Interviewer: Have you ever watched the film since you made it? What do you think of it?

Kitano: Although I?ve often gone to Europe, the States and Asia to talk about the films I?ve made, this is the first and last time that anyone is going to question me about this film. It feels odd to me to talk about it. What I will say is, that snug at home with a nice glass of wine I can?t think of another of my films that?s better viewing.

I: How was the film received in Japan?

K: Really, there wasn?t any sort of reaction. I was waiting for: that?s a no-no, that?s bad, that?s whatever. There just wasn?t any response, not even in the form of bad reviews. Its really a good movie.

I: It did well on the circuits, didn?t it?

K: I believe so.

I: Talking about it, you?ve stated: "I wanted to make fun of my own jokes, and send them up. So I made up new routines which were more outrageous than the silliest ones I usually invent. I wanted to make myself ludicrous to the point where viewers would say, ?This guy?s had it?. I enjoyed my self-mockery so much I totally lost myself in it." What do you think of the film now, looking back?

K: To be honest, when I think about it, I?ve made ten films up to now, and this is in the top three. It?s a great piece of work. Let me explain. I?m a comic, and famous as such. But this film is a film made by a comedian to make fun of himself. Usually, a comedian who makes a comedy takes his jokes quiet seriously. Here, I did anything I wanted, and strung the gangs together crudely. Taking it to another level, I can say that it?s an ?avant garde? film whose very existence was unlikely. And when I say ?avant garde?, I?m aware that I?m still mocking myself. So the film puts me in an odd position.

After making it, I had an accident. I nearly died. People who saw the film saw the accident that was about to happen. So it?s also a precognitive film.

I: In the film, you ridicule a number of icons and idols of Japanese cinema, like Zatoichi the blind swordsman, or the films of Akira Kurosawa, or the whole of chambara cinema. Would you tell me why you wanted to make fun of loved and respected figures like Zatoichi?

K: Let?s see... the fact that all Japanese without exception, respect or idolise the same characters moves them close to fascism. They need to admit that there are alternative values. Dictators that say "This is good" or "This is bad", are in opposition to democracy. That?s why I attack these things, though you might also perceive a certain affection for them.

In taking a different angle to examine a piece of work you can create humour. You also laugh at creations out of context. I am always conscious of all aspects of these iconic figures, but if the viewers believe me to be aware, the effect if spoilt. So I prefer to give the impression of unadulterated mockery.

I: In the future do you think you might want to make another film like this? Would you like to? Would it be possible? This sort of erotic comedy are you thinking of making any others in the future?

K: My ambition is to become a producer who on one says to if he wants to make another similar production. To get there, you need to be trusted. Today, everyone would be against me, but once I?ve won a sufficient number of laurels, I will be given the right to do whatever I want.

I: Do you see this film as a sarcastic portrait of Japanese society? As a satirical commentary? Or simply as a farce?

K: It?s beyond a satire of Japanese society. I?m making fun of sarcasm itself. By doing that, and sending myself up, I never arrive at sarcasm but tumble into the absurd. It?s as if I provide an additional journey through life and the spectators also are provided with a number of subsidiary journeys through life, without seeing any irony. It?s the lack of anything happening which constitutes the joke. My intention is not to transform society through laughter. The comedian?s only purpose is to create laughter; period. To laugh at a society or at individual people is like investigating them, it isn?t essential comedy. True comedy turns away from satire and mockery everything is its essence.

I: In the film, are you trying to depict the sexual frustrations of the Japanese?

K: Right. I reveal the extent to which the post-war Japanese are straightforward and even simplistic where they want to express desire. But if I direct the laughter at them, it begins to take on the air of a message, so I turn the message into laughter.

I: So, isn?t comedy a medium for discussing the problems of society? Isn?t comedy indeed the best medium for discussing these problems?

K: To treat society?s problems using laughter is to operate at a lower level. Really, it?s yourself you should be making fun of. But people forget that they are responsible for their own attitudes, and society and it?s ills, capitalism, socialism, etc., are held up to be laughed at. It?s necessary to laugh at yourself. And in that case, isn?t comedy serving a purpose?

What drives me... are the risks I take. In so much comedy, I take risks that a professional comic would never dare take, in the way I lampoon myself. I was very conscious of this while I was making the film. That doesn?t stop it still haunting me. And if it had been made by an unknown or an amateur it would have been a big hit. It would have been a Number One. It?s got everything that marks a work of genius. But when it was known that I was the author, it became fashionable to say that there had never been a more vacuous film.

I: When a giant shit heap appears towards the end is that a symbol of Japanese decadence?

K: Japan is actually a peasant culture for whom shit, which is a fertiliser, creates a special humour which always make us laugh. In my infancy, there wasn?t much in the way of sewers. Our WCs were simply holes in the ground with no running water. For us, shit was different. And it?s hard for me to take that question seriously.

I: Then it?s not decadence?

K: Not at all.

I: Is this film some sort of adaptation of television shows you love?

K: I?ve done everything I can to prevent that interpretation, to do what was impossible for television to do, and produce content that television wouldn?t be allowed to broadcast. Undoubtedly you know that the practical jokes in the film are very different from the humour in France.

I: Do you think it will people laugh in France?

K: No, I don?t think so. But after all... it?s possible that the viewers will be aware of something special, like us Japanese, when we come across Roquefort. It?s very different... but then, it?s good, isn?t it? And if you stay with it, you find that you want to finish it. Like Europeans with fermented soya beans. At first, they make a face, but later... they become addicted to it. It?s the same with humour. It has its own "local colour".

I: The film tells the story of a young man who really wants to "score". In Japan, is it really that difficult? For a young man, is it that difficult?

K: Now it?s not. But when I was young it seemed to us that you needed wheels in order to get laid. "If only I had a car..." We firmly believed it. Then again, if you went to the seaside...

You see, we saw things very simply. Our naivety shows how thick we were. In Japan today it?s not very difficult for a young man to "score". That?s no longer the question. They don?t want to. It?s no longer interesting. They wonder wheater sex counts for that much between the two sexes. We spoke earlier about childishness, but now everything is so open that it?s no longer the point of a relationship. This has become the way things are.

I: Did you really appear naked on TV? What did your staff think?

K: It was amazing. This was a time when nudity was strictly taboo on television. I came on in the nude lots of times, and I was forbidden to enter any television studio. As for the NHL; the public service broadcaster of Japan, I was forbidden access over a period of five years.

I: Talking about this film now, do you find it messy? Or do you still enjoy it? It?s a first, isn?t it?

K:It?s very enjoyable. Perhaps you should know that when I create something now, whether it?s a film, a broadcast or a book, everything is based upon this film. The philosophy of this film, its conception provides the basis... And everything that came after, the films of violence and the others, all arise from this.

I: This film?

K: Yes. It contains them all with its capacity for violence, it?s sense of awful sadness and it?s questioning why it?s necessary to suffer so much to "score".

I: This is my last question. What is your dream car for you to get laid in?

K: I don?t know much about cars. A hearse... (laughs) that?s a joke....

I: Thank you very much.

This interview is part of the additional material on both the French DVD from Cheyenne Films and the UK DVD from ArtsMagic. It was conducted in France during Kitano's visit 2003.

Interview by Zilli. Transcription by Henrik Sylow. All rights are reserved by Zilli, Office Kitano and The article is reproduced by with the kind permission by Richard Lohmann and Office Kitano.