- RepletionMasao Adachi’s Totality
Masao Adachi notes, apropos of the film theory he and others developed in the late 1960s: “All the landscapes which one faces in one’s daily life, even those such as the beautiful sites shown on a postcard, are essentially related to the figure of a ruling power.”1 As part of the collective project of “landscape theory” (fúkeiron [風景論]), Adachi’s work repeatedly evokes a sense of this “all.” Capitalist totality is the premise of a changing landscape that compels his attention as the camera surfaces into it in figures 1 and 2.
Adachi’s films and writings, and their continuity with his activities with the Japanese Red Army and thereafter, have therefore attracted the attention of critics who emphasize totality as a crucial term for anti-capitalisms. Alberto Toscano and Jeff Kinkel adduce Adachi’s landscape film and theory as they register the problem that “the indifference of concrete abstraction” poses for strategic and tactical analyses of a capitalist plenum.2 Like the “anti-cognitive aesthetic” of photographer Lewis Baltz’s “new topographics,” they note, Adachi’s landscape film is among the critical experiments that press home the limits of “the notion of a metalanguage that could capture, that could represent, capitalism as such” (ca, 242).
Yet, anti-capitalisms hesitate to risk lingering over the disturbing phenomena that place totality, and even totalization, at odds with [End Page 15]
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empirical models. Projects of forensics, counter-logistics, and strategics, as well as reanimations of cognitive mapping, rigidly rescale and reframe contexts for intervention, often implying that competence in intervention is modeled in such operations. Even Toscano, who contributes generously to a heterogeneous rethinking of totality, shows this hesitation, perhaps more so in Cartographies than before. This hesitation informs the out-and-back movement of Toscano and Kinkel’s book, which raises questions like Adachi’s and Baltz’s only to retreat to an anxiety that staying with them will induce “paralysis.” This anxiety marks the presence of problems in the logic of perception that are continually discovered but that then tend to be withdrawn rather than assimilated. The assumption seems to be that nothing valuable can be done with such problems—but that has not been shown (nor will they go away even if that is true). From within that condition of limitation, instead, Adachi, among others, is already heading somewhere else in his landscape films of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Adachi’s work invites its viewers to continue the unfearful exploration that he opens up: an exploration of militance amid saturation and anorientation. Such an exploration preserves the “useless” as well as tactically “useful” elements of the situations it encounters, including phenomena that are not systemic components or functions.
Who Is Masao Adachi? What Is a landscape?
Although interest in Adachi and landscape theory has been rising, they are still not so well known outside Japan as to free critics from providing facts of the sort that Adachi questions. “He was born in June 1949, the fourth son of an apple farmer.” This is the parodic voice-over, narrated by Adachi, that opens the paradigmatic landscape film A.K.A. Serial Killer (1969).3 The voice-over performs the artificiality of linear sociological explanation about to be abandoned in the film. In the spirit of the voice-over, I offer these fragments of biography:
The name “Masao Adachi” is attached, first to three films made collectively by two iterations of a group at Nihon University: Bowl (Wan [椀], 1961); Closed Vagina (Sain [鎖陰],1963); Galaxy (Gingakei [銀河系], 1967); then to the many “pink” (soft pornographic) films [End Page 17] that Adachi wrote and Koji Wakamatsu directed, or that Adachi both wrote and directed, for Wakamatsu’s production company from 1967 to 1972; and then to the collective A.K.A. Serial Killer (1969), through which Adachi, Masao Matsuda, and others formulated fúkeiron. Adachi also wrote and acted in films by Nagisa Oshima. Almost...