quarta-feira, 25 de fevereiro de 2009

The concepts of Demons and the concepts of a Movement

(Hakuchu no Torima, 1966)
By Nagisa Oshima
In the first place, to make a film is a criminal act in this world

As I have written elsewhere, when you begin making a film, you don't know everything about it. There are even times when you don't really know what you're trying to do when you're writting the script, and you finally grasp it only when you're shooting. That can happen even fairly late in the shooting process. One of the reasons I set out to make Violence at Noon was that I was attracted to the concept of a "demon" (1) . By demon, I mean the "demon" in the teenage riffle shooting demon and the "demon" in the typhoid-poisoning demon, for example. The story of Ri Chin'u, which I had previosly wanted to do and for which I had written a script, was also the story of a demon. Because I was attracted to demons, it is only natural that I latched onto Violence at Noon, although I myself didn't understand the reason why.
The filming of the rural part of Violence at Noon was done in the village of Kawashima in the town of Tatsuno in Kami Ina district, Nagano prefecture, where I stayed in a country house with my assistant director, art department, and others. This was the first time I had art director Toda Shigemasa (2) on my crew, but, as he had already demonstrated in his marvelously talented work with the directors Kobayashi Masaki (3) and Shinoda Masahiro (4) , he is truly a great artist. If Violence at Noon is a good work at all, I believe it is so principally because I had the good fortune of meeting up with this man. He is also a quite drinker, and we drank together night after night. One of those nights -I forget what we were talking about that triggered it-a thought glimmered in my mind like a divine revelation.
I too have aged and become forgetful. Most of the time when I have a good idea while drinking, I forget it by the next day. Not embarrassed or concerned in the least about my reputation, I have taken to making notes on whatever pages is available. This may be considered disagreeable, but I am no longer of an age to feel embarrassment or shame. Actually, Toda Shigemasa is also a practitioner of that system, fortunately. Thanks to that, I was able to make a note of this thought without embarrassment.
The thought that glimmered in my brain had to do with the concepts of "a crime of conviction" (uberzeugungsverbrechen). Of course, the concept of a crime of conviction did not originate here in my brain. I have thought that I would like to make a film with a crime of conviction as its theme a number of times. However, the idea would just pop into my head from time to time and not come to fruition as an image of a concrete work. This time, the instant that the idea of a crime of conviction came into my head, I clearly understood the meaning of it for the first time.
I somehow seem to be on a path whose propose is to make a model of a crime of conviction. I started out making films about people who appeared to the world to be morally upright but who commit crimes unknowingly because of poverty. That continued for a time, but recently I have been thinking that I would like to portray demonic criminals -people who recognize an inner impulse to commit crimes, but don't understand it. And when I graduate from that, I want to make a film about a crime of conviction. This seems to be the path I am on.
Even while thinking this, however, it also occurs to me that although crimes of conviction are interesting in literature, they may be overly logical and thus dull on film. But this may also be because I don't yet have sufficient ability to make a film about a crime of conviction. At any rate, it is demons that are of interest to me now. Naturally, I think this is because I have some demon in me. At the press conference announcing the production, I said I made the film because I am the Daylight Demon, and Sato Kei, who plays the demon, said the same thing, but this was by no means in jest. In the first place, to make films is a criminal act in this world.
Doesn't this also explain why it is difficult to establish a movement in the film world? It is easy for one person to commit a crime, but it is really difficult to commit a crime in a group. People who try to commit a crime in a group are inevitably shot down. Thus, even if we were to establish the "phantom" studio and the "phantom" journal in the Japanese film world today, it would not be possible for a distinct movement to come into existence.
For a movement to exist, two or more people must openly join together and share the same clear aspirations. When I had to leave Shochiku and said that I was sorry it had come to this, Ishido Toshiro replied that to be in a movement was to lose together. That is certainly the truth. Today, however, losing together is too serious a loss. This is a difficult era -an era in which we can't lose together. Since we formed Sozosha, no movement in the Japanese film world has openly declared that its members would lose together. (In Wakamatsu Koji's group (5), that implication is not lacking entirely. I won't go into that here, however.) This tells the tale of how difficult an environment the world of the Japanese film is for activism. I have no intention of boasting about myself or censuring others. I do think, however, that people who consider themselves activists should understand the situation properly.
In this situation, pseudomovements like the "phantom" studio and the "phantom" journal have no choice but to play the role of movements. Parties may even play a role of sorts. Our Sozosha should also be playing some role. The only people able to ignore all that and say that there is no activism here are the new people who are coming onto the scene with new movements (naturally, all of those first manifested themselves as pseudomovements). Those who merely pride themselves on being activists in other fields and judge that there are no movements in the Japanese film world today have to be called spectators.
In addition, another completely different problem comes up in the case of activism in film, but is not an issue when activism is present in literature: literature and its criticism are presented in the same medium. In other words, it is possible for the two to coexist on the pages of the same journal. In the film world, to be appreciated as a film, the work must be shown at a theater or at least at a place with screening facilities, whereas film criticism must always take place in journals. I sometimes think that the journal New Japanese Literature is meaningless, but when I read, for example, the literary criticism by Takei Akio that the journal has been serializing since the January issue, I am glad that this journal and this movement exist. I think this literary criticism is a challenge to the artist; while issuing that challenge to the artist, however, I think that Takei is screaming to the writer, "If you have something to say, write. Write your next work." And I think he is screaming, "If you write your work and there is no place to publish it [actually, even if there is another place to publish it], publish it in New Japanese Literature." Because of the guarantee that they can be published on the same forum, criticism can be so harsh on the work. Although I have some disagreements with the critical essays on an individual basis, I think that Takei is here at the height of his powers as a critic and activist.
By comparison, I think that the fact that the media for films and for film criticism are different is fatal to those whose only image of a movement in film is that of the movements already in existence. It seems as though there can be no mutual guarantee of a medium. A filmmaker who cannot produce a work has no recourse, no matter how much he is criticized or how much he tries to write criticism himself. These are the decisive factors in what has recenlty been called the impoverishment and decline of film criticism. For example, Matsumoto Toshio (6) has lately been unleashing frequent critical assaults on me, but there is no need for me to reply, because his impatience at his own lack of productivity is leading him astray.
Thus it is tragic to read his writtings, which are transformed by feelings of inferiority and its opposite, superiority, toward the drama; by excessive praise and excessive disparagement of the documentary films made by his colleagues; and by an unusual introduction of emotionalism toward Buñuel, who (he thinks) filmed masterpieces after decades of obscurity. I can prove each of these charges, but I will stop here. Although I don't shy away from a hard fight, I do want to avoid mudslinging. Also, I know the difficulties of our movement; I am sadly aware that our movement doesn't guarantee us a place to present our works.
When will there be a movement in film that will guarantee us a place to present each other's works? In the past, Takei Akio, in a Sozosha leaftet entitled "Proposal of a Fantasist", shared with us the following dream of regeneration of the film: the 400 million yen that Sohyo (General Council of Trade Unions of Japan) had completely wasted on New Weekly would be given to the film movement, witch each of twenty units making a film with a budget of 20 million yen. This was in early 1962, but in the intervening four years, has the dream become closer or more distant?
As fantasist and optimist and at the same time a businessman, I would like to say clearly that the dream has become more attainable. Sozosha became independent in 1962, even though I was about to embark on a period of three years in which I was unable to make a film. Now, four years have passed, and both Shinoda Masahiro and Yoshida Yoshishige (7) are making films independently, with Ishido writting Yoshida's screenplays and Tamura Takeshi (8) writting mine: both are going strong. It has also become clear that one can make a film for 3 million yen.
In the Japanese film world today, movements appear to be both dissolving and forming. Violence at Noon can perhaps be said to portray these conditions of dissolution and formation as well.
(Film Art, 1965)

1. A precise translation of this title would be The Passing Demon by Daylight. It adds a delicate difference of connotative nuance to the acts of the rapist and the victims. The word "demon" here is a translation of the Chinese character that is pronounced "ma" in Japanese and signifies an evil spirit with a strange power to make a person do evil things. The character "ma" is often used to create compound words referring to the perpetrators of particularly heinous crimes in Japan; the teenage rifle-shooting demon was an eighteen-year-old who shot a policeman and seriously injured another in 1965. The typhoid-poisoning demon put typhoid germs in food. The film was adapted from a novel by Takeda Taijun.
2. Toda Shigemasa began as assistant to Mizutani Hiroshi for Mizoguchi's last works. He became a director for Kobayashi Masaki's The Entanglement (Karamiai, 1962), going on to work with him for Harakiri (Seppuku, 1962) and Kwaidan (Kwaidan, 1964). He then collaborated with Shinoda Masahiro on Pale Flower (Kawaita Hana, 1964) and Captive's Island (Shokei no Shima, 1966). Beginning with Violence at Noon (Hakuchu no Torima, 1966), he began to work extensively with Oshima, as in Sing a Song of Sex (Nihon no Shunka ko, 1967), Japanese Summer: Double Suicide (Murishinju Nigon no Natsu, 1967), Death by Hanging (Koshikei, 1968), Three Resurrected Drunkards (Kaettekita Yopparai, 1968), Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (Shinjuku Dorobo Nikki, 1968), Boy (Shonen, 1969), The Man Who left hiw Will on Film (Tokyo Senso Sengo Hiwa, 1970), The Ceremony (Gishiki, 1971), Dear Summer Sister (Natsu no Imoto, 1972), The Empire of the Senses (Ai no Korrida, 1976), The Empire of Passion (Ai no Borei, 1978), and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Senjo no merri Kurismasu, 1983). Oshima aknowledges that Toda's contribution to these films went beyond that of art director as traditionally understood, for one can hardly imagine them without Toda's freewheling imagery and strong political metaphors. He was an indispensable co-worker.
3. Kobayashi Masaki joined the Shochiku Ofuna Studios in 1941 as an assistant director, but was immediately drafted into the army and became a prisoner of war. Repatriated in 1946, he returned to the same studio and was promoted to a directorship with Son's Adolescence (Musuku no Seishun, 1952). His third film, The Room with Thick Walls (Kabe Atsuki Heya, 1953), which dealt with an innocent war criminal, aroused anxiety among Shochiku executives as to the American reaction. They withdrew it from immediate distribution, not releasing it until three-years later. He is known in the West for The Human Condition (Ningen no Joken, Parts 1-6, 1959-1961), Harakiri (Seppuku, 1962), and Kwaidan (Kwaidan, 1964).
4. Shinoda Masahiro joined the Shochiku Ofuna stuido as an assistant director in 1954. His first film as a director was One-way Ticket of Love (Koi no Katamichi Kippu, 1960), which dealt with the idolatry of a star of a rockabilly group. His second film, The Dry Lake (Kawaita Mizuumi, 1960) launched him as a talented new director. He stayed with Ofuna much longer than did Oshima, Ishido Toshiro, Tamura Takeshi or Yoshishige Yoshida, and he produced some memorable films. Pale Flower (Kawaita Hana, 1964), The Assassination (Ansatsu, 1964), With Beauty and Sorrow (Utsukushisa to Kanashimi to, 1965). Shinoda left Shochiku in 1967 to found his own production company, Hyogensha. His Double Suicide (Shinju Ten no Amijima, 1969) is well known in the West.
5. Revered as a pioneer independent maker of pornographic/political films, Wakamatsu Koji's first film was The Sweet Trap (Amai Wana, 1963). The intense political activity (1959-60) of groups opposed to the Japan-United States Security Treaty was followed by a burgeoning of eroticism and pornography. A small number of "ero-duction" (erotic film production) companies were formed. Their productions, although, marginal and limited, were in general distribution throughout Japan. Naturally the major film companies and some noted directors, including Oshima, showed interest in them. Although obsessivly "soft-core" because of the obscenity code, these films were distinct in their treatment of sexuality from those made in the 1950's. At that time, the major studios made seiten no mono (films on sexuality) that dealt with teenagers' sexual awakening or "sun tribe" films dealing with sexual/social rebellion among upper-middle-class-youth. Wakamatsu sent his Affairs Within Walls ( Kabe no Naka no Himegoto, 1965) to the Berlin Film Festival, which produced a storm of protest over what some termed as a "national disgrace". In this film participants in a series of sex scenes in an apartment of a high-rise public housing unit (of the kind that sprawl out over Tokyo's suburbs) are "watched" by a huge poster of Stalin, as if to indicate the limitations of the working-class struggle for political/economic empowerment. They are seen as confined within th small cube of anonymous space of their hard-won public housing quarters. Soon after this "incident", the filmmaker founded his own independent production company, Wakamatsu Productions. He made When the Embryo Hunts in Secret (Taiji ga Mitsuryosuru toki, 1966), Violated Angels (Okasareta Byakui, 1967) which was distributed by Shochiku; and Go, Go, Second Time Virgin (Yuke, Yuke, Nidome no Shojo, 1969). All were distributed in the West. It should be noted that these productions were influenced by the participation of an ultra-left avant-garde filmmaker, Adachi Masao. This collaboration culminated in the production of Red Army-PFLP: Declaration of World War (Sekigun-PFLP: Sekai Senso Sengen, 1971). This filmmaker made two films with ATG, Ecstasy of the Angels (Tenshi no Kokotsu, 1972) and The Holy Mother Avalokitesvara (Seibo Kannon Daibosatsu, 1977). Wakamatsu was a Japan-side producer for Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses (Ai no Korrida, 1976). He has made well over forty films.
6. Unlike the majority of noted Japanese filmmakers, Matsumoto Toshio first joined New Scientific Research Film Company (Shin Riken Eiga Sha) and made experimental documentary films and formally experimental public relations films for various institutions and corporations. After winning the grand prix at the Venice Film Festival for his documentary, Nishijin (The Weavers of Nishijin, 1962), which dealt with a traditional textile manufacturing process, he founded Matsumoto Productions. He is also a founding member and theorist of the Society for Film Image Art (Eizo Geijutsu no Kai). His surrealist-inflected theory of documentary filmmaking conflicted with Oshima's theatrical cinematurgy. As Oshima later confessed, he learned a great deal from debates with Matsumoto. However, their arguments were aparently confined to pratical level of image making and compositional method. (One is reminded of the debates of Godard and Gorin of the Dziga Vertov group against "bourgeois film practice" in the late 1960's.) None of these debates probed basic problems of image and of language in relation to issues of cognition and expression. Matsumoto did not initiate these debates in the early 1960's out of a void. A few years before, in the 1950's, critics, theorists, novelists, and poets including Okada Susumu, Masaki Kyosuke, Abe Kobo, Nakahara Yusuke and Sasaki Kiichi had started questioning the basic issues of cinema. And they turned out, finally, to be not so basic. Should cinema emphasize image making instead of storytelling? Is expression through image possible without linguistic mediation? Should cinema strive to be literary or antiliterary? Yoshimoto Takaaki, poet and stringent polemicst, raised the debates to a level upon which fundamental issues of image and language could be raised. Two of Matsumoto's well-known films, coproduced with ATG, are Funeral Parade of Roses (Bara no Soretsu, 1969), and Pandemonium (Shura, 1971); both have been distributed in the West.
7. Yoshida Yoshishige joined the Shochiku Ofuna Studio as an assistant director in 1955. He made his directional debut with Good-for-nothing (Rokudenashi, 1960) rendered somewhat in the manner of the French Nouvelle Vague. He made his mark a s a director with his forth film, Akitsu Springs ( Akitsu Onsen, 1962), an elegy for the generation that had come of age at the end of World War II. A clash with Shochiku erupted when the company put his sixth film, Escape from Japan (Nippon Dasshutsu, 1964), into circulation after cutting the entire final sequence of the protagonist's insanity. He immediatly left Shochiku and founded a production company, Gendai Eigasha, in the same year. His major effort was Eros plus Massacre (Erosu purasu Gyakusatsu, 1969), in which the historical present is constantly drawn into the enunciative present, with the historical past floating between them. The film deals with the life of a well-known anarchist of the 1920's, Osugi Sakae, and the three women with whom he had sexual relationships. In Martial Law (Kaigenrei, 1973) , he tackled the most charismatic political philosopher of modern Japan, Kita Ikki. Despite his decentered handling of the subject, Yoshida had difficulty situating his protagonist, for this enigmatic national socialist, a prototype of Japanese fascist ideology, allegedly advocated a coup d'etat to abolish capitalism in the name of the emperor in order to redress the worsening conditions of the peasantry and the working class in the mid 1930's. Ishido Toshiro wrote scripts for his lyrical films of the middle period including A Story Written with water (Mizu de Kakareta monogatari, 1965), Woman of the Lake (Onna no Mizumi, 1966), and Affair in the Snow (Juhyo no Yoromeki, 1968).
8. Tamura Takeshi joined the Shochiku Ofuna Studio in 1955 and worked as a chief assistant director for Oshima's first feature, A Town of Love and Hope (Ai to Kibo no Machi, 1959). He directed only one film, Volunteering for the Vilain (Akunin Shigan, 1960), which was based on his own script. He left Shochiku with Oshima and joined his new production company, Sozosha, where he served as Oshima's main scriptwritter until the company was dissolved in 1973. His scripts include The Catch (Shiiku, 1961), Violence at Noon (Hakucho no Torima, 1966) and Boy (Shonen, 1969)
. He coscripted Sing a Song of Sex (Nihon shunka ko, 1967), Japanese Summer: Double Suicide (Shinju: Nihon no Natsu, 1967), Death by Hanging (Koshikei, 1968), Three Resurrected Drunkards (Kaettekita Yoparai, 1968), Diary of a Shinjuku Thief (Shinjuku Dorobo no Nikki, 1968), The Ceremony (Gishiki, 1971), and Dear Summer Sister (Natsu no Imoto, 1972). His formative participation in these films is strongly evident. After writting the script for The Youth Killer (Seishun no Satsujin sha, 1976), directed by Hasegawa Kazuhiko, he turned to writting novels.

1 comentário:

  1. Nihon Cine Art vai rivalizar com os melhores espaços sobre cinema Japonês por essa internet fora, não há dúvida!

    Boa sorte! ;)