Takahiko Iimura's Interview: Butoh Films: Cine-dance in Anma (The Masseurs) (1963) and Rose Color Dance (1965)

Aaron Kerner


Tatsumi Hijikata founded Ankoku Butoh, literally dance of darkness, in the late 1950s. At the epicenter of the Tokyo avant-garde Hijikata participated in radical theatrical performances, Happenings, and was closely associated with Neo-Dada . namely Natsuyuki Nakanishi and Genpei Akasegawa of the Hi-Red-Center. Hijikata frequently drew from earlier Japanese traditions, regional festivals, and myths. The body was at the core of his ideas. Incredibly charismatic and esoteric Hijikata is featured in over 17 films. experimental shorts, documentaries, and narrative fiction.

Of these there are in effect two different types of "Butoh film," on the one hand, there are films that document, constituting a record of an event, and on the other hand, there are films that integrate Butoh elements into the practice of filmmaking itself. Takahiko Iimura's films fit into this latter category, and he fittingly refers to this practice as "cine-dance." Before I proceed with this type of Butoh film, and to better understand the difference, let me review the characteristics for the former category first.

By and large most films fit into this documentary category, and this includes narrative fiction films that feature Butoh in one form or another. These films tend to adopt the conventional shooting codes of documentary or ethnographic film. When depicting a Butoh performance . or a Butoh performer. these films frequently use medium-long shots, or long shots. The camera is situated as outside the performance space, positioned as an "objective" observer of an event. There is an inclination to shoot

from a distance because close-ups connote that a filmmaker is being "partial" (in all senses . i.e., revealing a certain preference, and not showing the whole picture), the wide-angle shot is perceived, as Trinh T. Minh-ha observes in her discussion of ethnographic film, "more objective because it includes more in the frame,"-ups connote that a filmmaker is being "partial" (in all senses . i.e., revealing a certain preference, and not showing the whole picture), the wide-angle shot is perceived, as Trinh T. Minh-ha observes in her discussion of ethnographic film, "more objective because it includes more in the frame,"2 capturing events in context. And in keeping with this "objective" perspective the camera is typically fixed; camera movement, if there is any, is usually limited to smooth pans, tilts, or tracking shots with the intention of keeping the figures on screen within the center of the frame and fully embodied (or at least contextualized within a scene).

These compositional strategies are intended to preserve the integrity of the spatial field; the documentary form of Butoh film also employs aural and editing devices to safeguard the veracity of the temporal dimension. There is subsequently a preference for the long take insofar as it embodies "real time," which "is thought to be more 'truthful' than filmic time."3 Editing always suggests choice, and threatens to undermine the integrity of temporal continuity. If however long takes are not practical, say for example in a narrative fiction film where there are certain expectations regarding shot patterns, in the place of "real time" a coherent linear narrative helps to conceal the discrepancies between "film time" and "real time."

Like editing strategies, sound design too can "authenticate" the temporal element of a film. Sync-sound, like the long take, confirms the veracity of what unfolds on screen. Non-diegetic sound, such as music, has the capacity to work much in the way that a linear narrative does, by unifying shots into a coherent whole. At the same time though, nondiegetic sound potentially points to a lack of fidelity between the "real event" and the

"film event." In any case, these spatial and temporal strategies are characteristic of the documentary form of Butoh film. m event." In any case, these spatial and temporal strategies are characteristic of the documentary form of Butoh film.

The films of Teruo Ishii and Eikoh Hosoe, for example, tend to employ this documentary mode of Butoh film. In terms of genre these filmmakers could not be further apart, Ishii is well known for making B-pictures, a pioneer in the ero gro genre. combining torture, sadism, and sex, and specific to Ishii, elements of the fantastic. Hosoe on the other hand, is one of Japan's most famous post-war photographers. Hosoe and Hijikata collaborated to make a short experimental film, Navel and A-Bomb in 1960, whereas Ishii and Hijikata made three feature-length fiction films Horrors of a Malformed Man (Kyofu kikei ningen: Edogawa Rampo zenshu, 1969), Strange Tales of Dragon Tattoo (aka Blind Woman's Curse; Kaidan nobori ryu, 1970), and Love Crime (Meiji, taisho, showa ryoki onna hanzaishi, 1969), which also features the infamous Sada Abe. Ishii incorporated many elements from Hijikata's performances; elements are taken directly from performances such as Hijikata's famous Revolt of the Flesh (1968) and incorporated into Strange Tales of Dragon Tattoo, and material from Anma is worked into Horrors of a Malformed Man. In these films Hijikata is called upon to play a character who, in one way or another, is thoroughly deranged; a role that he was perfectly suited for. While Ishii's films remain firmly placed within narrative film conventions, the Butoh elements in his films meet the criteria for the documentary form of Butoh film: favoring medium-long shots, or longs shots to keep Hijikata (or other performers. of which there are many) centrally framed and contextualize the body within the scene, firmly fixed camera with smooth controlled tracking or panning shots, and disavowal of the filmmaker's body, all of this works to preserve spatial and temporal continuity.

While Hosoe's Navel and A-Bomb in no way conforms to standard narrative conventions, and he plays with figures puncturing the outer edge of the frame during the opening of the film, nevertheless true to the documentary form of Butoh film, the action is almost always centrally framed, and most importantly the camera remains firmly fixed. The camera movement in Navel and A-Bomb is mechanical, limited to tilts and zooms, and is characteristic of Hosoe's formal photography. Navel and A-Bomb records a performance; the film itself does not perform. Furthermore, although quite poetic, there is a strong narrative that governs Navel and A-Bomb, thus this narrative thread veils the distinction between "film time/event," and "real time/event," creating the illusion of spatial and temporal continuity. Navel and A-Bomb in no way conforms to standard narrative conventions, and he plays with figures puncturing the outer edge of the frame during the opening of the film, nevertheless true to the documentary form of Butoh film, the action is almost always centrally framed, and most importantly the camera remains firmly fixed. The camera movement in Navel and A-Bomb is mechanical, limited to tilts and zooms, and is characteristic of Hosoe's formal photography. Navel and A-Bomb records a performance; the film itself does not perform. Furthermore, although quite poetic, there is a strong narrative that governs Navel and A-Bomb, thus this narrative thread veils the distinction between "film time/event," and "real time/event," creating the illusion of spatial and temporal continuity.

Now let's consider films that integrate Butoh into the filmmaking itself, what Iimura calls "cine-dance." First and foremost, with this category of Butoh film there is no suppression or disavowal of the filmmaker's body. While the strategy of fixing a camera effectively effaces the filmmaker, with this integrated strategy there is a tendency to use a hand-held camera. Indicative of the hand-held camera, the image on screen corresponds to the movements of the filmmaker. And this is certainly the case with Iimura's Anma (The Masseurs), and to a lesser extent Rose Color Dance, where the filmmaker moves with the performers. The free movement of the hand-held camera is in stark contrast with the mechanized and highly controlled movements in the documentary form of Butoh film. The objective of Anma is less to record the event as it happened, but to embody it; for the shots in the film are mimetic traces of the filmmaker and his movements.

In terms of composition and the presentation of the spatial field, this too is also substantially different from the documentary form. In Iimura's Butoh films there are an

abundance of close-ups. Such shots are not the product of the lens, but rather of the filmmaker's proximity to the performers. In fact, on occasion Iimura integrates himself into the performance by actually getting on stage with the performers. Radically different from the documentary observational mode, which maintains an objective distance, with Iimura's films there is an intimacy between the performers and the filmmaker. As I discussed earlier, close-ups are "partial" in the literal and figurative sense. And this is distinctly evident in Anma where many of the close-ups are so tight, so "partial," that the body of the performer is abstracted. <Figure 1> And this abstraction. completely counter to the conventions of documentary/ethnographic film. reveals the filmmaker's own personal perspective; there is no pretension of being an objective observer. The cumulative effective of these signifiers of the spatial field . movement, proximity, close-ups . breaks down the barrier between inside and outside the performance. The documentary paradigm of Butoh film necessitates that the camera/filmmaker remain outside the performance, because to be inside . such as we find with Iimura's films . is no longer to be a mere observer of an event, but to be part of it to one degree or another. close-ups. Such shots are not the product of the lens, but rather of the filmmaker's proximity to the performers. In fact, on occasion Iimura integrates himself into the performance by actually getting on stage with the performers. Radically different from the documentary observational mode, which maintains an objective distance, with Iimura's films there is an intimacy between the performers and the filmmaker. As I discussed earlier, close-ups are "partial" in the literal and figurative sense. And this is distinctly evident in Anma where many of the close-ups are so tight, so "partial," that the body of the performer is abstracted. <Figure 1> And this abstraction . completely counter to the conventions of documentary/ethnographic film . reveals the filmmaker's own personal perspective; there is no pretension of being an objective observer. The cumulative effective of these signifiers of the spatial field. movement, proximity, close-ups . breaks down the barrier between inside and outside the performance. The documentary paradigm of Butoh film necessitates that the camera/filmmaker remain outside the performance, because to be inside . such as we find with Iimura's films . is no longer to be a mere observer of an event, but to be part of it to one degree or another.

The temporal aspect of the integrative strategy is also quite different from the documentary form of Butoh film. Temporal continuity is not an overriding concern for the integrative strategy. While some examples within this category of Butoh film might maintain some semblance of temporal continuity (especially in the contemporary moment with the advent of small digital cameras), there is no imperative to construct a chronologically ordered film or narrative. Anma is exemplary of this, there is absolutely no effort to preserve temporal integrity; while there is still something of a narrative . the film begins with dancers preparing for the show, followed by audience members entering

the theater, which is then subsequently followed by the performance . the film nevertheless freely moves back and forth in time. e . the film
nevertheless freely moves back and forth in time.

This disregard for temporal continuity, in Iimura's case and perhaps others working in the 60s and 70s, is in part linked to technological limitations. The mobility that we associate with the integrated form of Butoh film . such as we find with Anma and Rose Color Dance . was only possible because Iimura was using a small wind-up 8mm camera, limiting his shots to about 15 seconds each before he'd have to wind the camera again. Shooting in this way, while limiting to a certain degree, freed Iimura from the constraints and obligation of maintaining temporal continuity.

Similarly the audio design of Butoh film is also tied to technology. Aside from the narrative fiction films that feature Hijikata, or other Butoh performers, such as we find with Ishii's films, there is no sync-sound Butoh film from the 60s; however, sync-sound films begin to appear in the 70s when performances are filmed in 16mm, and later video.4 And again, this technological "limitation" can be turned into a virtue by freeing the filmmaker from the impulse to preserve temporal order. In its original form Anma in fact has no soundtrack, in a recent re-issue of the film (2007) . which he re-edited and extended . Iimura commissioned Tomomi Adachi to compose a score.5 As discussed earlier though, the use of non-diegetic sound has the capacity to either highlight the fissure between "real event" and "film event," or functions analogous to a narrative by unifying the shots into a coherent whole. And where Iimura's Butoh films are situated on this count is not exactly clear, what is clear though is that as a personal filmmaker he feels no compulsion to impose narratives on his work.

At the leading edge of the avant-garde, Takahiko Iimura has tirelessly been creating experimental works since the 60s, and to this day continues to experiment with new media/technology, always on the cutting he has moved from film to video in the 70s, and subsequently to various digital media. Incredibly prolific, Iimura enjoys international acclaim and has received numerous awards and fellowships. In 1966 Iimura was invited to participate in a summer seminar at Harvard University; he would stay for two years in New York, actively engaged with the avant-garde scene associating with figures such as Jonas Mekas, Yoko Ono and other members of Fluxus. Iimura's importance to the history of art and film cannot be understated, because in effect he functions as an unofficial, or accidental "go-between," splitting his time between Tokyo and New York, as well as other cosmopolitan centers around the world. (Iimura feels quite uncomfortable being characterized as a cultural "ambassador," or "emissary".) In addition, to being an active artist, Iimura is also engaged in critical theory, publishing among other things a collection of his own writing. -garde, Takahiko Iimura has tirelessly been creating experimental works since the 60s, and to this day continues to experiment with new media/technology, always on the cutting he has moved from film to video in the 70s, and subsequently to various digital media. Incredibly prolific, Iimura enjoys international acclaim and has received numerous awards and fellowships. In 1966 Iimura was invited to participate in a summer seminar at Harvard University; he would stay for two years in New York, actively engaged with the avant-garde scene associating with figures such as Jonas Mekas, Yoko Ono and other members of Fluxus. Iimura's importance to the history of art and film cannot be understated, because in effect he functions as an unofficial, or accidental "go-between," splitting his time between Tokyo and New York, as well as other cosmopolitan centers around the world. (Iimura feels quite uncomfortable being characterized as a cultural "ambassador," or "emissary".) In addition, to being an active artist, Iimura is also engaged in critical theory, publishing among other things a collection of his own writing.6 On June 13, 2009 I spoke with Iimura about his Butoh films and his relationship with Hijikata and other artists/filmmakers during the 60s. What follows is part of our conversation. He was extremely generous with me, for which I am very grateful.

AARON KERNER: How did you first meet Hijikata?

TAKAHIKO IIMURA: That's a very vague memory that I have; I don't know

exactly. It was the early 60s. So around that time there was a very small circle in

Tokyo for the avant-garde: filmmakers, mostly painters though, and Neo-Dada,

and Happenings, and that kind of background. So I think we probably met for the first time at his studio. But when I actually got to know him that might've been somewhere else. first time at his studio. But when I actually got to know him that might've been somewhere else.

AK: Maybe Sogetsu, or someplace like that?

TI: Could be. So that was '63, when Anma was performed. So I filmed it.

But before that I was associated with Sogetsu organizing a film festival, and we had the first experimental film festival …

AK: And I know that Hijikata was something of a film enthusiast.

TI: Well that's right, as you mentioned [in our earlier discussions] he appeared in a lot of experimental films, so he knows those friends, those artists. But, somehow we got to know each other, through this circle …

AK: So basically through mutual friends, and artists?

TI: Right. He was also involved with Neo-Dada.

AK: [Natsuyuki] Nakanishi and [Genpei] Akasegawa?

TI: Right, yes the Hi-Red-Center people. I knew them before I met Hijikata, and they were all friends. -Red-Center people. I knew them before I met Hijikata, and they were all friends.

AK: And actually, I wanted to ask you about the Hi-Red-Center, because obviously they're very much in the performances that you've filmed.

TI: That's right. They had a big, the first exhibition of Neo-Dada, they didn't call it "Neo-Dada" per se, but it was an independent exhibition of artists in Ueno Park,7 which was open to the public, and anybody could participate. So there was a mixture of amateur painting, as well as artists …

AK: It was an exciting time …

TI: Right, right, right. It was the time of Neo-Dada and Action Painting; so that was '62, the time of the Neo-Dada exhibition. And also that was during the time when I made my first film Kuzu (Junk, 1962), where I filmed garbage on the beach.

AK: Yes, that was screened this year (2009) at the Asian American Film Festival in San Francisco.

TI: So obviously this "junk" and Neo-Dada is very connected. So in that kind of environment, it's possible to meet someone. He was more senior than me …

AK: Hijikata? ?

TI: Right, so we thought we should be friends …

AK: And so did Hijikata ask you to film Anma? Or no …

TI: Well, no. I asked him, I wanted to film the performance. And he said, "Okay." He didn't have much interest in film. He didn't know much about experimental cinema either, although he participated with Hosoe Eikoh's film: Navel and A- Bomb [1960]. I don't know anything about that film; I mean how they got into that film. So, he didn't care in fact that I filmed Anma, or not. He just said, "Okay." And he didn't instruct me, so I could do anything I wanted.

AK: One of the things that struck me is that it's not a straight documentary, because …

TI: No…

AK: …because, and please correct me if I'm wrong here, the editing is not chronological.

TI: No. It isn't … that's right. You know I also put some of my own material, like text on Anma. And those medical drawings of the sexual organs at the beginning, I did that; it had nothing to do with the actual performance.

AK: That's in Rose Color Dance, the medical illustrations. Rose Color Dance, the medical illustrations.

TI: That's right.

AK: I was going to ask about those illustrations as well; because I was assuming that the illustrations were coming from Nakanishi, because of the design … <Figure 2> <Figure 3>

TI: Oh yes, that's right. He designed that painting on the back of the performer, so it's related in that sense.

AK: But of course the illustrations that you do show are in extreme close-up, and so they're kind of abstracted in a way. Again there is no interest in straight document it's …

TI: No. No, also the way I filmed is very different from the body of documentary. So I used this 8mm spring-wind camera, which only runs 15 seconds. That's very short, and I had only one camera. So every time I shot anytime I had to rewind it. And so while they are performing …

AK: … you're "missing" something …

TI: Yeah, I'm missing too, but … in the case of Anma I was quite often on the same stage. Just like performing myself, with the camera, and with the other people. And in fact that's the way I wanted it; it's not just a document, but to participate and to in a way choreograph myself with the camera. And that was my idea, that's why I call it "cine-dance." So often I'm quite close-up with the dancers, and moving with this little camera, and very abstracted sometimes, and jumping also time-wise, and with the dancers' action as well, since I'm not continuously recording. But it's very limited in a way, you know technically. But I could cover the performance with my own style of shooting, and I didn't care about continuity, or making connections, but rather to offer this kind of jump shot, or jump cut. Anma I was quite often on the same stage. Just like performing myself, with the camera, and with the other people. And in fact that's the way I wanted it; it's not just a document, but to participate and to in a way choreograph myself with the camera. And that was my idea, that's why I call it "cine-dance." So often I'm quite close-up with the dancers, and moving with this little camera, and very abstracted sometimes, and jumping also time-wise, and with the dancers' action as well, since I'm not continuously recording. But it's very limited in a way, you know technically. But I could cover the performance with my own style of shooting, and I didn't care about continuity, or making connections, but rather to offer this kind of jump shot, or jump cut.

AK: You've read my mind with some of the questions that I've laid out here, because I was going to specifically ask about the tight close-ups, and the abstracting of the bodies …

TI: Yes, they were very close, almost like this [gesturing arm's length, or less, difference], I was close to their face or body. Also, my hand as an extension of the camera, or camera as an extension of my hand, that's kind of related to what I've called the "camera-message"; I got the idea later from Marshall McLuhan8 who said that "the camera is an extension of the body." I think he said that later though, but that concept I had already embodied in the film.

AK: Actually I just came from a meeting with Hara Kazuo who talks about a certain eroticism in the act of shooting; he talks about the camera becoming his flesh, and there seems to be certain affinities there … I just came from a meeting with Hara Kazuo who talks about a certain eroticism in the act of shooting; he talks about the camera becoming his flesh, and there seems to be certain affinities there …

TI: Well at that time I hadn't seen that many experimental films, nor documentary films either, we had very limited resources at that time; there was no Cinematheque, no film library, so I could only read about …

AK: So Sogetsu wasn't really happening as a film center yet …

TI: Well, they kind of started a film festival later. Not that early. Only when they got a bunch of avant-garde films from the Cinematheque Paris in 1965, I think, that was the first time they showed. At that time we had very limited knowledge of actual film, I could only read about them, with a very small photograph, and I could only imagine what the film actually looked like.

Because of my background, and also during high school, I was making poems, kind of Dada poems, I was influenced by the Dadaist poets in their kind of a visual poems, and we had a version of this using a kanji character, you visualize it, as a poem. I read about those visual poems. So I had more of this idea of visual poetry. I'm not interested in narrative.

AK: I certainly saw that in Anma, narrative isn't the issue there, nevertheless, there is still something of a narrative in Anma in the sense that we begin with the dancers preparing, we see spectators entering the theater, then the performance begins . it suggests a narrative progression? Anma, narrative isn't the issue there, nevertheless, there is still something of a narrative in Anma in the sense that we begin with the dancers preparing, we see spectators entering the theater, then the performance begins . it suggests a narrative progression?

TI: Yes, in that sense, yes. And also in particular with the other dancer …

AK: Ohno?

TI: Ohno, yeah. Ohno as an outsider, the performance is modeled after villages in Tohoku where there is a very strict community, and if you're not part of the community you're always regarded as an outsider. So he plays something like that

. an outsider. So he was in a way begging the people, like the young boys playing ball, so acting like a fool, and the old women appear with kimono … he tries to get into a community, yet he is always an outsider. So only through dance could he join them … I think that was the idea. And Hijikata plays a kind of intruder into the scene, and intrudes into the scene very violently. Like the scene with the bicycle, he just comes in with the bicycle, and disrupts their communication. … And also there are the old ladies who play the traditional samisen, so it's more like a village festival, a symbolic one. … He used those actual samisen players and also some popular songs … but I didn't

record any of these sounds. The dance had this sort of village background, festival atmosphere. Not constantly, but abruptly. unds. The dance had this sort of village background, festival atmosphere. Not constantly, but abruptly.

Regarding narrative I did use something like a flashback; a layering of flashbacks (a double flashback), which is basically a narrative device, but I used it twice going back and forth between the outsider-Ohno who wears western clothing, and the insider-Ohno who wears a Japanese kimono at the height of his butoh dancing towards the end. At first he aims the pachinko ball at the (unseen) insider as the outsider, but when I cut to the flashbacks he goes nowhere and is lost. Meanwhile the camera moves around him using extreme movements . what I've called "cinedance" . then the kimono-wearing-Ohno sits on tatami when the camera approaches the back of his foot, this is where I cut to another flashback of Ohno, who is wearing Western clothing, holding a pachinko ball just for a moment, then I cut to the joyous-looking Ohno in a kimono dancing. So these flashbacks are not narrative elements, but are used for jumping freely from one world to the other. Obviously there were no such "flashbacks" in the actual dance, this could only happen in the film. This is all part of the new 2007 version of Anma, with Tomomi Adachi's soundtrack.

So that's the context … so it's kind of this narrative of how this outsider gets into a community, to join them.

AK: So in that sense did you see yourself as a character trying to integrate yourself into the performance in that way? the performance in that way?

TI: Well … into the performance, yes, but not into this community. But I'm acting as an outsider as well, as a photographer, a filmmaker. We also see a cameraman on stage, and who films the performers, he was sent by Hijikata (I think), so he sees this dance not just from the inside, but sees through the cameraman as well. So he had this sort of outsider view too. That's my analysis; he is always inside/outside at the same time.

Often people get more of the emotional message from Hijikata's dance, but I see that he's a very cool guy too.

AK: "Cool" as in a strict personality, or "cool" in the sense of being hip?

TI: "Hip," but also … "cool" also means … he had an awareness of himself, who he was. And he acted according to his own position, that's what I meant.

AK: Rose Color Dance (1965) was shot two years after Anma (1963), was it kind of the same situation where you asked Hijikata if you could film Rose Color Dance? Or had Hijikata seen Anma and then asked you to please come and film Rose Color Dance?

TI: No, no there was no such conversation as far as I can remember. He didn't care much about filming, himself. He accepted it, but he didn't ask me anything. I even gave him an 8mm print, he just kept it for a long time. But later his wife, Akiko Motofuji, used it. He often appeared in film, but he wasn't so interested himself … in cinema. That's my observation. r as I can remember. He didn't care much about filming, himself. He accepted it, but he didn't ask me anything. I even gave him an 8mm print, he just kept it for a long time. But later his wife, Akiko Motofuji, used it. He often appeared in film, but he wasn't so interested himself … in cinema. That's my observation.

AK: Okay. Did you take anything from your first experience of shooting Anma and say, "I want to do something different," or …

TI: In the case of Rose Color Dance?

AK: Yes, that's correct.

TI: Well, it was kind of a different situation. Also the theater was different … it was bigger. And it also had this second story above the stage, so I could have more of a long view too. So I was quite often on the stage, but also for a more long view from the seats. But I also had terrible trouble with my exposure …

AK: I was going to ask about that …

TI: … it was quite often over-exposed. But I also used it, and so that's different. And it's kind of different, you know, the dance itself was quite different too, looks more Westernized and there is no story like in Anma. And also it's more

kind of a traditional dance. I mean, Modern dance, as for the choreography. So I'm more interested in Anma, but maybe others are more interested in the famous Color dance, than Anma. I'm more interested in Anma, but maybe others are more interested in the famous Color dance, than Anma.

AK: So why do you prefer Anma to Rose Color Dance?

TI: Anma has more originality than Color Dance. And also Hijikata's own roots are there, in the dance. And I think as a dance itself I think it is better and more successful.

AK: I had a similar feeling; Kazuo Ohno's presence in Rose Color Dance is very evident, and more ballet orientated. And actually reading the back cover of the DVD release of Anma and Rose Color Dance, the commentator (Nicolas Villodre, curator of La Cin.math.que de la Danse, Paris) mentions German Expressionism.9 And as I was watching Rose Color Dance images of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari came to my mind.

TI: No, he's saying that it's more Neo-Dada than German Expressionism.

AK: But, and this is precisely the point, he still has to clarify; he has to place it in the Japanese camp, and not the German Expressionist camp. So whatever element of German Expressionism that is there (even if by accident), was that a product Ohno's mere physical presence . or was there something in the use contrast of the image (especially

relative to the hot whites of the over-exposed film), shots taken from below, etc. to get a more "expressionistic" feel? <Figure 4> -exposed film), shots taken from below, etc. to get a more "expressionistic" feel? <Figure 4>

TI: Are you talking about film style, or dance style?

AK: Both … because of course, Ohno obviously has a certain element of German Expressionism, and along with his gaunt look, and then there is a certain of higher contrast in the film, especially in relative to the earlier shots that has these blown-out whites, and then framing too … so together they have this sensibility.

TI: Yeah, I agree. I mean, Ohno tended to be more expressionistic; his way . his dance style was that way, which I don't appreciate much. I prefer Hijikata's sense of choreography. He's more direct than Ohno. Hijikta is. … He's also more, not macho, but in a way has a strong presence of maleness, against Ohno who has a very feminine character.

AK: There is a difference as well, Ohno is also Christian, and so his sensibility is different. I had the fortune of meeting Akiko Motofuji10 shortly before she died, and she explained to me the difference between Butoh and ballet: ballet tends to move up, where in Butoh there is a tendency to move down. In ballet the tendency for upward movement, or of being light, she says, is attributable to Christianity and heavenly accession. So in Ohno's dance there appears to be more upward movement; whereas with Hijikata, and in

Butoh, there is a tendency to move down, there some sort of physical contact with the ground … ground …

TI: Oh, that's some poetic rhetoric, not the dance itself. I suppose one could say that, but I don't feel that way.

AK: Okay. In Rose Color Dance, in terms of the editing, there seems to be more of a linear construction as compared to Anma?

TI: Well, not exactly. Well for time sake, yes, it's more linear, but not so much in the sense of narrative.

AK: I wasn't suggesting that, but compared to Anma, for a lack of a better word, it seems more chronological …

TI: Right, chronological right. But it's also missing a lot of scenes too compared to Anma; I had much less material. There was much more dancing, but I couldn't shoot it. Time-wise, yes, it's kind of chronological, but it doesn't go through smoothly though. It's also jumping from one scene to another.

As for the end of the performance, it's what we call Japanese Modernism. The beginning of the Meiji Era, they had this kind of Modernism they called it; Western culture comes in, and so they worshipped it. So they had this very kind

of strange Western clothing, and style, and the way they walked, and that's very peculiar to Meiji Era Modernism. That's there in too in the dance. I don't know how he got that kind of idea, but … estern clothing, and style, and the way they walked, and that's very peculiar to Meiji Era Modernism. That's there in too in the dance. I don't know how he got that kind of idea, but …

AK: Ohno or Hijikata …

TI: Hijikata.

AK: In terms of Hijikata personally I've meet with a couple of other people recently who also knew Hijikata, one individual in particular was very wary of getting involved with Hijikata (in terms of a working-relationship), because Hijikata had the capacity to pull people into his universe, and consume people. So did you have any reservations about working with Hijikata?

TI: [Chuckling] I had no such experience.

AK: And you weren't taking direction from him either as we already established …

TI: Right.

AK: You said that you hadn't seen films (featuring Hijikata), for example, Donald Richie's film or …

TI: I have seen, but not that one mentioned though, which one was that …

AK: Gisei Sacrifice (Donald Richie, 1959) …

TI: I have seen his films, but it was a long time ago … I met him, Donald Richie, also, in the early 60s. But no, I don't think I've seen this one …

AK: … and not Hosoe's film either (Navel and A-Bomb, 1960)?

TI: Hosoe's I have seen. I saw it in the early 60s. I find it a more stylized experimental cinema, regarding the action. I mean, for the action of the performance, it's kind of ritualized …

AK: Right. And it also certainly has a stronger narrative element. Since you had seen it, did you think "I don't want to this …, or that like Hosoe" …

TI: No. I didn't feel any influence from him, nor any connection to my shooting style to Hosoe. So I tried to be more free, and more personal too. I was using a small camera. So it was very much one person . reaction/acting at the same time. Not just filming, but doing film is also my concern too. So I don't see any connection with Hosoe's film, no …

You know at that time we had very few experimental films, but people don't see the film camera as an individual's own way to make film personal. Filmmaking tends to simply follow the conventions of traditional narrative, or stylized experimental film, and the camera is not used as a tool for one's own expression, using the camera itself. Well, in commercial cinema, like the Nouvelle vague have invented a "Jean-Luc Godard-like" personalized way of shooting, with freer movements, yet still using a much heavier camera with a stylized way of shooting, so they could do nothing like what an 8mm camera can do. Only later did I find Maya Deren's A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945), where she tried dancing with film together. the film camera as an individual's own way to make film personal. Filmmaking tends to simply follow the conventions of traditional narrative, or stylized experimental film, and the camera is not used as a tool for one's own expression, using the camera itself. Well, in commercial cinema, like the Nouvelle vague have invented a "Jean-Luc Godard-like" personalized way of shooting, with freer movements, yet still using a much heavier camera with a stylized way of shooting, so they could do nothing like what an 8mm camera can do. Only later did I find Maya Deren's A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945), where she tried dancing with film together.

AK: So do you see more affinities with Maya Deren, than you do with somebody like Hosoe then?

TI: Right, but I had not seen it at the time though … I only saw Maya Deren later

in the States.

AK: … but retrospectively though you feel more kinship with Maya Deren, than someone else?

TI: Right, but still, though, I found that Maya Deren is following a stylized filming approach, she tries to combine [dance and filmmaking], but I still find the angles, the camera's set-up, it's still traditional.

AK: The shots tend to be static. If I'm not mistaken, almost all, if not all of the shots are done with a static camera. It's a firmly based camera, even when at a canted angle, as opposed to hand-held. done with a static camera. It's a firmly based camera, even when at a canted angle, as opposed to hand-held.

TI: In that sense Jack Smith is freer than Maya Deren …

AK: In that case, then, perhaps it's really Hosoe and Maya Deren that share more in common: stylized, ritualistic, static camera …

I'd like to come back to something that we'd discussed before: the members of the HiRed- Center. The art direction by Genpei Akasegawa (in Anma) and Natsuyuki Nakanishi (in Rose Color Dance) is very evident . did you work with them prior to the performances to figure out how to do the shoot?

TI: No I didn't. I happened to notice that they were there when I went to shoot the performance, but (at the beginning) I wasn't aware of how they had participated. I didn't talk to them about filming, but they obviously participated, they have their own kind of art in it.

But also I know more, in the case of Rose Color Dance, there is one performer Sho Kazakura who is also in my film Dance Part in the Kingdom of Lilliput (1964), he's a kind of performer . or rather, performer in the sense of

performance . he's done many Happenings, in a way similar to … Yoko Ono, playing with a big balloon inside, himself, he did that kind of performance. He's also a painter too. In fact, Dance Part in the Kingdom of Lilliput was his own performance title that I borrowed. … That was 1964; I made this film, after Anma. . he's done many Happenings, in a way similar to … Yoko Ono, playing with a big balloon inside, himself, he did that kind of performance. He's also a painter too. In fact, Dance Part in the Kingdom of Lilliput was his own performance title that I borrowed. … That was 1964; I made this film, after Anma.

AK: It's funny that you mentioned Happenings; because that was one of the next things I was going to ask you about. If I remember correctly you went to New York in 1968?

TI: No earlier 66, I think 66. Yes, 66. I was invited by Harvard University, in Boston, for a seminar.

AK: When Allan Kaprow came across Gutai he was amazed to discover that they were in a sense doing "Happenings" before any Americans were. Did you bring Anma or Rose Color Dance to the States and have the opportunity to screen them . and was there any sort of "re-discovery" with your films, "wow, look what they're doing"?

TI: Well, when I first went to the states I didn't bring those Hijikata films. Only later, not the mid-60s but later, I think maybe late 70s, in the States they got to know about Butoh maybe not even the 70s, maybe the 80s, later, much later than Europe in fact. So I didn't show those films. Also at that time I only had 8mm film, it wasn't blown-up yet to 16. I'm not sure when I showed them in the States, it's much later than that …

Well, as for the performance, or Happenings, yeah, I know them; I'm related to them, they are my friends, along with the Hi-Red-Center, and also … well, not myself as a participant, but as an observer and a friend. I was there for their performances … they also had Fluxus, and then Happenings. Also of course Yoko Ono came to Tokyo, and also John Cage he came to Tokyo too, so we got to know more about Fluxus, than Happenings. Of course, we knew about Happenings through meeting them … but the most Happening-like performance was Ushio Shinohara . and his boxing paintings. There are two schools . one is more expressionistic Happenings, and the other is more intellectual, like Fluxus. them, they are my friends, along with the Hi-Red-Center, and also … well, not myself as a participant, but as an observer and a friend. I was there for their performances … they also had Fluxus, and then Happenings. Also of course Yoko Ono came to Tokyo, and also John Cage he came to Tokyo too, so we got to know more about Fluxus, than Happenings. Of course, we knew about Happenings through meeting them … but the most Happening-like performance was Ushio Shinohara . and his boxing paintings. There are two schools . one is more expressionistic Happenings, and the other is more intellectual, like Fluxus.

I actually got to know Allan Kaprow, in fact, when I participated in the summer seminar at Harvard University, he was one of the guest speakers. I got to know him, I liked his idea too, of known audience performance, or Happening. He himself is not expressionistic either, only the journalists made it that kind of story.

You were talking about Happenings or Fluxus?

AK: Well, I was just curious if your work help to re-engage the New York scene with some of the things that were happening here in Tokyo?

TI: Yea, specially my 1962 film Ai (Love), with music by Yoko Ono, was brought to New York by Yoko; it was praised highly by Jonas Mekas, who said that it "stands out in its beauty, originality, and a film poem," and its "closest

comparison would be ... Jack Smith's Framing Creatures." Later I presented the film at Yale University. Too many students showed up, and couldn't get into the theater and made a mob scene as reported in The New York Times the next day: "Mob of 1,000 Seeking 'Skin Flicks' Disrupts Showing of Japanese Films" (10/22/1966). Framing Creatures." Later I presented the film at Yale University. Too many students showed up, and couldn't get into the theater and made a mob scene as reported in The New York Times the next day: "Mob of 1,000 Seeking 'Skin Flicks' Disrupts Showing of Japanese Films" (10/22/1966).11

AK: As we mentioned before, Hijikata appears in a lot of films . both documents of Hijikata performances and narrative films, most notably the films of Teruo Ishii . did any of these subsequent filmmakers come to consult you given your experience in working with Hijikata?

TI: Consulted for what?

AK: … the experience of trying to shoot Hijikata, how to choreograph a performance along with cinematography?

TI: I suppose they went directly to him. No one talked with me. And they don't know me either.

AK: That's too bad. Well, I have gone through my prepared questions, is there anything else that you'd like to share regarding the experience of working with Hijikata or making these films?

TI: Well no … Well, I haven't seen all of his performances, but I think Hijikata is the best at the beginning, the early pieces. It could be my personal connection, but I find his earlier pieces more interesting. Even though he had a long blank period, even after the blank it wasn't as good. is the best at the beginning, the early pieces. It could be my personal connection, but I find his earlier pieces more interesting. Even though he had a long blank period, even after the blank it wasn't as good.

You know I sense that it is a more commercialized product now, and Butoh is very different from what Hijikata tried to do.

AK: Is he rolling over in his grave?

TI: [Chuckles] … I don't know …



Note
1 Both Anma (The Masseurs) (1963) and Rose Color Dance (1965) are available through Canyon Cinema in San Francisco , and the Film- Makers' Cooperative in New York . Note also that Rose Color Dance is sometimes translated as Rose Colored Dance; Iimura prefers the former title.
2 Trinh T. Minh-ha, When the Moon Waxes Red: Representation, Gender and Cultural Politics (New York: Routledge, 1991), 34.
3 Ibid.
4 Keiya Ouchida's 1972 film, shot in 16mm, Story of Smallpox, is a "straight" documentary of a performance and is the first sync-sound Butoh film.
5 There is an unauthorized version of Anma with a musical score floating around; Iimura never endorsed the use of a soundtrack with his film other than the 2007 version. At one point there was a VHS version of Anma without music, but this is no longer available, and the only authorized release is on DVD with music by Tomomi Adachi.
6 See for example his book The Collected Writings of Takahiko Iimura (Rockville, MD.: Wildside Press, 2004).
7 Ueno is a district in Tokyo.
8 Iimura noted that Anma was made in 1963, and McLuhan's Understanding media: the extension of man (New York: McGraw-Hill), was published a year later in 1964, and translated into Japanese 1967.
9 Nicolas Villodre's DVD blurb reads: "Through these films, it became clear that the Black Butoh dance created by Tatsumi Hijikata is closer to the neo-dada movement taking over the provocative, cynical and absurd forms rather than the German expressionist dance [it is] usually connected."
10 Akiko Motofuji was Hijikata's wife, and a Butoh dancer in her own right; however, her background was in ballet, so her style was quite different from Hijikata's.
11 See Robert Steele, "Japanese Underground Film," Film Comment (Fall-Winter 1967): 74-77.


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