SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE a film by Rikki Kasso
Sunday, November 27, 2005
The Movie

What is this film about?

That’s a tough question; I am still trying to figure that one out myself. But I guess ultimately it is about human beings and the relationships with themselves. Exploring and exploiting the sexuality that exists in all of us. It’s a chronicle of love and affection and an explicit description in to the psychology of sexual activity.

What was your first idea for making this movie?

Well originally it was planned to make a more comprehensive narrative feature, you know a kind of boring art film about Japanese high school girls growing up in Tokyo.

And then…

Well I had my long time friend Jake Clennell come from New York to do the Director of Photography. Had another friend who is a street scout for adult entertainment find 2 girls for actresses, I wrote a script and thought we were ready to make a film. But on the first day of shooting I had the realization that none of the talent involved spoke English and me and my camera man didn’t speak Japanese, working on a tight production schedule I came to the conclusion that it was impossible to direct people who were never actors and don’t understand a fucking word I say. So at the time there was so much chaos going on I decided just to keep the cameras rolling in an effort to create a fictional film from reality.

How was it working with a cast and crew that didn’t speak your language?

It was definitely a challenge, but I got over the frustration rather quickly as we didn’t have time to teach everybody English. I just trusted that everybody involved at least understood my vision. I could even say there were no directions just cameras.

How did you start this movie?

I was in Tokyo working on a project of nude portraits of Japanese girls, my friend Koichi (who also a producer in the film) was an agent to girls who do sexy modeling and we began working as a team. One day he comes to me and says “do you want to make movies?” I had always thought about making films but never with any serious motives. So I said sure, He told me there was somebody who really liked my photography works and was interested in seeing if I wanted to make a movie. So we met the guy 2 times briefly and started production right away.

What was your idea of Japan when you were living in New York?

Actually I had no exact preconceived notion of what to expect. Would it be a place where everyone is clad in Kimonos and wooden slippers? Or was everybody a blade running cyborg in a floating future city? Interestingly enough it was a fine combination of the two.

Has your ideas changed about Japan or Japanese people since you have been here?

I really like Tokyo and the people that live here. It is a very cold isolated society that gives me room to think on my own. It’s the kind of place where you wouldn’t know your neighbors name even though you’ve been living next door from each other 10 years.

I love the explicit exploitation of everything. There is something crass and charming about Tokyo that I am addicted to. I really appreciate the surrealism that is unavoidable.

Tokyo is sexy.

How did you find the characters for the film?

As I mentioned before the girls in film came from street scouting in Shibuya, from one of my producers that actually is somewhat of a magician himself. He introduced us to Shun (who somehow was working with him at some point?). He also arranged a hypnotist and an old man that agreed to be filmed buying underwear from one of the girls. Kuniko the doll came from the internet after my friend Akemi turned me on to this guy’s site. I instantly fell in love and stayed awake for hours reading his words (which were in English) and looking at his photos. I felt he was the symbol of Japan as much as green tea and sushi. We emailed him and asked if we could meet for an interview and he agreed. It was the first time ever for him to reveal his identity to anyone but since we were foreigners and he respected our works, he complied nicely.

So is it a documentary?

Its reality turned in to fiction.

It is a film about sex but not as one might imagine, why is the subject of sex so interesting to you?

It’s as interesting to me as it is to everyone else, though I came into a different perspective of the subject of sex since coming to Tokyo. I have always felt that the sexual anxiety fuels the creative inspiration and it is easily recognized in all of its forms. I have found what I appreciate as artworks come from a surreal desire to orgasm.

What about Tokyo gave you a different perspective on sex?

Well having grown up in catholic school and living by a quasi moral ethic program given to me by my authority I naturally had all of the guilty notions attached to sex. In Japan it’s different; there is no religion here, no Christian conscious taboos to feel bad about sexual activity so it is viewed as entertainment. You know Sunday’s outing to the love hotel and then to karaoke. The concept of it is very commercial and casual.

How would you explain it being commercial and casual?

The list could go on forever…

For example the readily available blow job bars and bath houses to ease the stress of the over worked married salary-man is known and accepted by the wife. Popular among men and women are Manga novels (comics), usually sexually graphic in nature and sold at every corner convenience store. Teenage girls’ “enjo kosai”(compensated relationships) craze where over 50% of high school girls engage in sexual activity for money to buy into the latest Louis Vuitton or Christian Dior die hard style, (all of this highlighted by the students mini plaid skirts and long white socks). These are as visible in society as they are invisible. It is the unspoken truth that harmonizes everybody. At first I had my own western criticism but learned to accept and respect it as a different culture’s operations that obviously were working for them. Most interesting was the psychological aspect of it all. The ideas of sex were intricately analyzed and fragmentized so much that it separated the physical aspect sometimes completely. I love the fantasy.

People describe Japan and being perverse and explicit, how do you feel about outsider opinions?

People are fucked up everywhere you go. There are perverts and monsters in every country. Japan is no different. The difference is the level of toleration in society manage these things. There is the common argument that the media, including video games and television possess children in to being volatile blood thirsty killers or ravenous sex hunters. When in fact the games that the children are buying originate in Japan a country

with twice the population of the U.K in a land mass the size of California has a crime rate that ranks last on list of violent crimes .Which I might add that one of this country's popular sporting events is K1 and PRIDE (full contact bloody brawling).

Murders per 100,000.

1. Russia Federation 18.07

2. United States 6.32

3. Malaysia 2.73

Taiwan 1.17

Spain 1.08

Japan 0.58

Rape per 100,000.

1. United States 34.20

2. England and Wales 14.69

3. France 13.38

Taiwan 8.82

South Korea 4.38

Spain 3.23

Japan 1.48

Serious Assault per 100,000.

1. Australia 713.68

2. England & Wales 405.20

3. United States 357.94

Taiwan 37.30

Spain 23.94

Japan 15.40

Robbery/Violent Theft per 100,000.

1. Spain 169.85

2. United States 169.02

3. France 144.10

Taiwan 14.35

South Korea 11.74

Japan 2.71.

I feel that there is the relevance to sexuality and violence here in Japan as there is every where else in the world, what is different is how the people of society react to such things.

There seems to be a formal mental uniform that everyone wears here to keep things in order. It’s hard to imagine being idea of fantasy and reality is virtually inseparable in this country but easy to see its discourse. With one of the lowest unemployment rates and highest suicide rates its pretty obvious where all the energy goes. To think that someone would rather kill themselves than someone else is quite inspiring. Even more surreal is there is no religious template to follow in which morally condemns murder.

So what do you think of the roles of men and women in Japan?

I think historically men and women have had their roles in society for a reason. This is a global tradition since the documentation of time. In Japan the ideas of men and women are clearly defined, for example women receive a woman’s salary and have their place in a corporate structure. In the fastest growing economic megalopolis there is no obvious reason to dispute their system. I do feel though that this creates a market for the women to earn just as much or even more than men their age by working in mizu shobai (sex industry). So it is pretty casual for a woman to work as an office lady pouring tea in the day and at night dress up like a high school girl and get molested in the train room at the “image club.” Because the ideas of sex life are for pleasure and entertainment there is no general degradation going on, and it conveniently balances the economy.

What do you think of women personally?

Honestly it doesn’t matter to me what women do or men for that matter. I appreciate the people I appreciate for a reason. But I realized I am most sexually compatible with women so my opinions can go only go so far.