(Translated by Yuzo Sakuramoto)

Reassessing “A.k.a. Serial Killer” and “Red Army-PFLP”
Go Hirasawa (Hereafter H):
I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for me to talk here, along with both of you, since I’m basically an interviewer, but let me start with my personal story. The first time I officially got involved in “film” was at the screening of the entire film works of Masao Adachi, which was held in March, 2000 on the occasion of forced repatriation of the members of the Japan Red Army, including Mr. Adachi, who were arrested in Lebanon, and the publication of “Masao Adachi Year Zero,” the special issue of Eiga Geijutsu [Film Art]. I happened to be involved with the events because the object of my study was Japanese cinema of the late 60’s, and I had written a piece on Koji Wakamatsu. Since the late 90’s, reconsideration of not only film of the 60’s, but culture at large has begun, so works or texts of various genres have become more visible. In this sense, my own research owes much to the situation of our time. At the same time, however, I had a strong feeling against the depoliticized trend of recovering and consuming everything at our disposal. I had a conviction that if we talk about film works of the 60’s, we should accept everything as our own, including their politics, rather than bracketing our own interests at a distance from them. So, if we talk about or analyze the works of Koji Wakamatsu and Masao Adachi, I thought it inevitable to think and practice their radicalism as our own. Along with these lines, I did various things including participating in special screenings of the Bolivian revolutionary film collective Ukamau de Cine, organizing screenings of an anthology of Japanese underground films, and publishing books. In a series of those events I naturally had collaborations with many people outside the field of cinema, but I would say my project consistently focused on film.
      Meanwhile, regarding my involvement with activism, there was a protest against the lock-out of a basement space for club activities at Waseda University in 2001. During the struggle, I exchanged different ideas with people based upon the theme of ’68, including film making, such as how film should document activism, and conversely how activism should define film as a medium within a concrete practice - in fact, this is where I exchange ideas with both of you — and since then we have attended various talks, and then asked you to contribute texts and interviews for my book projects. For Bungei Bessatsu, a monthly for literature and culture: the special issue on Godard, both of you commented on different possibilities on ‘Landscape Theory’ [fukei-ron] proposed by “A.k.a. Serial Killer.” In this reassessment of the theory, the 1970’s Study Group was founded upon Mr. Sakai ‘s call. About this reassessment of the past, I persisted in approacching those themes, be it landscape theory or something else, as film theory. However, through underground screenings of the film, I had connections with art or music. In the context of contemporary thought, I was heavily influenced by the essays on Masao Adachi (and on the singularity of Adachi and his films) written by Gen Hirai and Satoshi Ukai. Yet because I took for granted that his films were completely forgotten outside the field of cinema, at first, I was actually surprised by the growing interest in them. But as I continued to hold the screenings, I came to realize that limiting the analyses of the films exclusively as cinematic subject - while the understanding of the films as films became deeper — made the enormous part fall out of the object of investigation. In this sense, I would say that Adachi’s book, Cinema/Revolution was created thanks to (my association with) the study group, although the project itself had begun earlier. In other words, what I have done, including my screening movement, and what Sakai and Yabu have practiced in political thoughts or activism has become synchronized in the past couple of years. Surely, the book is about film, written by a particular filmmaker, but beyond its categorical boundary, what can we grasp from it as an introductory text to reexamine the period at large? I hope you can comment on these points in turn.

Shiro Yabu (Hereafter Y): Actually, concerning Adachi’s works, there is not much to say except that it is hard to say something agitating. It’s not easy to say something cool, either. (Laughs) They are sort of flawless or there isn’t room for ridicule. Far from Ogawa Production! For the special issue on the Japan Red Army for Bungei, since I couldn’t say something provocative, I talked about something completely different. If there is something I can say here, either I should completely stay away from saying anything agitating, or If I do, I should say that everything other than “A.k.a. Serial Killer” is crap.

Takashi Sakai (Hereafter S): You really are agitating. (Laughs)
Y: About the term, ‘underground’ for example, it’s really simple; in relation to what we have been thinking about, by referring to Rosa Luxembourg, ‘underground’ implies the relation of the commodity world with its outside, right? When she described the process of primitive accumulation in her The Accumulation of Capital, the outside of the commodity world was depicted as a horizontal expansion, which was incorporated into the commodity world by forwardly exploring the horizontal field of peripheries, or geo-spatial peripheries. But in the post-war reconstruction under globalization, the process of commodification began to take place vertically. And in finding how we should cope with this vertical process by which the commodity world devours that which is outside the world of capital, the notion of “underground” inevitably appeared. In this sense, we make certain things manifest, but at the same time we have to hide other things as a form of defense; we must always incorporate what we continue to hide into our strategy. If we are always open, we will be defeated to death. It is common for all of us — activists, artists, and writers — to have feelings of crisis of being chewed up completely by the consumer world, and to have a strategy to prevent it. But as Sakai said in his talk with Adachi on Tosho Shinbun about how to keep a secret, when I got involved with anything, I had my own strategy of keeping a secret. Similarly, Adachi made “A.k.a. Serial Killer” and then after that he hid it. (Laughs) That’s why I don’t really understand why he had later gone to the Middle East. Why did he have to go? It seems to me a step backward, or I could say, it’s a break. So my feeling is: after “A.k.a.” why do you still want to roll a film?” So, tell me Sakai, I don’t really understand why you praise “Red Army P.F.L.P. The Declaration of World War.”
S: Well, I think we’ll talk about this later, but if I hadn’t seen “A.k.a.” and passively encountered “Red-P” only, it might have been simply too tough. In other words, I could have been disappointed by just seeing it as an attempt to link the revolutionary power of Palestine, represented by the P.F.L.P. (which makes a certain sense), with that of Japan, having the Red Army as the representative (which is way too hard). But “A.k.a.” worked as a system of differentiation and it made the extraordinarily complicated structure of “Red-P” visible. In the talk, I remember that I pointed out the operation of “the dynamics of plurality,” where completely opposite elements are entangled with each other. The last time I had a talk with Yabu for the journal Bungei Bessatsu, we defined “A.k.a.” as something that corresponds to the Gramscian shift from “the war of maneuver (frontal attack)” to “the war of position,” but further transcends it. And I think “Red-P” could be taken as the extension of this logic onto a global scale. For instance, the question of why go to the Middle East comes to mind, only if we apply a simplified version of “the third-worldism” there, but in the case of Adachi it seem somewhat different: in his case, he does not have the sense of ‘inside and outside’ or ‘center and periphery’ in the first place. After reading his Cinema/Revolution, I began to feel all the more strongly that his logic is not based on the “structure of a concentric circle,” or what is typically expressed in the phrase, “reality within the a radius of 5 meters,” in which the idea is that as you move further from the ground where you stand, you gradually lose your sense of reality. I think all the criticism of Adachi was based upon this logic. But he is a kind of person who is able to grasp the whole world as if it were at his feet. When I pointed this out to him, he immediately said, “Yes!” (Laughs) , it is not just a convenient interpretation, but a good guess, isn’t it? If we hold onto the concentric sense of reality, we cannot grasp his world, and we would come to think that he is struggling to get outside.

Y: I believe we should be conservative enough to have the concentric circle structure. (Laughs) Why not have that sense of reality? Don’t you realize that it’s already broken? So, from the outset I have this biased view concerning his lack of having that sense of reality.

S: Since I too am pretty conservative, I understand your feeling quite well. (Laughs) Remember the phrase: “Think Global, Act Local”? Today, that phrase is inverted — “Act Global, Think Local.” If we say that physical distance doesn’t engender an occasion for self-criticism, it will result in a kind of sociological determinism that the moment of self-criticism appears environmentally within the stage of consumer society. But rather, the occasion for self-criticism is cut off on many levels, deliberately or unconsciously. But what we mean by “the concentric circle structure ” here is something like the layers of conventional institutions, such as an individual, a couple, a family, a company, and a state, that the institution imposes on us on an ideological level, regardless of material conditions or changes in reality. It is an apparatus of control, to regulate various flows that combine or traverse one another without any set of rules . One of the important things that happened in 1968 was the dissolution of this structure. For example, at the level of the mainstream labor movements, during this period in the pressure of ’68, the shift from the ‘wage dispute’ to ‘life struggle’ took place; this is also called the “deterritorialization” of the traditional labor movement. If the wage dispute didn’t go beyond the accepted definition of workers in a company, in this shift there was an effort to connect the interests of various people by construing workers as the totality of living beings; though, due to various limitations, it didn’t develop much and ended in the big defeat of ’75. Here, the capital side countered this shift with the “concentric circle logic,” i.e. defending your company in order to defend your life, and defend your state to defend your company.

Y: Recently, people often call me a reactionary. (Laughs) It’s a predictable development, isn’t it? Being realistic and staying close to the ground where you stand.

S: In terms of a new geopolitics of “empire,” it only functions as reactionarily. When capital positively deconstructs the concentric circle structure at the level of reality, and the ideologies of family and nation intensifies themselves, if we take on the task of creating our geopolitical maps, this concentric circle idea is not sufficient, is it?

Y: It’s true that we cannot grasp a sense of perspective by the simple logic of concentric circles.

H: Needless to say, it is so distanced from the internationalism that Adachi and his colleagues advocated.
S: We have to add to it the Bund (Communist League) that regarded the 10/8 Haneda Struggle as “the revival of internationalism”, and coming from it, there was the internationalism advocated by the Red Army, which resulted in the “transitional world theory.” Although Adachi merged with those movements, we must ask where and how he kept a critical distance in film.

Global Simultaneity
H:
In the global current of the 60’s there was a close-ness in the world, as exemplified in the world events: the criticism of Stalin, the Cuban Revolution, and the Anti-Vietnam War Movements. The multiplicity in simultaneity was able to destroy the concentric circles. In film, similar theories and practices came out of Latin America, Eastern and Western Europe, America, and Japan. Wakamatsu and Adachi could feel closer to Glauber Rocha in Brazil or Fernando E. Solanas in Argentina than to their own contemporaries living in Japan. Of course, each one of them had their local issues, and there were differences in conditions between developed countries and developing countries. But they were similar, beyond the differences of locality or language. They indicated the world simultaneity. Japan started to engage in the global exchange, centering around Nagisa Oshima, who took “Death By Hanging”(68) to Cannes, but because of the protest, the official screening did not happen. In the case of Latin America, already in ‘64-’65 progressive filmmakers gathered together at film schools in Cuba, which played a significant role. The Dziga Vertov Group in France in which Godard was active became involved in it, too. These theories and practices were introduced by Adachi and Masao Matsuda in the film journal Eiga Hihyo [Film Criticism], with their own theoretical interventions included. This was an event of the world simultaneity. In a domestic context, however, the majority was not comfortable with the internationalism, but that was the reality happening around the world. This situation created Adachi’s unique sensibility, and I would say, he had to deconstruct the concentric circle given the situation of that era.

Y: Nevertheless he was not able to use the same method used in “A.k.a.” in Palestine? Was he?

S: I didn’t think Adachi used the same method for a place with a completely different reality. Rather I should say that his attempt to use the same method — though it did not work that way — created great tension in “Red-P.”

Y: If that is true, why did he include the Red Army in the production title of the film? If you actually look at the film, they are not involved. But the distribution did involve them as the red bus screening troop. I don’t think it had to be a red bus. (Laughs)

H: The reason why the credit for co-editing was given to the Red Army was only because Fusako Shigenobu was the coordinator of the film in Palestine, and by way of analyses of the shots and the texts we now know that Adachi was critical of the entire tendency toward organizing the United Red Army. In reality, in the screening movement as well, there were different groups of people — from Red to Black — riding on the bus. By accumulating the details like this, my intention is to prove that — if I borrow Sakai’s concept — “the dynamics of plurality” was actually at work in the entire production of the film.

Y: Adachi was so strict in “A.k.a.” He conceptualized even the strategy of screening the film. But why did he make “Red-P” look so alluring? It looks too gorgeous. Some people would misunderstand him. I wish to change everything, starting with the title.

H: Since “Red-P” was actually made after he decided not to show “A.k.a.,” the screening movement was also his answer to that decision. Instead of using a conventional screening network, they developed a screening movement, including the input of those who gathered there. At that time, Ogawa Production was known for its documenting Sanrizuka Anti-Airport Struggle and developing their own screening movement, but Adachi’s screening troops went beyond it in that it was not led by the director, but the troops themselves took the initiative to create the movement wherever they went. I may be contradicting what I’ve just said, but was it that wrong that the Red Army got involved? I don’t like to simply characterize the 60’s as festive space, but I am basically sympathetic to the statement Adachi made in the talk with Sakai “Empire and Revolution”: “It was only the Red Army Faction that was having a festival.”

Y: While we are in the middle of a festival, we usually don’t think of having a festival. Meanwhile, like a poet who doesn’t write poems or a filmmaker who doesn’t shoot a film, there are people who are not trying to have a festival themselves, yet they are thinking of a festival, trying to elongate it. What did such an act produce? It
engendered the unreasonable worship of armed struggle: the guns-centrism. Meanwhile, what is really great about Adachi is his stoicism as express in “A.k.a.”
      I think there was a moment when Adachi, in the process of moving away from the underground, lost something. I don’t know exactly when, but likely after “A.k.a.” He started acting like a leader. He didn’t have to take leadership, and it was even possible to become a filmmaker who didn’t make films. He either lost his own underground sensibility or his audience. Then he made the kind of film that would only appeal to those young people who would like to talk about revolution. I would suspect that there was a period during which the radical underground film had only that kind of audience and that was the only element that was passed on.

H: At that time, there were instances of bombings by the Black Helmets and other armed lines which were not reducible to the Red Army Faction. I think that Adachi gathered a mass audience who were around that tendency. To me that is interesting.

Y: The Black Helmets were OK, but I’m afraid the Red Army Faction didn’t reach the level of Adachi’s thinking.

S: That was a huge issue.

Y: It is true if we assess Adachi based on “A.k.a.”

S: As Hirasawa stressed accumulation of detailed verification, to dissect and categorize the past is becoming extremely important. Literally, the ground for our standing has collapsed today. Recently I have been reading tons of magazines for an assignment, and I strongly feel that “Pandra’s Box has been opened.” It’s not just Bush’s invasion of Iraq. We are in a situation where anyone could do and say anything. It’s not as simple as leaning toward the right. Thus it is increasingly necessary to dissect the past in order to clarify the present. At that time various contradictory elements were overlapping with each other and/or crashing into one another, and that is what made the period so energetic. In reexamining ’68 now, we should make a sharp distinction among the left oppositionalists, Zen-kyo-to [All-Campus Joint Struggle Committee], and the elements of 1968. We have long talked about Zen-kyo-to within the context of the New Left; although that is surely one way to talk about it realistically, now we need to talk about it differently. Recently Chikanobu Michiba, a scholar of the social movement, has proposed an alternative view of looking at Zen-kyo-to, the one that sees it from the Federation of Citizens for Peace in Vietnam [Beheiren]. The conventional interpretation places it in the historical context of the 6th national Conference of the Japan Communist Party [Roku-zen-kyo], Trotskyist Association [Toro-ren], The Japan Revolutionary Communist League [Kaku-kyo-do], Bund [Communist League], Three Factions United - National Federation of Students’ self-government Associations [San-pa Zen-gaku-ren], and Zen-kyo-to. It says that Zenkyoto was certainly unique, but was powerless, so by the time it first organized the national assembly, it collapsed, leading to the advent of the Red Army. Along this line, or, in the history of the New Left and the left oppositionalists, something peculiar about Zen-kyo-to tended to go unnoticed, as often construed as a ‘transitional entity.’ From this perspective, the significance of Zen-kyo-to as a critique of the dichotomy of the orthodox Left versus the left oppositionalism is hardly visible. Recently I am interested in the reason why Delueze/Guattari had to critique the Lacanian school; and someone conjectured it that it was in fact a criticism of internal strife among student sects and the sectarianism that regulate it. As Delueze/Guattari often pointed out, in France Maoists and Lacanians via Althusser united and sought to reconcile ’68. I heard that Lacan used to say to students: “You are on a rampage, but it is only for looking for a new father. And it is me.” Then, actually, they all flocked to him, maintaining the disposition of internal strife. In a sense, Lacan himself was like Trotsky. He formed an oppositional faction within the psychoanalytic movement, and in this sense they were the same as the Leftist oppositionalists. Furthermore, he brought the structure of specular reflection into his own faction, and not unlike the Cultural Revolution, Lacan instigated his younger disciples and provoked the insurrection of the mid-level disciples of his own faction. Furthermore, he himself broke with the school he belonged to and created a new faction — that was how he fomented his control. I think that the logic of sovereignty is precisely this kid of act that regulates the specular relation of violence that creates the antagonism between the orthodoxy and its opponent as well as within each group; and this whole structure corresponds to the Freudian Oedipus triangle. Delueze/Guattari discovered within ’68 the motive to undermine this structure itself. Yet, in fact, various elements have coexisted in ’68 and post-68, so what we should do is to distinguish something liberating and creative from this seemingly inextricable situation consisting of multiple lineages. In the case of Adachi, of course, various elements commingle. It is not however that we are able to clarify everything retrospectively from above, but we are critically distinguishing what we are now by discerning the past, right? We are doing so in order to break through what we are now. I’m emphasizing this because many critics, especially of the younger generation tend to arrogantly judge the past from above, mostly assuming a relativist gesture. Standing higher and looking below is parallel to the increase of right-wingers. All in all, Adachi’s text is perfect for us not only in order to understand the 60’s and 70’s, but also to distinguish our current situation, precisely because things are intermingled with each other, and is so difficult to entangle them. For instance, “Red-P” is so ambivalent concerning the representation of guns. The images that represent guns and bullets take up so much of the film’s time. If you watch carelessly, it seems that there is persistence to the representation of guns or a phallocentric fetishism of armament through the representation of guns.

Y: That film is full of contradictions. I think that the problem does not exist in displaying fetishism and shooting images of guns. It is actually amazing to see the sharp sense depicted therein vis-à-vis guns, but inasmuch as so, we should never collaborate with the Red Army faction, who misunderstood the matter of guns and armament completely.

S: But he is not responsible for the Red Army as a whole, is he?

Y: OK, if not, he was even more troublesome. (Laughs)

From the Landscape Theory to the Newsreel Theory
S:
We should analyze “Red-P” more from the vantage point of the landscape theory, as proposed in “A.k.a.” and Oshima’s “The Man Who Left His Will in Film” (1970). I think this film by Nagisa Oshima is truly an amazing text.

H: From different sense from Yabu’s point, after the late ‘70’s the screenings of “Red-P” stopped. When a new boom of young theorists [neo-aka] appeared in the 80’s, “A.k.a.” or ”Red-P” were buried virtually as non-existent, and then, as I said at the beginning, in the past few years, the opportunities to see those films in the screenings as well as on video have been growing, nonetheless it has not been really clear about how those films can be retold. Recently there was a screening of Adachi’s films, and after the screening, Akira Asada, who was canonical during 80’s, slandered Adachi. I became so irritated; his position was still based on the Cold War paradigm, repeating the same old things over and over again, though the situation had completely changed. We had enough of the same old criticism based on the concentric circle. The criticism of Adachi always compares ”Red-P” (1971) with Godard’s “Here & There” (1974), which presented different possibilities. But we should remember it was his transitional work, both methodologically and artistically; I don’t understand why the film has to be the ultimate point of reference to critique Adachi. “Here & There” was in fact a re-edited version of “Jusqu'a la victoire,” an unfinished film shot in ’70, so it’s problematic to compare it with “Red-P,” which was shot in the middle of ’71. What we need to do is to recall “Jusqu'a la victoire” from “Red-P” or to see in “Red-P” the possibilities akin to “Here & There.”

Y: To find their connection is fine, but it’s mortifying if “A.k.a.” is degraded because of “Red-P.” Looking at “Red-P” in comparison with “A.k.a.,” he was obviously being playful…like shooting a film with a faction. He allowed the advocates of the anti-Third World-ism room of a harsh criticism. The horizon/scope of “A.k.a.” is too good to give up. With “A.k.a.” Adachi was much more politically conscious.

H: Because it pushed the impossibility of representation to the extreme.

Y: “A.k.a.” took a strict approach in seeking to discover a people without name, whereas “Red-P” simply pasted a generic label on Palestine.

S: I didn’t understand the shift from the “landscape theory” to the “newsreel theory.” As Yabu said, it seems like Adachi easily gave up the level of scope he had attained with the landscape theory. I don’t particularly feel that his newsreel theory inherited the level that “A.k.a.” had accomplished as methodology. In the landscape theory, the criticality towards forms of representation and communication is evident; but without elaborating the achievement of “A.k.a.,” he shifted the emphasis to the function of film as propaganda (though we have to take into consideration the screening movement as well ). That was the newsreel theory. Palestinians are, in a way, a nameless people, who remain in the state of being bare refugees. In this sense, we could say that they played the role of filling the place of the nameless people called for in “A.k.a.” Yabu doesn’t feel comfortable with that part. To a certain degree, I share the same feeling. Apparently the tension created in “A.k.a.” by letting the absence come to the surface as it is was missing in “Red-P.” But still I think we need to take into consideration the fact that there arose a novel element in the relationship between the struggle in Palestine and the media. If we read books on terrorism, in most cases, they set the beginning of today’s terrorism in 1968, referring to the hijacking by the PFLP. The meaning of hijacking changed there; hijacking became a media performance. Hijacking had theretofore been an act to go to places you wanted to go. But the hijacking by the PFLP was not an activity for the purpose of transportation, but aimed at the politics of spectacle. Palestinians had lost most of their land in the Six-Day War. In the modern world to own land is the condition for the possibility of representation. The struggle of the PFLP was thus a new struggle by those people who had lost their land and were trying to acquire their own representation. If “A.k.a.” was an attempt to discover an un-representable people, “Red-P” was not necessarily an attempt to look for the real outside, but rather an attempt to pursue a paradoxical absence of people, who were present but ‘nameless,’ people who were seen but invisible.

H: If he had wanted to discover the Palestinian people as a model of alienation, he could have shot images of Palestinians more; but that was not the case. Straub/Huillet read aloud the text about the massacre at the site where people were actually killed, but they never showed the actual image of the massacre. The landscape itself unmistakably reveals the traces of the violence, the memory of the land that had experienced violence. Similarly in “Red-P” when the landscape of rocky desert is shown, the landscape shows not the violence itself but the trace of violence committed by Israel. Unlike “A.k.a.,” which shot the very moment of the landscape in the process of transformation, “Red-P” shows the landscape after the event.

S: While Adachi didn’t use the expression: the impossibility of representation, he did have the problematic, and that’s the reason why he didn’t shoot the battle front.

Y: What should you do to show something without capturing it as an image?

S: Adachi uses the word: “identification between the audience and the object.” Does it mean that, unlike an ordinary narrative, where the identification takes place rather passively, he presents the absence as it is, and let the audience participate in the gap created therein?

Y: I see. But then, what the audience has to rely on in the case of “Red-P” is the propaganda in white type on the black background. It would be better without it for that experience.

S: You mean the words by Gassan Kanafani: “Armed struggle is the highest form of propaganda.” Which expresses the situation, especially of the Palestinians, where struggle itself becomes a medium.

Y: It also poses the question as to how we confront what is excessively represented by the media.

S: The imperialist media are strongly criticized by the characters in the film, with the landscape of Beirut in the background. While the spectacle is criticized, the spectacle has to be used as communication channel — the ambivalence of the struggle of the PFLP is literally exposed as contradiction.

Y: That might be the contradiction I feel about “Red-P.” If so, the fact that Adachi persists on shooting guns is because he shoots guns as landscape, in the context of the landscape theory.

H: That shows that guns exist in everyday life. They are not the guns being used for battles, but those leaned on the house and laid on the bed.

S: Guns that are not used as guns.

H: As Adachi himself and many others have mentioned, a soldier putting powder into an empty cartridge and another soldier shucking beans are shown together. The scene does not treat them as separate; without making distinction between the avant-garde and the rear guard, they are all represented together as a landscape. Guns are also part of it.

Y: So it is not gun-centrist.

S: As Hirasawa has said earlier, during the film, bullet holes are repeatedly shown in close-up; this is the representation of the trace of violence, but not the violence itself. We are compelled to face violence differently than we do it in Hollywood movies, that is, we are compelled to face the ubiquitousness of violence in their lives. In this film, the only image of battle front is a TV footage of the Sanrizuka Struggle. This fact tells us that the struggle is not just a sad life of other people, but part of our daily life. It also indicates the fact that the media representation itself makes the people and places ‘other.’

Reconsidering the ‘60s: Towards A Vertical Thinking
H:
In association with Michiba’s idea of seeing the lineage of radicalism from the standpoint of the Federation of Citizens for Peace in Vietnam [Beheiren], I think that we should rather see it from the standpoint of the minor groupscules that don’t even belong to factions of Bund, namely, those from Jiritsugakko [The School of Autonomy] which centered on the radical press Gendai-shicho-sha [Contemporary Thoughts Press], to Tokyo-kodo-sensen [Tokyo Action Front] to Revolto-sha [The Revolution Press], and those who gathered in Hihyo-sensen [Critical Front], like Masao Matsuda, Kenji Yamaguchi, Ryu Ota, and Masaaki Hiraoka? I mean the current that can be traced from the criticism of Stalinism in the late 50s up to the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front.

S: For instance, Empire by Negri and Hardt cherishes -- not the revolutionary current that flowed into The Third International, but -- the alternative lineage, such as the Industrial Workers of the World, resistance, and even Francis of Assisi. The importance of looking back at the ‘60s and the ‘70s now lies not only in rediscovering something novel in those decades, but claiming an alternative genealogy in history.

H: Many of the reassessment projects of the activist films from the ‘60s today are awful. As Sakai pointed out at the beginning, many critics are just showing off their own superiority by the claim that things invisible in those days now become more clearly seen. Rediscovering those decades now means that we are not free from our own era. This is something we should keep in mind. But if we remain unaware of this and leaning onto the present, we are no different from experiencing the limit of interpretation in those days. The assessment of “Nippon Reinen [Japan Year Zero]” by Toshiya Fujita, which was re-screened recently is an example of this pattern.

Y: An example is “Project X” (TV program that features dramatic presentations of unheralded ‘heroes’ who were involved with various ‘epoch-making’ projects in post-war Japan.)

H: Many people cannot grasp the subtle differences found in works of the 60’s and set up a framework for their own discussion just because the works were produced in the ‘decade.

S: In other words, we need to discover the line of struggle; it concerns with what we are fighting against today.

H: That’s right. To neglect the way they actually saw the works of the ‘60s is to lose the sense of today’s struggle. Even in those days those films that were made for the underground and the political struggle ended up being taken in by capital, state, and nation. Throughout the last thirty years, this subsumption has been further advancing, and we have become all the more helpless now. This is really dangerous. The same holds true with today’s screening system. As an extension of the screening movement of the 60’s and 70’s, ‘mini-theaters’ have been built all across the country, but because of the economic constraints, the screening of films as a movement is hardly possible. Even though the theaters were built as a movement, the activist films or the films as movement cannot be screened. Meanwhile, in today’s situation, in which huge multiplexes have been built successively with foreign capital, the mini-theaters have gone out of business, and that’s another aspect of our predicament.

S: As you may remember, there was a screening movement of “Shoah” (85) in the 90’s.

H: But it was separated from the so-called screening movement, I think.

Y: Wasn’t it a strategy of the university? A strategy for restructuring the curriculum of departments and for their survival.

S: I’m not sure about that…but I think it has something to do with the shift of the way students, ‘intellectuals,’ and intellectual discourse can exist.

H: Evidently it is either professors or lecturers who hold film screenings at universities. It’s not by students. Students also help, simply because some teachers organize screenings. Even so, the screenings should be done. They have to continue. But what is ironic is that now, unlike in the old days if you submit an application, you can easily rent a classroom and hold a screening. But they rarely do so.

S: During the protest against the abolition of the basement space at Waseda University in 2001, one of the interesting things was that many young people were continuously shooting with their cameras. This phenomenon didn’t exist in the ‘80’s. It was through that incident that I became interested in Ogawa Production. In that situation, there should be a negotiation between those who shoot film and the movement, therein the questions inevitably arise: how people who shoot are engaged in the movement, and what role they play in it? Would they stay inside the barricade together with the activists? There is also the issue of informatization. This phenomenon stood out — before the documentary filmmaking boom itself — because of a huge transformation of the media landscape, which took shape through the development of digital technologies and their increasingly affordable prices, as well as the introduction of the computer network. This transformation may facilitate cultural flexibility, although it didn’t really happen that way at Waseda. (Laughs) For example, Shinsuke Ogawa struggled hard with the synchronization of sound and image, primarily due to equipment issues, but that also created a situation where he had to re-conceptualize sound and image. I’m wondering if the prevailing ease of access to simple film equipment contributes to nullifying such troubles. In any case, despite the fact that there are many people struggling with various issues on college campuses today, their struggle doesn’t lead into the symbolic screening movements organized by students like before. The idea of opening up a public sphere is on the decline. I wonder if the idea is becoming obsolete?
Y: In the talk with Adachi in Tosho-shinbun, Sakai, you talked about a strategy of creating a secret in order to protect the ‘underground.’ Maybe they don’t have that notion. In other words, we have said that Palestinians are not represented; they don’t have a name, but we can also say the opposite; it is not good to be over- represented. Everybody knows that college students exist, and they are so excessively well known that no one actually knows who they really are. In such a situation, it is natural that they feel reluctant about being shot or exposed. Likewise, they don’t want to express anything, because it is already assumed that they will create some new content, and that’s why they don’t want to assert it.

S: If they don’t find out a strategy for keeping secret yet, they would end up shutting out everything.

Y: But, you’d never know. Somewhere there may be a secret screening that we don’t know about, held just for the group, never be disclosed publicly.

S: But when we say ‘secret,’ though it may sound paradoxically, it means a secret to open up the public sphere. Not just a secret which is kept private and personal.

Y: If we don’t have the accumulation of that which we can share in common, we can hardly express. If we try to express something today, we have to seriously think about whether we already have such a strategy, or we are in the middle of making it now.

S: In the ‘graffiti‘ movement, the strategy of secrecy, which will then be opened to the public sphere, is radicalized to the extreme. In graffiti, expression presupposes disappearance, and no one expects them to last long. Also, those designs are all names. It is only names that appear and disappear at the same time. This sort of contradictory strategy is one alternative, I think. How about in film?

H: There are enough materials because the ‘cultural Left’ is booming. It’s like, “Wow, a protest is happening. Let’s roll the camera.”

Y: But the morale is so low.

H: People are just discovering the movement as outside, as an extension of self-searching. I myself occasionally shoot documentation of an action, but I’m not sure if it means anything more than documenting our strategy or confirming facts as a measure to fight oppression by the power and the violence of the right-wing. As a screening movement, we are working in the context of Ogawa Production, the Red Bus Screening Troops, Ukamau de Cine, and “Yama-Attack to Attack.” But when it comes to actually shooting films ourselves as a next step, we are somewhat dependent upon our historical heritage without having a clear response to the horizon they created. The possibilities of the internet are yet to be clarified. But although we cannot develop our new theory and practice, even in the worst case, we can hang onto that level and repeat that heritage in our own context. Rather than saying something about the present, we only have to learn from the Red Bus or Ogawa Production.

H: But we don’t have courage to refuse screening our films. We are not so determined to keep them secret. We somehow want to show them; it’s difficult to refuse showing them. Since we cannot create new venues ourselves, we leave our hopes up to the conventional venues. The problem is that, as soon as we hand our work over, it is immediately consumed. An alternative screening method that resists easy consumption hasn’t been invented yet.

Y: It is due to the lack of criticism. There is less hatred toward films. Everyone loves films. Film people who hate films are disappearing.

H: There is hardly anybody who hates seeing something on the screen. In “A.k.a.” for example, the idea that the film should show something as visual media is negated. The photographer Takuma Nakahira, who doesn’t like to shoot a clear image of an object, and uses his method of bure-boke’[blurring], is another case. As Nagisa Oshima has already remarked, it is impossible to shoot activism without a filming subject acting up. The movement cannot be filmed if you just shoot it. But after the mid-70’s filming the ‘movement’ is relegated to shooting real life or ‘life-size’ movements, and people started filming their own family or lovers.

Y: That trend was already gone by the 80’s.

H: Well, but in film it is still canonical.

Y: So the film is behind the time. (Laughs)

H: Today it is considered that the minor the subjects and the objects of filming are the better.

Y: The struggle side is also held responsible for that; they have persistently consumed the ideas of being minor. In relation to that, I can’t stand that Adachi hung out with Ryu Ota, an ex-Trotskyst and present ecologist activist/thinker. Why does he have to befriend with the advocate of “the furthest edge of frontier [henkyo-saishinbu].”

H: Well, but Adachi is critical of Ota’s theory.

Y: If he accompanied him to such a degree, then he is too sociable.

S: He is really sociable. By the way, the episode when he goes to Okinawa with Ro Takenaka, an anarchist journalist, for the screening of “Red-P” was the highlight of his book.

Y: All that socializing is contradictory to “A.k.a.” in which he shot a homogenized
landscape in an attempt to reach the furthest edge to grasp the minority imbedded in it.

S: The problem lies in whether he depends upon horizontal difference or vertical difference, namely, the real subsumption or the formal subsumption. One of our axes to appreciate “A.k.a.” is that the film deals with the real subsumption.

Y: It’s a milestone film considering its time period.

S: The film converted the problematic of “the furthest edge of frontier” into one with inclusive depth. Finding different thickness or ruptures within the stratum — this is important.

Y: “Red-P” can be misunderstood, because towards the ‘furthest edge’ we could find third world-ism.

H: Even in Adachi there are both tendencies. He wants to do both things, that could not be easily separated.

S: Which means that having the imagination for horizontal difference made it possible for him to attain a vertical perspective. This shift or dual movement is important. It is the thrilling part of the culture of the early 70’s. Now the experience of horizontal difference is related to the loss of feeling, inner distance or internal struggle. The situation in Japan’s subculture, where the plight and assertion of Blacks in America could be directly linked to Japanese nationalism, also has something to do with dullness of their sensibility that has eliminates the inner struggle from the outset. Meanwhile, if the duality of outside/inside or center/margin is directly introduced, it simply invites moralism or voluntarism, which are no longer physically acceptable.

Y: I just want to say that, regardless of the ‘outside’ of the horizontal plane, we should dig up the ground where we stand.

S: Yeah, but what is ‘the ground’?

H: Gen Hirai touched upon Gan Tanigawa in his review of Empire. Tanigawa also contained both vertical and horizontal perspectives, as evident in his Theory of Revolution by the Poor [Kyumin kakumei Ron], which leads to the advent of the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front. The landscape theory, I believe, is the highest form of cinematic agitation. It attempts to represent every object that is to be destroyed. As Yabu has mentioned elsewhere, the landscape as agitation idea is virtually saying: “Destroy this, destroy that.” “Sex Jack” (70) written by Adachi and directed by Wakamatsu ends with the landscape of the Nijubashi Bridge (at the Imperial Palace) presumably seen by a younger worker who assassinated a security officer, and then the prime minister, and finally, was going to kill the Emperor himself. Likewise, “The Ecstasy of the Angels” (72) ends with the landscape of Shinjuku Street; it is a landscape seen after the upheaval, and it doesn’t show any remnant of it. But they are all represented as the objects that are to be destroyed. These images seem to link up with the form of struggle that the East Asia Anti-Japan Armed Front would later adopt.

Y: We need to excavate the genealogy like that. Be it the “theory of revolution by the poor [kyuminkakumeiron],” the third world-ism, or the Japan Red Army, they all tend to be interpreted on the basis of a horizontal axis. But in fact, Norio Nagayama, the subject of “Aka.,” is behind them.

H: Speaking of the 80’s, Adachi was critically denounced very much in the context of the horizontal axis. In retrospect, I wonder on what ground those who attacked him were actually standing. They simply prepared the advent of the new right intellectuals, the cultural leftists, or the pop leftists.

S: Pop leftists! (Laughs) People might say: “That means you guys.”
      But surely, in the 80’s, the theme proposed and developed by people like Takashi Tsumura, namely, how to transform and sustain the slogan: “create the second and the third Vietnams” in the so-called “high consumer society” should have been explored extensively, but was cut off by ridicule. Of course, there were those who resisted the move, but unfortunately, they had little influence on students. After the burst of the bubble economy, the line of struggle was terminated and it deprived us of the power of resistance. Thus the preposterous rise of the right-wing.

Y: We now should become someone like Ah Q in Lu Xin’s novel. I’m wondering where we have lost the problematic of the real subsumption, which was taking place vertically in the underground. For example, when Soul Flower Union, the Japanese rock band use Okinawa or Ainu people as their theme, this vertical element doesn’t seem to be proposed at all.

H: Already in the 70’s, Yuji Takahashi criticized “World Music.” Takahashi himself had both vertical and horizontal perspectives, and all in all, we should try harder to develop the logic of distinction, with the axes of both horizontal and vertical perspective, as a methodology once again.

S: To avoid dependence upon the ‘marginality’ as a method.

Y: Because that’s just another form of Orientalism.

S: But still it is extremely difficult to internalize the vertical axis and express it keenly, while at the same time critiquing it. It is relatively easy in Japan to secure a position of externality by relying on a horizontal field. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why “Aka.” is not well understood today.
End