What do you think about the "trends" of Japanese film viewing in the West, or how Japan is perceived in America through cinema? For example, the popularity of anime, Kitano, sex films etc?

Well all of this is coloured by the attitude of the First World towards the Third World, which presumes a lot of things. Since Japan was at war with America, politically, there is still this looking down. "Oh, isn't that incredible. That's so darling", things like that. This still continues. They also have the admiration of the frivolous Japan, such as Hello Kitty, Doraemon. It's simply an extension of 150 years ago when people, Americans again, were labelling Japanese people as childlike and calling this place Topsy Turvy Land, and Douglas McArthur was saying that Japanese people had the emotional age of 14. This tendency to juvenalise a politically inert opponent is one of taming them, so I think the new interest in Kitano and Miike, and the new violence is so condescending that I can't believe there's any real appreciation, because the frivolity of this suits the new frivolity at work in America. But I don't think it represents any real feeling any more than the Kung Fu boom, or the Zen boom, the Dharma bum boom, or any of the other booms. They're fads. I think America is just as given to victimisation by fads as Japan is. There's a lot more real problems there than Japan has. The attitude of America to most other countries is one of condescension. It's always been that way. There's always been that high moral stance. Even Henry James. It can't help it. Maybe it's some sort of manifest destiny or something. Nonetheless, I don't find its evaluation of Japan particularly realistic.

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How do you personally feel about Kitano and Miike, for example?

Oh, I just wish they were more original. Neither one of them can possibly write character. The perfect example of this kind of film is Reservoir Dogs. They've taken the ball and run, and they've run a long way. But I don't - and Tarantino too - I don't find any kind of verity to what they communicate. I don't find the kind of sincerity that I would find in a director I like more. Nor the kind of dedication that I think is necessary, which a lot of other director's did have. But nowadays you can't do that, because if you show your sincerity then you become wet. There's this penchant for mindless, decadent, frivolity...

Donald Richie interview (Midnight Eye 12/08/2003). All rights are reserved by Jasper Sharp and Midnight Eye. The article is reproduced by Kitanotakeshi.com.