[...continued from Flowers and
Kitano Takeshi talks to Tony Rayns about editing the head and challenging
Tony Rayns: What was your starting point this time?
Kitano Takeshi: I wanted to show how a Japanese man tries to handle his own
responsibilities. The way Nishi does this may well be different from the way a
man in another country would do it. Actually, many present-day Japanese will
very possible see Nishi?s behaviour as overly romantic or sentimental, or at
least rather out of date. But the way he discharges what he understands to be
his responsibilities conforms with an ideal which has existed in Japanese
society at least since the Edo period. You can see this ideal in action in many
of Chikamatsu?s plays, for example.
Was Nishi always so taciturn? Or has his wife?s illness and the death of
their child made him this way?
I think he was born silent. If this kind of guy became silent, it
would mean he was running away from the calamities in his life. I?d prefer to
see him as someone who challenges death, not someone who runs away from
anything. I think he?s my first character to try to challenge death.
Horibe also challenges death by rejecting decisively the option of
suicide. Was it your intention from the start to build the film on a comparison
of these two?
It?s not so much that I want to compare them. I want to use both of them to
challenge the traditional Japanese idea of the family. Husband, wife and kids
are regarded as the cornerstone of Japanese society - happily ever after. But
the reality is nothing like that. The Japanese notion that families are
inherently tight-knit and emotionally secure is a fantasy, and I wanted to
challenge it. For example, if a husband is injured and forced to stop working -
as happens to Horibe in the story - his family may very well collapse. In my
eyes, the way that Nishi tries to comfort and support Horibe is very foolish.
Nishi sends the painting materials to Horibe because he himself feels guilty, as
if he was somehow responsible for Horibe?s plight. It gives the false impression
that they were not only colleagues in the police force but also very close
emotionally. It would have been better if Nishi had simply offered to load
Horibe some money to help get him through his difficulties.
But the fact that Nishi gets Horibe painting turns out to be very
important in the film?s scheme of things. There?s a mysterious correspondence
between Horibe?s pictures and Nishi?s life...
I?ve always thought of art more as a private thing than as a social thing.
I?m not much of an artist myself, and so I?m not very sure about these things,
but I feel that paintings and drawings - and films or music or whatever - can
very easily become mirrors to their creator?s own life. When Nishi sends
painting materials to Horibe, it?s probably because he wants to encourage him to
get his personal feelings on the paper somehow.
It can?t be coincidence that Horibe takes up painting just after an
incapacitating accident, as you did yourself.
I?d never say this to the Japanese press, but as it?s you who?s asking... I
took up painting not only because of my road accident and because I had a lot to
think about but also because I?d just been dumped by a long-time girlfriend. So
I was spending a lot more time at home than usual. And my wife is very strong
and healthy, not al all like Miyuki in the film.
I was impressed at how fast you edited the scene I watched being filmed in
the Azalea Mall scene, and I?m even more impressed to see how you?ve integrated
that sequence - and a couple of stray images from it - into the overall flow of
the film. Do you mentally pre-edit your films before you shoot them?
When I?m in good shape physically and mentally, I find myself rolling the
scene in my mind the night before I shoot it. That particular night in Kawasaki
was like that. All I had to do was follow the scene as I had it in my head from
the day or night before. On the other hand, when I?m not in a good shape it
doesn?t work. No matter how hard I try on the location, the scene never quiet
So how do you cope with that?
Usually by trying to copy the directors I?ve worked with as an actor. That?s
to say, by shooting lots of covering material. Just to give me leeway when it
comes to editing. When I?m not in a good shape, I can?t tell which shots I?ll
need and which I won?t. In that situation, to tell the truth, I usually try to
discard the scene altogether. Of course, if it?s essential to the story I can?t
Any special reasons for having a real-life boxer play the bad guy in the
The one thing in that scene which didn?t work out quiet as I foresaw
it was the fight. When the bad guy hits Nishi, I wanted to show what it looks
like when a real boxer throws a punch. I thought the best way to do this would
be to have a real boxer punching Nishi. But it doesn?t work on screen quiet as I
expected it would.
The final structure of the film is the most complicated you?ve ever
attempted. How much of the cross-cutting was planned and scripted?
I did have the structure in mind when I wrote it, but it was resolved in the
editing. This is much less linear than my other films, and the editing is more
"mathematical". I try to "factorise" the carious elements and to link them
through the editing. The paintings and drawings were very important for that
process; if they work in the film as I want them to, they can crystallise the
tone and meaning of each "factor" in the story. But it?s very possible that I?ve
Are you planning to pursue this direction further? Or will you go back to
the social-realist vein of "Kids Return"?
I saw Kids Return as the film of my rehabilitation as a director...
Rehabilitation from the accident or from "Getting Any?"?
Both! Actually, what I have in mind right now is a project that combines
elements from my thrillers with the comedy of Getting Any? The first hour
of it would be in the same general realm as Sonatine or Hana-Bi.
It would end, the credits would roll. And then it would start again, exactly as
before, but gradually turning into a parody of the first version. That?s what
I?m thinking of at the moment.