Hirasawa: Recently, historical reassessment of the period of the anti-establishment movements — symbolized by the year 1968 — has become very popular in Japan as well as the rest of the world. But in most discussions that take place in literary and opinion-making circles, "1968" functions as if it were merely a fashionable keyword without conscious and substantive inquiry into how we can inherit and develop, at the present conjuncture, the historical horizon opened up by 1968. In this environment, Oshima Nagisa 1968 is a small but welcome book that should serve as an occasion to fundamentally question this "1968 boom," which is, as I see it, nothing but a shotgun marriage between nationalism and capitalism. The previous book, Oshima Nagisa 1960 discussed the years of the Anpo-struggle, so there is definitely some difference, but the text itself had a very "1968" quality. So with Mr. Adachi today, I hope to discuss films, thought, ideology, and contemporary situations that are covered in both 60 and 68.
Adachi: I think 1960 extracted the essence of one of Oshima's characteristics as a unique author-artist, that is, his militancy and combativeness. It was a record of not only the works of one filmmaker but also of the struggle of the period itself. The new book 1968 is a genealogy of — as Oshima himself puts it —"postwar reconstruction" in terms of his struggle as an author. It narrates the meaning of his "retreat" and "withdrawal" as a tension-filled development. Although Oshima was a filmmaker who long-maintained the postulate that there is no need to talk about anything negative like "retreat," and struggled his way through many difficult situations with his militancy as his only weapon, I've found it interesting that today he's lightly confessing to us that what he did was a "war of retreat" back then. As a matter of self-definition and reversal, it is refreshing. As to the content of the book, the structure is that 68 answers the problems raised by 60, and 68 lets us know for the first time the content of Oshima as the embodiment of the movement. The important point I want to emphasize here is that today, we finally have the conditions for understanding the real Oshima.
As a matter of self-expression, Oshima always treasured the method of dissolving the self in his films. Or, to put it another way, for him, projecting himself in his films was always the same as dissolving his self. Oshima always revolted against any form of ‘ancient regime.’ Nineteen-sixty-eight represented to him a perfect opportunity. From these points you can understand that Oshima saw 1968 as a great chance to let loose his previously vague and undefined elements and open himself up as a film director. In some of his statements, he argued that he was partially liberated by 1968, but in any case, it is clear that there was a process around 1968 that led to his turning point as a film director. Talking like this, by the way, I can almost hear Oshima angrily yelling at me: "You moron!" and "I've never recognized trash like your films!" Anyway, he always defined himself as a film director, but at the same time, he continued to engage issues beyond filmmaking. Oshima has always tried to analyze/criticize the world with the sensibility of a politician and journalist, but he never made statements politicians and journalists are prone to make. This book may be the first time in which he not only speaks of films and film directors, but also self-analyzes the ground of his own thinking.
In the end, he had two main features as a filmmaker: he sought to talk about everything in his film; the problematics that his films can't bring into itself are meaningless. These were long the basis of his militancy. Another principle was that political themes and positions in his films must be narrated through living characters and in the context of plots, that is, verbal political statements cannot be. This approach had an aspect of dragging and using all the conventional methods of filmmaking. And these two apparently contradictory characteristics largely determined the way Oshima's militancy was expressed. Oshima, on the one hand, has written highly logical criticisms and dealt with the principles of film theory. But at the same time, because filmmaking is a struggle in and of itself for him, he ignored the hidden messages and background politics, and confronted the world on the merits of his works alone, leading to the insistence on his own "author-ness" [sakka-sei] probably more than necessary. That's why Oshima yells at anyone who only talk about his politics, as well as others who only talk about how his "self" is dissolved in his films. He was very sensitive about how he was defined.
Hirasawa: I think nobody expected the situation we find ourselves in today, Oshima publishing 1968 and you, Mr. Adachi, here talking about it. Partially it's because of the "event" of the end of the Cold War, but since you left for Palestine, the actor Rokko Toura and the script writer Takeshi Tamura have died, and Oshima has fallen ill as well. After your return, the camera man Yasuhiro Yoshioka, whom I heard you met while he was in hospital, and later, the actors Hosei Komatsu and Fumio Watanabe passed away. Such unfortunate developments for the Oshima production team...
Adachi: I met Oshima last year – it had been almost 30 years since I saw him last. He was still recovering, so we couldn't talk a lot, but from what I could gather, he's still persistent in his stance as filmmaker, in statements like "I'm an anti-Bohemian, anti-cosmopolitan internationalist!" He has a great sense of pride in what he has done, that is, if I dare to summarize it, he has always interrogated the world and times from the vantage point of our corporeality and the existential consciousness of living humans. But I believe it would be misleading if we said it in the abstract— that “Oshima thought of the world from the side of humanism.”
For example, Oshima asserts that the resident Koreans [zainichi chosen-jin] live the most Asiatic existence inside Japan and Asia. Their lived sensibility — that they have to carry with themselves resident-Korean social existence and historical thought-ness [shisö sei] —represents the most ideal living human type, despite Oshima himself knowing he idealizes them because he's not one of them. He continued to depict a concrete image of the ideal in the form of a sense of time or a problematic consciousness, often as the entire consciousness of his contemporaries, sometimes elevating it to the level of his own boasting. During the 1968 Cannes Film Festival, Godard and his colleagues began protests to reform the festival structures, following up "Paris in May." Oshima left the festival early, leaving his camera man, Yasuhiro Yoshioka, as a "witness," boasting that he didn't have to stay there and take part in the movement because he completely "got it."
As clear in such an attitude, Oshima was, on the one hand, very excited by the events in Europe, but on the other hand, didn't care much about Europe per se and retained an absolute sensibility and preference of thinking in more world-wide perspectives. Interrogating the meaning of Asian-ness and its historical position in the time from the Korean War to the Vietnam War, he gained a total perspective of what was happening, Asian people being slaughtered as they were being encroached upon by the world-wide consumerist civilization. In other words, he began to demand of himself a position of making his own the lived, physical, and bodily feeling of the refugees and impoverished in Asia, and their emotions as human beings.
From his own background of having lost a father in infancy, he could have idealized the idea of the Japanese Emperor [Tennö] and the state that dominated his world, but he resisted them vehemently. He denied anything like that as a mere shell of humanity. He granted a special place to the individual sense of resistance. He was really mad in 1968, when Japanese people were aware of the news of "burning Paris" but fundamentally unreceptive to the news of the May popular uprising. But since he believed contemporary insensibility was worse than crime, he neither criticized it nor expressed his anger openly. At the opposing end, he took radically different stance in 1989 toward the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern European socialism. He likely thought that the event vindicated his long-held idea that the Japanese Emperor System, the Japanese State, and the oppositional Japan Communist Party, all shared the same root with the socialist system like the USSR that suppressed human existence — they were all the same system of power. In fact he shouted at the time, "Huh! Look at that!" Narrowly speaking, he exploded his hatred against what's commonly called the bureaucratic system, from the standpoint of international multitude [minshü].
Not Letting Go of the Actual "Site"
Hirasawa: As you point out, what's so extremely unique about Oshima is that he never "let go" of the actual site of filmmaking. That's why he can grasp everything as directly related to contemporary problems. 1968 is persistent in an attitude, turning everything from the problems on the Korean Peninsula to the resident Koreans (in Japan) into the object of his thinking and filmmaking. This attitude itself as a “movement” or "Oshima" itself — there seems to be no other way of describing it as his thinking style.
Adachi: For Oshima, to make contemporary testimonies was always the most important root for his consciousness of being a filmmaker. Sometimes this consciousness was jarred with the normal way of filmmaking. He could not forgive the intellectuals and politicians who criticized and analyzed the situations from one step behind the times, so he continued to challenge them and even made many of his almost impulsive comments and statements. At his core he had a desire to speak of the way the world may come into existence in the near future, and he deemed half-baked critics and politicians to be unfit for such a task. He was in fact often misunderstood to be a frustrated figure, whereas he was, without compromise, critical of those who bury the hatchet after merely explaining reality.
Back then, the new colonialism began to emerge, and Oshima was concerned with how to think — without being merely political — where the image of lived humanity was being led, at the time when the world structure of domination was being reformulated in the Cold War. There were many intellectuals who thought along this line, but Oshima was unique in that he opposed the intellectuals who talked of the world realignment and wars without taking into consideration the simple fact that it was real people who would get killed in war. The position represents a great track record of the struggles to which he dedicated himself since the 1960s. Actually, what's common in his films is his attempt to depict human figures that will live ahead of their time. The reason his films do not seem to age lies there.
Hirasawa: The first part of 1968 is really refreshing in that he forces a rethinking of the common reception of Oshima that ignores his TV works and considers that he was good when he was with the Shochiku Studio, he was great with the ATG, or he was bad in between, etc. I think it's not an exaggeration to say that our present line of problems, regarding post-colonialism and post-Cold War structures, is already found in Oshima and in the context of his works that had already sorted these things out.
Adachi: From the very beginning Oshima had always filmed the narratives of resistance against power; the first time he directly spoke to the contradiction of the times was "The Night and Fog in Japan" (1960). With this as the starting point, he remained consistent from "The Forgotten Army" (1963) on. Later, he went on to explore more historically grounded ways to make statements. I think the way Oshima feels and thinks is like a cow's stomach: the way it continues to ruminate. In a situation in which normal people would get too exhausted and give up, he never does. The old things always come back to life and revive into new images. Of course, he never uses the same words and same features, because he pursues newness through cinematic experiments. This is evident in his filmography, as the script writer Mamoru Sakaki mentions in the book. He lived in a time when straight and honest self-expression would not get you a job in a studio or in TV. That's why he was aware that the way films are made must be transformed with a new and unexpected method like guerilla warfare. He experimented in new cinematic languages with the independent film production system – the Art Theater Guild (ATG); but once this new system became commonplace and others started using it, he moved on to explore new paradigms.
Broadly speaking, Oshima's conviction is that the movie industry will certainly decline, but the movie culture will survive with its life and blood, and that's why he will continue filming. That's why he did something that's normally considered unreasonable, like collaborate with French producers and campaign for it enthusiastically.
Grasping the Totality of the Time
Hirasawa: I believe we can raise the issue of the Japanese peculiarity in relation to the topics of 1960 and 1968. Of course, each location has its own peculiarity, but in Japan, the New Left emerged in the 1950s by breaking away from the Communist Party when the movement confronted the revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty (Anpo) in 1960, and then reached a stage of 1968 much like "developed countries" despite its being in Asia. In 1968 in Europe, Communist parties were still influential. Compared to this fact, it can be said that by 1968 Japan had already borne a completely new movement attempting to expand the horizon opened by 1960. Oshima belongs to an earlier generation, but he came to push to the extreme the possibility of New-Leftist thought that he had been nursing between the late 1960s and early 1970s. That is why "Death by Hanging [Koshukei]" (1968) and "The Man Who Left His Will on Film [Tokyo Senso Sengo Hiwa]" (1970) had great impacts beyond the movie industry, and on arts in general, philosophy, and theory. This is not widely known in Japan, but in Europe and America, Marxist film critics, scholars, and philosophers have been building unique theories based on these films. Oshima's presence has been that large beyond the category of film director, and his uniqueness lies in the specific Japanese situation and 1968. You belong to the 1960 Anpo generation, so what was the difference?
Adachi: Japan’s own 1968 situation did not suddenly appear. The struggle was ongoing against the Japan-Korea Treaty and the Police Enforcement Act [Keishoku Hö]. The basic content of social reconfiguration was similar to that of Europe. But in Asia, there had already been a surge of student movements in South Korea in 1964 and 65, and with its influence, the Japanese movement was seeking to go beyond the 1960 movement and moving toward 1968. Oshima had a peculiar sensibility toward the Japanese situation. He interrogated the meaning of Korea's forced division, but he rarely expressed interest in student and labor movements in Korea or developments in North Korea. From the beginning he hated the bureaucratic socialist government of North Korea, but besides that, he apparently convinced himself that it was useless for him to tackle issues that he couldn’t grasp with his intimate and bodily senses as the basis of his understanding contemporary situations. He will go further than anybody if he thinks he can "get it."
Therefore, he did not directly mention North Korea or South Korean student movements. And from "Yunbogi's Diary (1965)" he cut into the issue of resident Koreans. When he visited Korea, he began thinking about the Vietnam War, and then tried to grasp the problems of Japan and Japanese from there. In Oshima, all problems were connected in a circle. He asked himself, what is it to live the responsibility of seeing the connection among the Tennö System, the Japanese state, and the Asian people? He always preferred to take a stand in which to grasp the totality of the time in this manner. While responding to the theories of “revolution of the impoverished” and “third-world revolutionary subjects,” he asked himself, can these theories really solve the problems in Asia, could these theories really deliver the liberation of whole Asian people? He was skeptical, and even called such theories "phonies."
That is, for Oshima, there was no "first," "second," or "third" world and peoples. He gained his contemporary understanding through being at one with the total reality of the world that those people were simultaneously witnessing. He problematized and directly looked into what he could understand with his own sensations, what is lost from the use and abuse of leftist jargons like "lower class workers" or "lower class refugees." The reason Oshima saw the post-1960 era as a "war of retreat" was that he thought Japanese revolution reached a conclusion in 1960, but for him, it didn't mean that the struggle was over.
Like Oshima, I tried to convince myself that after the defeat of 1960 we had reached a conclusion of the current stage of the struggle, but I myself was still mired with resentment and anger. Why did we lose? Watching the rise of the Korean student movement revived a feeling in me: "we have not done enough in Japan. That's why we were defeated." There was this accumulated, smoking resentment and passion among us that we had not fully understood the reality that the circle of Asian liberation had been closed off by Japan's wartime atrocities, and that our movement did not reach this reality and ended with an empty hand. The distinctiveness of our generation was that we observed Zen-kyö-tö's struggle for regime change from a distance, all the while hearing the voices of resentment against our defeated selves. And that's what probably distinguished us from Oshima as well.
That's why, up to "Death by Hanging," I felt: "Oh, this is an Oshima movie!" every time I watched one of his films. But from "Diary of a Shinjuku Thief [Shinjuku Dorobo Nikki]" (1968) and "The Man Who Left His Will on Film," I started feeling the difference in sensibility between us, though sharing the same understanding of contemporary issues. I think that the difference in density of sensibility ultimately led to Oshima's denunciation of me and my works: "Your chattering movies are not worth my attention!” What I understood from reading the new book is that Oshima was already navigating toward maturity as a filmmaker in his war of retreat. Oshima's criticism of me was stingy, but I took it as his own way of expressing affection to his contemporaries.
Oshima had a standard that he should check his own penchant for power and authority, inasmuch as he regarded the Tennö System, Japanese state, and all that is bureaucratic as his enemy. I guess he felt uncomfortable toward me, because I did neither side with nor oppose him. The amazing aspect in Oshima is that when confronted with something or someone he can't understand, he studies it like scorching the earth, and makes the result of his study his own. Every film director does that, but he goes further and makes it part of his work. In TV programs he mentions how despicable he is as a person, as if trying to refute himself by exposing himself. By the way, in Fassbinger's "Germany in Autumn" (1978), why did he have to talk while being naked? Because there was no other way for him at the time to deliver his messages decisively but making concrete statements out of his senses. Whether or not he was a sympathizer of West Germany's Red Army does not matter. For him there was no other appropriate way of making image-language except for using his own body as a language and exposing it, in order for him to make statements while being in one with the contemporary problems. That way of communication is very close to my own creative sensibility. He felt there was no time drabbling in description through documentary or explanation through dramatic representation. If we compare Fassbinder’s sensibility and Oshima’s framework of fighting the entirety of the contemporary period, I have to say I am on the side of Fassbinder. Oshima must have seen Fassbinder's films, so there should be some comments of his, or it could be that Oshima completely ignored him. He in fact maintained a stance of ignoring the methods of both Godard and Fassbinder. That stance was complete. When Oshima said he copied Godard’s use of title-characters in “Diary of Shinjuku Thief,” that was a lie. That was a total evasion. Nonetheless when talking about history, Oshima is almost the same as Godard; they fall in love with history without destroying it.
On Landscape Theory
Hirasawa: The book discusses the "Landscape Theory," which was developed by the critic Masao Matsuda, photographer Takuma Nakahira, and you, with "Aka. Serial Killer"(1969) as the motivation. The theory has been undergoing a sort of revival because it contained a lot of possibilities still relevant today. It has been claimed to have foreshadowed the coming of the post-Fordist transformation of space, proposed the strategic shift from the “war of maneuver (frontal attack)” to the “war of position” in social struggles, explored the problem of un-representability at the core of all expression, has provided a clue to understanding the "conversion [tenkö]" of the 70s, and shared a horizon of thought concerning power with that of Foucault. It has attracted a lot of attention; for instance, at the Vienna Film Festival last year, Oshima’s "The Man Who Left His Will on Film" was shown as a part of a special feature of ATG films, with a discussion panel on the context of landscape theory. The theory can no longer be contained inside the category of film. This year a retrospective of the same concern is taking place, and the organizers are planning to show films under the thematic of "Landscape and Films." I anticipate that in Japan as well as in the rest of the world, this line of pursuit will be further explored in myriad forms.
But Oshima himself was pretty tough on the landscape theory itself (laugh). It's been pointed out that the approach akin to the landscape theory in his "Boy" (1969) was parallel to Wakamatsu Köji's "Kyoso Joshi Ko [Running in Madness, Dying in Love]" (1969) for which you wrote the script; they both were filmed in the same time frame as a road film. In "Sing a Song of Sex [Nihon Shunka Ko]" (1967), he very consciously filmed an unfinished highway. Including the case of “Japanese Summer: Double Suicide [Murishinju Nihon no Natsu]” (1967), we realize now that he was already confronting the problems raised by the theory.
Adachi: I would include "Dear Summer Sister [Natsu no Imoto]" (1972). As his conscious standpoint, he took for granted that he could not grasp the Zeitgeist with theoretical assumptions, but was left with only sensations and corporeality. From there, he weaves stories in which his double is the main character, like other directors. His films are all like that. But there always remains something that falls out in the films in which the main character is the double of the director. Narrative films lack a documentary’s eloquence that you could speak virtually everything about the era by just a scene of landscape. He tried to narrate contemporaneity in "Sing a Song of Sex," but faced limitations; along with this struggling, he came to create "The Man Who Left His Will on Film." Therein the main character as his own projection became himself a landscape. But the landscape theory Oshima sought to attain in "Boy" was more of a struggle to express and re-objectify the condition in which the contemporaneity has already become part of landscape. Moreover, he tried to accomplish this within traditional film language and technique, trying to remain within such a self-imposed bound, but the film itself exceeded Oshima's intention. The methodical imbalance and instability turned out to attain a beauty. In a word, Oshima's was a "tender" landscape theory. In the book, however, he criticizes our landscape theory that we stole the frame — without the boy-character — from the film "Boy" without having taken part in the production.
Hirasawa: That was a tough summary; he said that having his "Boy," there was no need for "Aka. Srial Killer" (laugh).
Adachi: We initially thought of making "Aka." by featuring Shinichi Mori, a popular singer who was brought up exactly like Norio Nagayama, who belonged to "golden eggs," the group of junior-high graduates from the countryside to be hired as the cheapest and expendable labor force in cities. Oshima knew the circumstances, so he reasoned that we made a film where "nobody appears." He must have felt: we were trying to do the same thing, so what was the point that Adachi had to make another film? But we were not "Oshima watchers," so we tried to move ahead in our own ways. We believed that we could no longer depict our times with narrative films or documentaries. Then, how could we depict corporeality and sensations? Oshima asked the same question, and in his case, he returned to eroticism.
Hirasawa: But "Aka." presented the possibility of describing "it" as a query of the un-representable.
Adachi: You can produce "corporeality" and "sensations" indefinitely inasmuch as they are adopted as notions in the form of narrative. But if we want to approach and capture "Norio Nagayama" himself, no images, no notions of a person are crystallized in the cinematic figure. Rather, the process of cutting out and objectifying something that is smothering and suppressing the breath of the time might enable us to depict the sense of landscape. In "Aka." we concluded that was the way it should be. Oshima's theory of landscape was the same as ours to the extent that it captured the landscape as the expression of the time, but we differed in our way of presenting it as cinematic language. Whereas his "Boy" moved to narrativity, we persisted in presenting the landscape as the irreplaceable "now."
Hirasawa: Another interesting exchange was that when you and Matsuda began to pose the "film as movement" that went beyond the films of directors — author-ism — in reference to the Dziga Vertov Group and Fernando Solanas, Oshima persistently rebuked it. He insisted on the position that the subject of cinematic movement is nothing but the author. That was a clear difference. Nonetheless in his statements of the time, he was always stressing the "public-ness of cinema," namely, that private films should have public-ness. Oshima was clear in that he stressed authorship in order to oppose the power of big corporations, but his films were not made with author-centrism; all his films are made with public-ness in mind. In that sense, what Oshima did shared a lot with your works. But still Oshima was uncomfortable with the step into "film as movement."
Adachi: I've already pointed out our difference in regard to the consciousness of contemporaneity. But what remained as a commonality among us was the belief that not only filmmakers but also authors, poets, painters, and revolutionaries are all ‘the movement’ to create the world. With this in mind, Oshima criticized me that it was meaningless to emphasize the ‘author as movement.’ With the same logic he stated during the struggle against the firing of Seijun Suzuki at Nikkatsu Cinema Studio that he would not regard as a film director those who do not make films much; rather he would consider them as his enemies. I, on the other hand, recognize as ‘movement’ those directors who do not make movies, those poets who do not write poems, those painters who do not paint. This was because I thought that the act of not producing could sometimes be considered as work. It was also based upon the idea that creator and spectators could create films together from equal standings. As there could be a film with just light projected on the screen, there could be a "poet," who stands in a park and just shows the audience the sky above them, instead of reciting poetry.
In his definition of public-ness, I think, more than half of it included his tendency toward self-evasion. That was the point of our disagreement. He argued: "You want to emphasize private or underground films, but they are all the same as being films." I argued back with an extreme positioning: "Of course, all the films are the same. That's why there could be a film that is not shown to anybody." And I did exactly what I said. Thus the cause of his anger. About all the films after "Aka.," he pretended he didn't care at all, but went to see them covertly. He might have smelled a kind of sensationalism in the landscape theory or the concept of author=activist, which he had already believed to be the basic assumption in filmmaking. For me, his discussion of public-ness was precisely like that, just a given premise. Despite our differences, we shared the same problematic consciousness toward the entirety of cinema as culture and cinema history. We learned a lot from Oshima, and admired his struggle of taking charge of the entire contemporaneity. Through such a relationship, we did live the contemporary.
The Present of Oshima Films
Hirasawa: After South Korea was democratized, the ban on Japanese movies was lifted. The Pusan Film Festival had a series of Oshima's films, and thereafter almost all of his films were shown in Seoul. In that climate a selection of Oshima’s essays was published, too. There was also a moving episode of Oshima bringing "The Forgotten Army" (1963) there.
Since then, there have been a number of Korean scholars and curators who have become interested in Oshima's films. Many of them belong to the generation that fought for the struggle for democratization. Some of them see his films in terms of "author-centrism," but upon that ground they also interpret them from the vantage point of their own movement and political practice. From now on, the important question for us will be how we respond to the rising interest in Oshima there. In such a situation, the conventional author-theory and the theory of representation that are functional only in the Japanese context would no longer work. The situation itself inexorably imposes on us a lot of tension in talking about Oshima.
Adachi: Why did Oshima approach the Korean Problem only from the aspect of the resident Korean problem, and stress that this was without mistake a world problem? Today his assertive expression concerning his recognition of the contemporaneity is easier to understand. As Oshima prophesized intuitively, in our contemporary era people around the world are being cornered into the domain of their own individual sensitivities. Global capital has flattened the world and everywhere people suffer from its homogenous oppression. What Oshima tried to say has become a reality, and we understand him more. Of course, each region and nation has its own distinctive humanity, locality, and history. But such uniqueness has been fast becoming insubstantial. The central problem is that societies are becoming increasingly flattened and the people are increasingly exposed to the same forms of oppression. Under this condition, for the first time, the truth of Oshima's assertion: "not cosmopolitanism, but internationalism" can be fully appreciated.
Oshima's insistence fits perfectly into today's world situation. The need to address the peculiarity of the resident Korean issue in Japan is quickly disappearing. The Korean government is repeating virtually the same thing as the Japanese government has been long doing in its evasion of war guilt, postwar responsibility, and the Tennö System. We cannot solve the problems of Japan’s own responsibility by casting it as peculiar to Japan, and the same goes for South Korea. It even goes back to the fact that the fifth president, Chong-hui Pak (1963-1979), was a former officer of the Japanese Imperial Army. It has become easier to say that the state is as such, thanks to the changes of time. That is, it has not been established as the new truth, and therein lies the great danger of the situation which we can't just praise without worries. That is why what we used to call "passion" [jyönen] still possesses the possibility of unleashing itself with an incredible energy as an expression of contemporaneity. I am convinced that it resides everywhere, wherever the most oppressed youths reside. Even if our struggle assumes the appearance of a "war of retreat" temporarily, our time can be spoken of in new languages. Talking about Oshima's films would also lead to the same place. Young people like you have to own the responsibility.
Hirasawa: When you think about the shift in Oshima in the mid-1970s, after "The Man Who Left His Will On Film," "The Ceremony," and "Dear Summer Sister," he stopped making contemporary dramas. After you left Japan, Oshima directed "Empire of the Senses" (1976). He had been running together with the 1960’s radical student movement (Zen-gaku-ren) led by Bund (The Communist League); then, he shifted his attention to historicity, focusing on feminist problems and the problem of individuality. In "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence" (1983) and "Taboo [Gohatto]" (1999), he tackles the problem of sexual minorities. This approach itself is very interesting and has an undeniable strength. Nevertheless his problematization of resident Koreans in the 60s and the Okinawa depicted in "Dear Summer Sister" in the early 1970s seem to have some theoretical gaps vis-à-vis the questions of women, gender, and sexuality. Of course, they were all trailblazing attempts during a very difficult time for film makers, so you can say Oshima's radicalism has been consistent, but that still points to the need to rethink his post-70s works from various perspectives.
Adachi: At that time I could not appreciate "The Ceremony" very much. The film was his attempt to present a certain index [Merkmal] as to how we could understand the future of Japan, taking into consideration problems raised by Mishima Yukio's theatrical suicide. Therein Oshima even tried to identify with himself everything he had seen as his enemies, the content of the power structure. He abstracted the Japanese state into a figure of an old patriarch, and criticized his own penchant for power. Then he criticized Mishima for his failure to truly inherit Japan. I thought such a criticism was too easy, but Oshima later said that he felt he had accomplished one of his tasks after making "The Ceremony."
Oshima had always thought of the problems of sexuality and gender as parts or aspects of his time, a part of his own corporeality. He actually studied a lot about women’s liberation. Whenever he thought an issue matched the sense of time, he would go so far as to grasp it. For instance, he criticized phony humanism in "Max Mon Amour" (1986); therein he tried to interpret the relationship between the problem of gender and that of pseudo animal rights, having the basic tone of ridiculing European sensitivity. It was a natural outcome of shooting "The Ceremony" which, to his belief, liberated him from all the self-imposed and self-binding responsibilities of depicting the entirety of his times and society. He felt he was relieved, and started appearing on TV as a sort of celebrity life consultant, just in order to observe himself. Köji Wakamstu once said that he was embarrassed to walk with Oshima who was exposing himself too much — wearing a long furry white coat and giving autographs to young girls. Wakamastu asked him: "Have you gone mad?" Oshima replied: "I'm always like this." 1968 depicts such an Oshima very much to the extent of being too faithful (laugh). Those who knew the greatness of Oshima as someone who tried to weave a cinematic language in order to depict his time in entirety would naturally ask: "what has happened to Oshima?" upon seeing “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.” All in all, however, I know that Oshima persisted in his own way, in a world where the concept of the public and the problem of literacy have been continuously changing.
Hirasawa: You are implying that the traces of Oshima's struggle since the 1970s can be seen as a new possibility especially in the time of the post-Cold War era and ongoing globalization. When Oshima said “international,” he meant it clearly as the negation of national, so we could understand it as the concept of trans-nationalism. What is amazing is that he has constantly practiced it. The horizon he opened up is a big one.
Adachi: That is very important among Oshima's problematics. But as soon as he started articulating it, he fell ill. He must be really disappointed that he cannot make films. In our time of globalization, people's uniqueness and individuality are ripped apart and being treated in a gross collectivity. In such a process, however, people's sensitivities are starkly exposed. It could be a revolution, or just a little addition to the understanding of human truth. But we are coming to a stage where the most crucial thing is to weave out a new human image, to cut across the contour of the world. Oshima wants to do it. I think that "The Ceremony" and the works thereafter should be treated with a mild amusement, because I know that "Night and Fog in Japan" was an accumulated result of Oshima's long-held anger and expression; it didn't come out suddenly. The same can be said of "The Ceremony." Or I prefer to see it that way.
I think that the irresponsibility Negri’s thought entails is a confession of an honest man. We are equipped with the ability to analyze world affairs and propose for new methodology, but we do not have a total theory of how to bring about revolution in future times. I can't do it, but you can do it, that's the message of Empire. In this sense, it is high time for the people who live the actual, myriad lives, to declare what to do from now on. That is the same in Japan, South Korea, Palestine, Iraq, or any other country. Today Oshima would blast any filmmaker who doesn't make a statement on the world, a filmmaker unworthy of the title. I demand of myself a sensibility for film=movement that returns everything to that question. That is why I am planning to make a "prophetic" film, but not a futuristic one. "The Thirteenth Month" is it. I will make it with a re-interrogation of the meaning of film as a culture.Images:
1 - Nagisa Oshima filming Gishiki (The Ceremony, 1971)
2 - Shinjuku Dorobo Nikki (Diary of a Shinjuku Thief, 1968)
3 - Koshikei (Death by Hanging, 1968)
4 - Tokyo Senso Sengo Hiwa (The Man Who Left his Will on Film, 1970)