern us. It was not that we wanted to expand our world by a deduction, but that we wanted to have our world in a concrete way. There was a strong sense of repulsion among us against distortion of our content and against the demands to limit our sites and methods, all of which come into play when one tries to expand into larger areas the way we expressed ourselves in our own immediate environment. The term “underground” was then the first sign of our effort to recognize what we wanted to do as a sort of area, or genre. And it was film and theater that seemed most backward in this regard. In films, you make a film and then you show it to an audience. But in the world of fine art, there were those who painted or sculpted in a closed room and just had fun doing it without an audience. There were a lot of them like that — painters who didn’t paint, poets who didn’t write poems, theater people who didn’t do any mise-en-scenes. The atmosphere was that that’s fine. At the same time, everyone was filled with frustration to near explosion. It was very close to today’s situation.
Nevertheless I can’t see what young people are doing with their frustration today. Methodical and technical experiments in communication have been well developed since my days, so maybe they feel hesitant about emulating the old approaches. But I believe that effects of desire are the same, today or back then.
Sakai: Perhaps due to the development of technology and the transformation of media, the desire that supports “underground” appears totally differently.
It was during the 1990s when capital subsumed to the limit various “sites.” Because of this over-subsumption, capital lost the outside — what had theretofore re-energized it. In music, notwithstanding its being interconnected with capital, new “sites” have been born. But in Japan, because capital’s power to subsume is probably stronger than elsewhere, the work produced from alternative spaces rarely becomes visible.
Adachi: The broken grammar of spoken words and flooding lights of mass images can be threatening and menacing as expressive powers, but they can be quickly weathered. The sense of rhythm in the comings and goings expresses the fact that the will of capital toward consumption and the masses are in mutual consent. But I wonder if the power of the masses exists precisely in the flood.
Sakai: I think what you’re saying is related to “landscape theory.” Your “Aka. Serial Killer [Ryakusho Renzoku Shasatsuma]” captured the process through which the Japanese landscape was homogenized. And now homogenization is on the global scale. Masao Matsuda once pointed out that before Nagayama saw the landscape he was seen by it – to me, the most powerful aspect that the film of landscape theory expressed. Today we are seen by the homogenized landscape physically via surveillance cameras. So what is the qualitative difference, if you recreate landscape theory today? What will that be, and what form will it take?
Adachi: Starting from the conclusion, I think we should again look inside human beings and ourselves. Takashi should look at Takashi quietly but persistently, with the understanding that even the human existence as substance has been turned into landscape. Because of global homogenization, and because everything now is subjected to the purpose of industries and market economy, our way of thinking is seeking to adjust to the changes. So, as a sequel to landscape theory, film should begin with patiently recording real human beings. The contemporary world has reached a stage where capital and market on one hand and human beings on the other are nakedly exposed to each other in the midst of increased social tensions. Each human being has his or her own model. Your type, my type — These types are unique and not the same. At the present time when the power of capital to subsume and commodify, that is, the power to manage and control, appears omnipotent, we should grip the parts and elements in ourselves that exceed the landscape; it is only there that freedom as human life can be found, and therein what we know as expression becomes possible.
Since I had always anticipated the world would grow to be a miserable place like this, I made “Red Army-PFLP: the World War Declaration.” It was an attempt to make a reportage of ourselves. We are watched in everything we do. For example, no matter how we called the JRA the “underground revolutionary party,” we were already watched in the way that “an underground revolutionary party called the JRA exists underground.” We have to start from here. I think that, rather than reformulating the landscape theory, it is imperative to persistently follow the tension between being underground and being seen as part of the landscape.
That is the reason for the making “Red-P” and my continuing filmmaking.
It takes a lot of energy to create a world that is exceeding the status quo. Could we really do it? If you study the 60s and 70s, you really have to research the exceeding aspects; if not we cannot go beyond encroachment and confinement. And I think that the going beyond by one person is meaningless, so we should question now if it is possible in a collective fashion.
Sakai: I agree. There is a difficulty in organizing the “sites” where exceeding and going beyond are affirmed collectively.
Adachi: Why not do a lot of what you call “events”? I think that what we should do is to create festival-like situations.
Sakai: Yes, “events” are really important. Beginning from the movement we did at Waseda University in the 1990s, a lot of different groups gathered together and formed so-called The Association of Good-for-Nothings [Dame-ren] …
Adachi: I have high expectations for them, how much they can keep running away, evading, and avoiding the status quo …
Sakai: Well, actually … it’s sad, but Dame-ren is barely functioning today. At the time of its formation, Dame-ren staged event after event, as “event” was in fact a keyword for the group. Our campus movement was also centered on creating events, but it became difficult to continue. I talked with Pepe Hasegawa, one of the founders, recently. He said that Dame-ren depended on the ‘underground space’ in universities, such as the one at Waseda. But such underground spaces have been in crisis these days. Last year, Waseda University closed off the campus underground space and encountered a big resistance. The present situation is stagnant: while many of our sites are being closed, we have not discovered a proper method of using the Internet.
Adachi: I think that the Net is finally not sufficient for exceeding the status quo. If you look at chat rooms or home-page competitions, there is a surprisingly high energy and desire for expression and communication. But staying at that level is not enough; it doesn’t mean going beyond the fences. So I think it is imperative to stage events that create substantial space. Working with human beings is not the same as being engaged in organic farming. Human relationships don’t end with producing clean and healthy foods. So I expect you to keep experimenting with what you can do with your own body, including the creation of “sites,” in order to create a substantial movement.
Sakai: The “Red-P” screening movement revolved around campuses, didn’t it?
Adachi: Right. Whenever possible, we did screenings in universities. When universities told us not to come in, we did it in community centers.
The comment you made in the beginning that we can’t conflate the trend exemplified by 1968 and the 70s with that in the 1980s is correct in principle. Up to the 80s, we the activists and artists retained venom and could remain relevant no matter how much we had been sold out to capital. That’s why carnivals can keep on going if we intend. During the 80s commercial it so happened that the commercial value was attached to venoms and poisons; but still people could have continued to throw their venoms at society, including the celebrated copywriter Shigesato Itoi, who’s generally seen as the most corrupt sellout. If you bundle everything in the name of commercialism without seeing the process of commercialization, you would remain blind. Venom [doku] must sustain parts that remain poisonous in the changing situations. So I would like you to do poison carnivals more and more.
Sakai: By the way, what is your plan for new films?
Adachi: I’ve written two scripts for Wakamatsu, but Wakamatsu denounced me that the direction is not right. He said: “this script is for a film that any director can make.” I said: “The question is how you shoot the script out of which any director can make a film!” We are quarreling right now (laugh). In any case, Wakamatsu consistently seeks to make films as venomous carnival.
I am also working on a script for my own film. If not, I would be a fossil.
Sakai: You have written in your book that you are interested in the Zeitgeist, including the present stagnated situation. How do you grasp that?
Adachi: A sense of cul-de-sac was rampant even in my youth. We enjoyed drinking and reading great books, but we still felt dissatisfaction. This is the same as today. So I would like to make a crazy comedy, urging us go to inaccessible places and taking in poisons risking our own lives. I am rewriting my old script “Two sons who Killed Loto” from today’s vantage point. Another project is how to make a film like a carnival. Spending so much money has been considered to be a fate of filmmaking. Counter to this, I want to make a cheap film as a poisonous festival. To participate in festival is to take in poison together — that’s what I really want to do.
(Funshutsu Kigan: 15-Sai no Baishunfu, 1971)
“Galaxy [Ginga-kei]” – Afirming the World that Repeats
Sakai: When I saw Oshima’s “Three Resurrected Drunkards [Kaette-kita Yopparai],” I thought that there lies a clue to decode your world as an enclosed system.
Adachi: That film seeks solutions to the Korean problem that is charged to Japanese people. When we were writing the script, Oshima and Takeshi Tamura started an argument with me in the middle. Oshima had a passionate commitment to the Korean Problem. He argued that without solving it, no one could solve the problems of Asia. None of his films ever omitted the problem. “Baby Sister of Summer [Natsuno Imoto],” “Boy [Shonen],” and “Ritual [Gishiki],” which have ostensibly nothing to do with it, nevertheless hit the bulls eye of the Korean problem. The script-writing team kept writing vigorously with the questions of Korean division from the side of the Left especially at the time of the Vietnam War. There was the famous picture, published in newspapers of the time, of the moment a Vietcong commander who had directed the Saigon general uprising was shot to death. Oshima concluded that the decisive moment this picture captured should be evaluated as the decisive moment for us. Yet this movie was supposed to be a comedy, so we worked hard together to create a fun film with a serious problematic.
Sakai: It was really a fun film. It employs a loop-like enclosed world similar to the one in your earlier “Galaxy [Ginga-kei].” Was that your idea?
Adachi: No, when we were having difficulty in introducing a certain epistemological break, Oshima suggested re-introducing “Galaxy.”
Sakai: When I saw that film, I thought about your position and realized that it was not that there was nowhere to go because of being confined in an enclosure, but thanks to an isomorphism, it was repeatable. Although there is a danger of repeating the same thing nonsensically, the repetition may take a radically different form. It is like an advancing enclosed room.
Adachi: I wrote about something like that in the epilogue of my book because I felt I needed to talk about it. I have a tendency to just leap forward every time a decision is demanded of me. So I went to Palestine, as if I were just leaping forward lightly. I did not think about it much.
Sakai: About Oshima’s “A Secret Story of Post Tokyo War [Tokyo Senso Sengo Hiwa],” you wrote that it was a Zen-kyo-to movie where everything was supposed to melt into everything else. And your explanation ended on that point. I myself think that “A Secret Story” was a kind of annotation to “Aka. Serial killer.” Inasmuch as “Aka.” was rarely shown and remained un-representable, “A Secret Story” assumed the role of discourse, didn’t it?
Adachi: Being in Oshima’s production team, I did not participate very much in making “A Secret Story”. Oshima was in fact an aesthete; he was trying to revisit the Zen-kyo-to experience having as an axis a kind of beauty of something burning out and disappearing. Furthermore he had already advocated an idea akin to the landscape theory. I used to live in Shimo-ochiai (in Shinjuku district), a common crowded residential area with rows of TV antennas. In the film a similar scene appears as that seen from the apartment of the protagonist, a former activist student. In the end, it is clear that we shared the same thematic concern about cinematic language.
What that movie embodies is the sensitivity of Takeshi Tamura. His point was that vanishing people disappear in order to look for their doubles; “A Secret Story” was made with this thematic consciousness. In other words, it was about flying away. Later, when Oshima, Matsuda, and I debated over the Party, Oshima insisted on the theme of “flying away” in this context, but I was uncertain, “fly away, to where?” We should have debated more … Oshima was almost the only one who persistently discussed the Korean Problem from the problematic of the left, without confining it to the scandals of North Korea, especially as the issue of abduction came up.
The Multitude – “Red Army – PFLP” and Palestine
Sakai: I have to confirm this as a matter of fact. “Red Army-PFLP” was made not simply as a manifesto, but in fact as a critique of the Japan Red Army, wasn’t it?
Adachi: It was a critique of the armed struggle line of the entire left of the time, including the JRA. I didn’t talk much about it in the book, but the film was actually critiquing the falsity of the so-called “theory of the world-in-transition” and the way of thinking entrapped by the mysticist illusion of building up an army. How should the actual armed struggle be? As I immediately realized it once I was in Palestine, the popular armed struggle was not separated from people’s everyday lives, as was the case in Vietnam. A Guevara-inspired idea of revolutionary avant-garde said that people would follow you should you fire guns, and its relevance depended on the presence of armed masses as a main force in the back. In Japan, however, the revolutionary avant-garde created a world view completely divorced from the reality of the masses, and was mired in what could be called “gun-determinism.” That was clearly wrong. I won’t say too many words on this, but I had a criticism that the JRA line offered an important moment for debates on revolution, but nothing for actual revolution.
Sakai: You shot the scene of the JRA agitation speech directly, while showing the Sanrizuka Airport Site Struggle indirectly in the manner of TV news footage; thereby you revealed a distance between the actual struggle like in Sanrizuka and the JRA, and presented it as your critique. In Japan there was an interpretation that “RA-PFLP” was much simpler than Godard’s “Here & There.”
Adachi: You could say that. I expressed the gulf between the Sanrizuka Struggle and the JRA by juxtaposing different dimensions and phases through montages. About Godard, I saw “Here & There” later, and thought: “Oh, maybe I should have run away like him.” I realized that, in order to run away, you could just insert a black screen (laugh).
Sakai: To be exact, “Here & There” filled the conjunction “et (and)” with the black screen. As Hirasawa stresses, the major interpretation in Japan has had it that what makes the film great is this conjunction and that “Here & There” has et, while “Red-P” doesn’t. But it is questionable if “Until the Victory,” the prototype of “Here & There,” would have had “et (and),” if it had been completed around 1970.
I wonder if et was born only in the editing of 1974 ~ 1975.
Adachi: Godard seemed to have gone to Palestine as casually as I shot “The JRA-PFLP,” and witnessed the existence of the popular war line — that which didn’t exist in Europe -- in the national liberation struggle. He pulled the string logically and thought of what could be done in Europe. But in this process occurred the massacre called Black September, and collaborative productions went down. In this hardship Godard repeated the strategy of tricking TV media and Hollywood capitals and running away from them, except that he dug up one of the objects that he ran away from, Palestine, and made it into et. That black screen was his criticism that, aside from the Munich Olympics incident, in Europe, international guerilla warfare was not a reality, unlike in Palestine where it co-existed with the war of popular national liberation. The black screen was not just for reflecting on himself, but also for the political criticism.
Two years ago, a French documentary filmmaker Dominique Dubosc made a film called “Palestine, Palestine,” which was like an experience of tasting silence after a primal scream. It is as if Dubosc picked up what amounts to Godard’s black screen and made it into a whole movie. The story line is very simple; in the first half, the camera follows a puppeteer traveling and showing a simple drama to children, and in the last half, it shows a man in a Palestine refugee camp who collects garbage everyday. It patiently looks at what the et is between the puppeteer and the garbage collector. The films keeps asking the very part that Godard turned into a black screen. I guess Dubosc tossed himself around in great pain against the absurdity of the reality in which Palestinian people are being massacred, but his camera is never shaken. Moreover, the opening scene is a practice of landscape theory exactly. The camera patiently films the dawn in a mountain area and an Israel surveillance tower, and then a comment appears like a groaning: “Because of the Israel’s military rule, my native land has become a different landscape.” I am certain he shot the film with Godard in mind.
Sakai: What surprised me was the intimate continuity between “Aka. Serial Killer” and “The JRA-PFLP.” The method of the landscape theory was employed in “The JRA-PFLP” as well. This is clearly an ex post facto interpretation, but I think it was the earliest film that recorded the landscape of Empire. I believe we will see alternative possibilities of interpreting your trajectory by re-reading “The JRA-PFLP” as the extension of “Aka. Serial Killer” as a landscape theory of Empire.
Adachi: I made “Aka. Serial killer” with the film critic Masao Matsuda, who interpreted “The JRA-PFLP” simply as my declaration of joining the JRA. I wished he had interpreted it with more composure.
Sakai: Matsuda was right in the sense that in the film the JRA appeared negatively. The Red Army faction was clearly criticized by the images of PFLP.
Adachi: If you compare them, yes. The PFLP gathered passenger airplanes in the “revolutionary airport” in the Jordanian desert and blew them up, while the Red Army hijacked a passenger airplane and went to North Korea – do they look the same? Meanwhile it seems to me that their mutual theme: “armed struggle is the best propaganda” is the very philosophy of carnival.
Sakai: I think this is related to your constant thematic of desire for an enclosed room and demand for communication/traffic: on the one hand, the thematic Zen-kyo-to raised was, in the word of Takashi Tsumura, “how to be power without seizing power”; on the other, the politics of the JRA was a bombastic philosophy for seizing power. But in “RA-PFLP,” perhaps reflecting the reality of the situations of Palestine and the qualities of their struggles, there are leaks — appearing as the conflicts among heterogeneous powers — all over the ostensible motive of seizing power of the JRA.
Adachi: I firmly believe in people’s sovereignty. People can have power, because they do have power. So what I’ve been thinking has been just what to do to substantialize it. Therefore, in the worst case it is possible that a mass rapist could become a prime minister. For example, the United Nation’s General Secretary, Kofi Annan, was responsible for a genocide in the tribal war in Rwanda. He was a CIA operative, so the US erased the traces of his complicity and set him up as the UN head. That is why he always accedes to American demands almost 100%. Our time is the one in which such hideous power politics is accepted. But let them engage in the power politics, for the forces of people can swathe, engulf, and ultimately correct those cruel power politics. I have no intention of posing any problematic other than beginning from this standpoint.
Sakai: Your conceptualization is clearly a critique of sovereignty. The philosophy of sovereignty is generally that sovereignty is secured by people transferring their power to the authority. But for you, people never lose their own power.
I honestly think so. To tell you the truth, I never studied Marx-Leninism books, except as some fun reading (laugh). In the military bases in Palestine I re-read them during spare time. They give us some logical ground, but we have to think ourselves after that point. I guess I am a firm believer of A Surrealist Manifesto and Breton. I am just a surrealist.
This conversation took place on February 7th 2003 on the occasion the publication of a book of interviews of Masao Adachi by Go Hirasawa: Cinema/Revolution, Kawade Shobo Shinsha.