Hotel Gray D'Albion, Cannes, May 05th 2007

Mario: One of the most amazing things about your filmmaking is your capacity to surprise us in many areas including the script, direction and editing. In our opinion your filmmaking is similar to jazz music, to jazz musicians, like Keith Jarrett and Thelonious Monk for example: while one may feel they understand what?s going on and in what direction the film is going, something happens and you remain completely speechless and magnificently surprised! The question is: how much is improvisation and how much is planned during filming?

Kitano: Although you haven't actually seen my latest movie, Kantoku Banzai, Hurray to the filmmaker, that would be a very much easily understandable example of the relationship between the set part and the improvisational part. The first half of my newest movie consisted of a pretty much set up structure. You refer to jazz musicians, and to compare it to the jazz music, it's like chorus or key melody, which are pretty much on paper. Then, the second half of the movie is very much improvisational. But, let's stop talking about my latest movie. In general, it really depends on each setting and each situation, and each scene, and what it requires for that particular situation or scene or set up; I would shoot the very first shot of the movie, and then come up with something totally different from the script on the next shot already, or I may take a couple of days shooting as the script goes and see how the actors play and how the crew members work, and see how the whole organism reacts to this. And maybe on the third shooting day I would come up with improvisational ideas, so it's a very organic thing, depending on my relationship with actors, and the shooting situation.

Mathieu: Why do you think Western countries got first interested in your movies, and did the reasons of this interest in your cinema change with its evolution? Does it affect you when you make a new movie?

Kitano: The first time, say, first 'encounter' with a Western audience, for me, really was the London International Film Festival in 95, or 96, somewhere around that time. They were holding some kind of mini-retrospective of my films, up to Sonatine, and I still remember the director of the London Film Festival completely believed that I was a real gangster, a yakuza character. They took great great care of me! Since then, I am more or less known as the... Well, they labelled my films as violent films. Every now and then I try completely different type of movies, like Kikujir? no natsu, to somehow go against the preconceptions, or expectations. Kikujir? was a very significant film in that sense, in that it was my intent to come up with different things, try to do different ideas; then what people expected helped me to do namely 'violent movies'. But it's in my sort of nature, or it's in my habit, to want to... try, you know, violent movies. So I still would like to try those movies every now and then, but I have to say I feel very awkward and I don't feel very comfortable about being labelled as a 'filmmaker of violent movies'.

In terms of your question concerning whether I would be conscious about the reactions from the Western audience in general: I'm not, really. Because my personal policy is that the greatest fan, and the severest of critics, of Beat Takeshi / Takeshi Kitano, is no other than myself! So the criteria that I respect the most are none other than my criteria. If I can come up and make a movie that goes beyond the standard of those criteria, I would be confident to present it to anybody. Whether it's domestic audience or International audience, basically it's up to the audience itself to interpret each film in their own ways.

Mario: Infantile regression, game, and... Death which will come sooner or later. The idea we've got of these, in your movies, is like a parenthesis of happiness while on a dark and difficult journey. We find this to be very clear in Kikujir? no natsu, but also in 2 other movies, which unfortunately aren?t very famous in Italy, Kids' Return and A scene at the sea. Is this point of view, according to you, necessary to live better?... or to prepare yourself to the death?

Kitano: I have heard from an ex-conman - who had been in prison, but has just been released... He told me about how he would play childish games with other inmates, like, you know, throwing the stones, or throwing the marbles to each other, or hitting the wall with a ball, all these kinds of childish games. He told me that although those death convicts, sentenced to death... They don't usually play complex kind of games. Rather would they emancipate themselves in a childish game. And luckily the guy who told me that story was released, after he was pardoned; although he was initially sentenced to death penalty, although he was going to die, he was released at the last minute. I think that kind of story rings a certain trueness to me, because maybe it's a primitive instinct I've got of things. When you approach the age of mortality, you probably don't get involved in complex games; rather would you want to play it simple, and that's why I tend to use those metaphors, regardless of the difference of characters, whether they'd be yakuza, or death suffer, or a child.

Mathieu: You?ve tried many different forms of artistic expressions. Is there still an artistic form of expression that you would like to try?

Kitano: Punk rock!

Mario: We believe this to be one of the most beautiful and important point, and our internet site shows on the first page this sentence you said: "Express myself with simplicity is the most difficult thing to do. According to me, abstraction and simplicity are two opposite things." Related to that, what is your opinion of the current situation of art in general, and cinema in particular?

Kitano: Well, 'art' or, let's say, 'entertainment', in general has become... I mean... My policy, or believe, is that there should be space for uniqueness, for each different expression, for each different art form. But it's getting more and more apparent and prominent that the world of entertainment is becoming more and more like Disneyland, or MacDonald's, KFC, and all these kinds of junk-food. And viewers, and the general public, are getting more and more prone to be comfortable with these kinds of easily accessible entertainment. That's very much my observation of what happens in cinema or art or entertainment in general, I think: there is a junk-food, and that's OK, but there should be a space for cuisine or food other than junk-food. So my impression is that it's getting more and more like the mass production of a product, rather than expression of uniqueness. The pursuit of uniqueness is getting less and less prominent.

Mathieu: Don?t you regret the offer which was made to you last year of becoming the Japanese Minister of Culture?

Kitano: I'm glad I turned that down! Because if I was the Minister of Culture, hell would break through! Besides, I wouldn't be able to work on TV, comedy, and movies... I mean, if I was allowed to be a dictator, not just Minister of Culture, then I would think about it!

Mario: A message we would like to tell you: please keep making movies, because we need, and people need movies like yours.

Kitano: Yeah, be prepared to be shocked! With my latest movie, Kantoku Banzai, you're going to think I totally went nuts!

By Mario Carta, Renato Quinzio and Mathier Godan (Kitano Fan Club). All rights are reserved by Mario Carta, Renato Quinzio, Mathier Godan and Kitanotakeshi.com. The interview is reproduced by Kitanotakeshi.com with the kind permission by Greg Feruglio of www.Kitanofanclub.com.