Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kitano "Beat" Takeshi X Kurosawa "The Emperor" Akira

Here I give you two things you have never seen before: Takeshi "Beat" Kitano being nervous, Kurosawa "The Emperor" Akira wearing his favorite Los Angeles Lakers get up, in white socks, holding a mini-dog ( the end, at least).

While I'm not entirely clear when this interview occurred it definitely was recorded before August, 1994 when Kitano had his motorcycle accident which lead to his partial paralysis. (My suspicion is that it was filmed after SONATINE was released because they make reference to it throughout the interview.)

Unfortunately these YouTube clips are in Japanese only-- but I've done some [really] rough translation of the clips. (I get more into it as the clips go on, which is why there are more comments towards the end.)

Clip One:

Kurosawa likes Kitano's films since they aren't bogged down in explanation.

Kitano jokes that he's seen few films and that he had no idea what the hell he was doing on set the first time we set foot on it. He talks about the difference between the multi-cam shoots of TV and the single camera of films. Kitano says he was dependent on the assistant directors. Kurosawa surprises Kitano by saying that he was the same at the start back at Shochiku.

They talk about the art of making films and Kurosawa says that making movies is like music: rhythm is essential.

Clip Two:

On this one, Kurosawa makes a critique of something he didn't like in one of Kitano's films. (I think this is about SONATINE -- a personal favorite of mine.) Kitano goes on to say that he's a poor judge of what doesn't work-- and then says that he was surprised at how different what he imagined and what actually gets captured on film. Kurosawa says that that difference is definitely there between what you're thinking about and what the actors have in mind (it's something that his mentor had told him would happen) and that it's important to help the actor along the way that you want -- but that you can't force them, no matter what.

Kitano tells an anecdote about how at the end of the film he wanted the actress to cry, but it wasn't happening. So he's telling her to think of sad things and it's not working. So the assistant director gets furious with her and her manager comes over and then Kitano sees that she's crying. So he's telling his crew to get their camera over there and film it!

Kurosawa mentions that he got into the habit of having an editor (editing suite) on set so he could see how the film was coming together. He claims that it was a better way to make a film and to find out what was working. It also made the later editing more relaxed.

Kitano wants to know why movies always start shooting so early. TV is more relaxed (so he claims). Kurosawa says that he loves making movies so much that he can't wait to get to set. He doesn't know about the other crew members, though. As an side, Kurosawa says that if the crew and cast are happy it shows up on screen. Because old movies were so tough to make, you could see it in the actor's faces. That's why, he claims, movies should be fun to make.

Kitano has a toss away joke about how when people hear a Kurosawa film they're impressed but when they hear a Kitano film, they wonder what the hell he's thinking!

An interesting bit here is that Kurosawa says that shooting in the cities is a problem nowadays, but that in the old days it was the Yakuza showing up on set and causing trouble. The pay-off was on a sliding scale and Kurosawa was the most expensive!

Clip Three:

On this clip both Kitano and Kurosawa tells some anecdotes about working with actors and locations and whatnot. The gist of this all is that filmmaking is indeed a strange business with unexpected things happening all of the time.

Kurosawa also states that when he was an assistant director he always thought it was odd that he would yell 'Action!' and then the actors would cry on cue and whatnot.

Kitano also talks about how what you see on screen and how it was actually made are two totally different worlds.

Kurosawa says: "When you have to shoot something strange, sometimes you have to do strange things..."

This is interesting: Kitano says that he's entertaining the idea of doing a comedy for his next film (so this must be right after SONATINE)... (This is an interesting time capsule.)

Kurosawa says that comparing comedy and tragedy, there are far fewer comedies nowadays and that they are much more difficult to do than tragedies. Kurosawa says that he always wanted to do a comedy but it was really difficult to do.

Kitano says that the old style of doing something funny on screen and showing people laughing is gone.

Now this is interesting, Kitano says that he's always wanted to do ZATOICHI. He says that you know how Zatoichi is always helped along by a young woman, since he can't see and then when he comes across a bad guy he fights them and then once he's finished he takes the girls hand and they walk away. Well, Kitano says that Zatoichi should let go of the young woman's hand, think he's fighting the guy, but cuts up the girl and then takes the guys hand and walks away. That would be funny. Kurosawa laughs in agreement.

Kurosawa tells Kitano to make a comedy since he isn't able to.

Kitano makes some other jokes about Zatoichi including a joke about playing a dice game (saikoro bakuchi). He says that if no one around Zatoichi told him that he'd won, then how would he know? (I always thought the point was that Zatoichi would know by his incredible sense of hearing, right?)

Kurosawa says that this is an example of how he doesn't think. He can't do comedy.

Kitano says that he thinks about this kind of stuff all of the time and that it sometimes keeps him up at night. He thinks that perhaps some of it is only amusing to him.

At the end, Kurosawa is holding his dog and tells Kitano, "Let's get a drink."

...and when the Emperor says drink, you drink.

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