| JQR Interview

JQR INTERVIEW – Claude Gagnon

Karakara = don’t take yourself seriously

I’ve always really hated people who abuse their strength, and that’s where I got the idea for Karakara. I didn’t want to make a film about violence but I wanted to include it in a movie. And then I had a flashback about Gabriel, an intellectual who reminded me of all the intellectuals who come to Japan to “find themselves.” When I was newly arrived, I had a “Zen” roommate who boasted that he hadn’ t had sex in six months and assured me that he’d never need to have it again as long as he lived… he was 23 years old!! He was always making snide comments when I brought girlfriends home, but one night, when I was asleep on my side of the shoji (sliding paper partition), I was woken up by screams and moans coming from the other side!! The scene from my movie doesn’t really compare to that night! I found it so comical that I’ve always wanted to work it into one of my films. I tried to use it in an earlier movie but it didn’t work but it was perfect for Karakara. You must never take yourself too seriously. You can meditate and stay as fit as you like but you also have to be able to appreciate the good things in life!

Shooting a movie in Japan is extraordinary

Making a film in Japan is really extraordinary. The biggest advantage is that though people hesitate a lot before they commit, once they do, it becomes a matter life and death for them. For me this team mentality is really great. Even if they’re not 100 percent sold on something, they’ll do it. The fact that there are no unions here removes a major cause of stress. These days, directors don’t abuse their crew on set. When everyone is too tired, they stop. So I don’t see the point of having unions in the film industry. In Quebec, for example, it’s the employees who abuse their working conditions––counting every minute taken from meal breaks as overtime––just to make more money. It’s really disappointing for a director when an actor can’t do a scene in one take, and you have to give him or her extra time to get it right. That’s what is killing cinema! Here, in contrast, people complain that my working days are too short! But I want to give the job 100 percent; if I can only give 98 percent, I call it a day.


Born in Quebec in 1949, Claude Gagnon had made many world-famous movies, including Keiko, Kenny, and the newly released Karakara. He first came to Japan in the seventies and has been a regular visitor ever since. He is currently in Okinawa where he is already planning his next international movie projects.

Photo / Yosuke Suga Texte / JQR