Interview with Marcus Stiglegger: I Would Support the Idea of Drunken Angel or Stray Dog Being Japanese Noir

Dr. Marcus Stiglegger is an Austrian movie scholar, publicist, musician and occasional director. Through the years, he has made a reputation for himself with numerous publications within the fields of movie and media concept in German, but in addition in English. He has been a part of commentaries and different extras for editions of flicks revealed by Arrow Video, Capelight and lots of different publishers. Stiglegger is the writer of books like “Terrorkino. Angst/Lust im Körperhorror” (Terror cinema. Concern and lust in physique horror), “SadicoNazista. Geschichte, Movie und Mythos” (SadicoNazista. Historical past, Movie and Fable) and “Grenzüberschreitungen. Exkursionen ins Abseits der Filmgeschichte” (Transgressions. Excursions into the marginalized areas of movie historical past) amongst many others. Moreover, he has written many essays on administrators equivalent to Abel Ferrara, David Cronenberg, William Friedkin and the western style. His newest work contains the essay assortment “Berlin Visionen. Filmische Stadtbilder seit 1980” (Berlin Visions. Cinematic photographs of urbanity since 1980) with co-publisher Stefan Jung and “Schwarz. Die dunkle Seite der Popkultur” (Black. The darkish facet of fashionable tradition).

Amongst his many publications, he’s additionally the writer of a e-book on Akira Kurosawa titled “Kurosawa. Die Ästhetik des langen Abschied” (Kurosawa. The aesthetic of the lengthy goodbye) which serves as each, an perception into life and work of the well-known Japanese filmmaker, but in addition into the assorted narrative and aesthetic elements of his options.

In an interview about this particular publication, we speak about Dr. Stiglegger’s strategy, his previous in martial arts and the a number of aspects of one of many main figures in Japanese cinema.

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In your e-book you speak about how Kurosawa and his work acquired a really completely different reception within the director’s residence nation when in comparison with the eye he acquired in Europe, for instance. What do you suppose was or nonetheless is the explanation for this?

The best way Akira Kurosawa’s options have been acquired in Japan have been trusted a number of elements of the time during which they have been launched in cinemas. Nevertheless, that additionally modified afterward.

Kurosawa started his profession as a director throughout World Conflict II, making movies which have been closely influenced by the politics of the time and the ideology of the ruling system, on this case the nationalist Empire of Japan. A lot of his colleagues labored in the same method and on comparable initiatives, in order that Kurosawa most actually didn’t stand out amongst them at first, which is why it’s troublesome to inform what sort of reception he acquired.

Nonetheless, this modified as quickly as Kurosawa began to develop a mode of his personal. However the reception was first skeptical and even hostile, with works equivalent to “One Great Sunday” being thought of as makes an attempt to repeat Hollywood cinema. That is additionally why many regarded him as a director making an attempt to implement Western aesthetics into Japanese cinema -a prejudice primarily based on these early, lighter works and their imagery. That is essential to emphasise, since this concept most actually can’t be utilized to “Rashomon” or the works which adopted.

It was maybe “Drunken Angel”, which was acquired as a sort of movie noir, and the place he labored with Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimizu, who grew to become frequent collaborators in a lot of his different options. This was the purpose when the way in which he was regarded started to shift.

Nonetheless from “Kagemusha”

Coming again to “Rashomon”, I discover it attention-grabbing that this specific movie was initially not meant for a screening at Venice Movie Competition, the place it gained the Golden Lion. If this had not occurred, Kurosawa wouldn’t have gotten the eye and reception he acquired within the years to come back. It was as a result of an intervention by a competition programmer within the West that “Rashomon” was screened in the long run. This leads me to the idea that Kurosawa and his work have been by no means regarded in the identical respectful method in Japan as they have been in the remainder of the world.

In a while, options like “The Fool” and “The Decrease Depths” have been acquired with a sure reservation, since they have been primarily based on Western supply materials. The actual change got here with the flicks which he’s now well-known for, “The Seven Samurai”, “Throne of Blood”, “The Hidden Fortress” and “Yojimbo”, which marked probably the most commercially profitable interval of his profession, and a shift in the way in which he was acquired, as a result of he was now, additionally in his residence nation, seen as somebody who may make “massive footage”. You possibly can examine his popularity and standing at the moment to somebody like Ridley Scott at the moment.

Paradoxically, after “Yojimbo” and “Sanjuro”, this once more modified, as Kurosawa, though he was round 50 years previous, gained the popularity of an old style filmmaker. Moreover, after the industrial failure of “Purple Beard”, he garnered the standing of a failed director, somebody unable to make one other financially profitable and fashionable characteristic, which was a false impression Kurosawa tried a few years to appropriate. This additionally result in a private disaster, culminating in Kurosawa’s suicide try after the failure of “Dodesukaden”.

As everyone knows, the director went overseas, first to Russia the place he made “Dersu Uzala” and later to america, which began the interval of his life, when he regained a few of the former glory and popularity. “Kagemusha” being financed in France, and “Ran” in addition to “Goals” being financed within the US, lead me to the conclusion that he most likely would have by no means been in a position to get that sort of cash in his residence nation.

Ultimately, I might say Akira Kurosawa is most actually considered an essential director for Japan at the moment, however throughout his lifetime he acquired probably the most respect and a spotlight between “Rashomon” and “Yojimbo”. His popularity is indeniable, however this concept of the old style filmmaker in his residence nation was not altered along with his final options, since neither “Rhapsody in August” nor “Madadayo” have been mentioned in nice element or attracted giant crowds of cinemagoers.

What’s attention-grabbing about his profession, which has similarities to the biography of many artists, in Japan or elsewhere, is how the popularity and reception of an individual relies on worldwide reward, awards and different elements. In his nation, Kurosawa was extra like a seasoned skilled, or has been considered such for a very long time.

Would you say that the industrial failure of options like “Drunken Angel” or “The Dangerous Sleep Properly”, particularly in Japan, can be linked to their moderately essential picture of Japanese society and politics?

What I actually admire about Akira Kurosawa is that he has at all times been a nonconformist, all through his entire profession. Despite the fact that he knew in regards to the idea of bushido and cherished the concept of loyalty expressed in it, he directed films which brazenly criticized society, techniques and beliefs. You possibly can see that within the protagonist in “Ikiru” who has the selection of main a hedonistic life, however as a substitute opts for one thing fully completely different, one thing which even surprises the viewer while you see the film for the primary time. He will get again to his thought of loyalty and responsibility, however does one thing fairly extraordinary, one thing out of the norm inside this framework.

In his first characteristic, “Sanshiro Sugata” the protagonist goes to a special sensei, thus violates the idea of loyalty, however this motion is attributed to the ethical corruption of his previous grasp who’s a drunkard and represents Western values. By the way in which, this resulted within the movie being censored in Japan.

To call one final instance, “The Males Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail” was made throughout the US occupation, when it was forbidden to direct movies about Japan within the Edo period. Particularly jidai-geki have been noticed, for the US authorities feared these tales would come with the spirit of ‘kamikaze’ and many others. Then, within the Nineteen Sixties, the time of Seijun Suzuki and Nagisa Oshima, he directed a three-hour-long interval drama about a physician throughout the Edo period, ‘Purple Beard’.

These instance ought to serve to focus on how a lot of a nonconformist Kurosawa actually was.

Nonetheless from “The Dangerous Sleep Properly”

Your strategy to Akira Kurosawa’s work has been influenced not solely by you being a movie scholar, but in addition by you expertise within the fields of martial arts for a few years. How did the latter side form your view on his movies?

To have the ability to do that e-book, being based by the tutorial venture The Asian Influence, and discovering a writer have been nice privileges. Nobody demanded a e-book on that material on the time, so after I determined to pursue this enterprise, it was one thing I actually needed to do.

My involvement with conventional martial arts started after I was 9 years previous, watching the mini-series “Shogun” on TV. I used to be fascinated by the model and the aesthetics and began doing martial arts, first judo, then jujutsu, and eventually kendo and iaido, which is principally meditating with a metallic sword alone. You be taught sure strategies that are used within the works of Kurosawa and lots of others, which leads me to consider that the director himself and likewise his stars, particularly Toshiro Mifune, knew these strategies as effectively. The reducing of the abdomen on the finish of “Sanjuro”, to offer one instance, is certainly one of these fundamentals strikes, so-called katas, practiced in iaido.

Moreover, Kurosawa’s father was a kendo teacher, and he got here from a samurai household. These concepts and strategies infused the options, even these which is probably not so apparent. A movie like “Ikiru” exhibits how an individual can dwell a bourgeois life with an ethical drive when obeying the ideas of bushido. These ideas don’t simply represent a code for warriors, but in addition one which is about ethical and ethics, about doing the precise factor, so to talk.

Ultimately, my background in martial arts, my travels to Japan in 2001 and several other viewings of the options have resulted in me interested by how I may presumably write something new a few director, whose works have been analyzed and dissected quite a bit. One of many best inspirations was Steven Prince’s “The Warrior’s Digital camera”, however on the similar time I felt the melancholic nature of Kurosawa’s works and their affinity in direction of demise had not been outlined absolutely. This has much less to with preventing or large battle scenes, however moderately with characters who knew their period is about to finish, which is very true for later options like “Kagemusha” and “Ran”. Even earlier than, in “Seven Samurai”, for example, we get a glimpse of that kind of melancholy, when the presence of a firearm suggests on the finish of an period. That is the essence of the aesthetics of the lengthy goodbye, because the title of the e-book says.

On the similar time, I needed a piece which was simple to learn whereas additionally assembly sure tutorial calls for. Apparently, the e-book didn’t obtain numerous consideration when it got here out some years in the past, however for some motive has gained readers over time, with the interview I’m doing proper now being proof to this truth.

Nonetheless from “Rashomon”

If the e-book is translated into English, what would you consider the interpretation of the title into “The Aesthetics of the Lengthy Goodbye”? Was the reference to Raymond Chandler’s “The Lengthy Goodbye” intentional?

Sure, it was. I’m an excellent movie noir and Raymond Chandler fan, particularly of Robert Altman’s adaptation of “The Lengthy Goodbye” and its major theme. Ever since I watched that movie for the primary time after I was round 18, I attempted to determine what it meant to outline life as this “lengthy goodbye”, a long-winded street in direction of demise, in a philosophical sense.

To reply your query, I might be okay with the interpretation, however would double-check with a local speaker whether or not she or he understands what I’m making an attempt to say.

To return again to movie noir, I at all times regarded a movie like “Yojimbo” in the same method as, for instance, basic works of the genres equivalent to “Dangerous Day at Black Rock” by John Sturges. It’s a comparable precept with a stranger arriving in a small city and eliminating all of the dangerous guys, which was then repeated in different movies like Walter Hill’s “Final Man Standing”. I might much more help the concept of “Drunken Angel” or “Stray Canine” being Japanese noir.

What do you consider the state of movie research generally in Germany?

Properly, that could be a sophisticated difficulty. To put in writing a e-book about Akira Kurosawa or do a seminar about his work feels like a typical strategy since his movies, among the many works of many different nice administrators, are the place you’ll begin, however the reverse is true. Movie research at the moment is extra occupied with, for example, queer and gender research or political documentaries, primarily marginalized cinema, however not classical cinema represented by folks like Kurosawa. German movie research strive onerous to grow to be media research and miss to acknowledge the distinctive and extremely essential standing inventive movie making has throughout the arts. Even the time period ‘artwork’ is rejected inside current German movie research as a ‘canonizing idea’. This would possibly change once more – however youthful students for the time being shift in direction of coping with the ‘mediality of movie’ moderately than its aesthetics or historical past. In my private opinion, there may be room for all of this inside movie research. However forgetting custom and historical past is not going to assist movie research to maintain an essential standing inside tutorial frames.

Thus, ‘artwork of cinema’ has grow to be a time period related to the educated courses, whereas style cinema is taken into account (once more) trivial and solely price additional dialogue when it tackles socio-political themes. Twenty years in the past, I gave lectures and seminars on horror and thriller genres, which has now grow to be comparatively scarce inside movie research at German universities.

By the way in which, I started my tutorial profession learning theater beneath professor Erika Fischer-Lichte, who centered on the side of efficiency, which could clarify why that individual idea retains arising in my books and essays. In a while, when the primary programs in movie research have been provided, I utilized for them. Ultimately, the mix of those elements, movie research, theater research, ethnology and philosophy, helped me quite a bit in my tutorial profession.

To inform you the reality, if you happen to solely consider movie research, what sort of profession are you pursuing in a tradition the place tutorial movie criticism is gone? There are only a few jobs and writing books is paid badly, which proves the purpose of the classical area being not well-funded and outlined by marginalized approaches.

Nonetheless from “Ikiru”

Coming again to Kurosawa, what’s, in your opinion, the director’s most fashionable film, when its involves themes and aesthetics?

That’s an attention-grabbing query, as a result of I will surely agree a lot of his options have very fashionable approaches or elements to them. You possibly can see this already in “Sanshiro Sugata” when he makes use of elliptic modifying, very unusual for the time the movie was made, particularly inside Japanese cinema. Kurosawa additionally blends black-and-white parts with colour, like in “Excessive and Low”, to create a sure impact, which is a method administrators equivalent to Steven Spielberg used afterward in works like “Schindler’s Record”.

Nevertheless, “Rashomon” must be the movie which introduced his cinema to a complete new stage. It’s in regards to the questioning of goal reality, additionally the reality of cinema itself, in a favor of a model of it. Till at the moment, as we will see in Ridley Scott’s “The Final Duel”, Kurosawa’s thought of telling a narrative via a number of views is utilized in cinema. Whereas this idea was already contained within the quick tales by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Kurosawa added different layers to it, themes of humanity and compassion, and breaks with these variations of reality as quickly as we hear the following perspective. That’s fairly fashionable, and I might say that each movie fan and scholar should watch “Rashomon” no less than as soon as.

Thanks for the attention-grabbing dialog.

Additional hyperlinks:

Kurosawa’s oeuvre (German) KUROSAWA | Ein Weblog zum Buch von Marcus Stiglegger (Edition Text + Kritik, München 2014) (

Marcus Stiglegger’s web site



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