David Mamet Shows off his 'Redbelt'
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Back now with Day to Day. The disgustingly accomplished film and stage writer and director, David Mamet is know for his brawny dialogue and works like the Pulitzer Prize winning play "Glengarry Glen Ross." He's brawny otherwise too though. For the last six years he's been studying jujitsu, part martial art, part fitness regimen, part spiritual quest, and now part film grist. A new martial arts movie that he wrote and directed opens Friday. The main character is a jujitsu instructor who thinks of martial arts as his religion. The film is "Redbelt."
Unidentified Man # 1: "Whitebelt" is someone who walks in off the street. Blackbelt is someone the teacher recognizes is fit to instruct. In between we have Blue, Purple and Brown.
Unidentified Woman: What do you have to do to get a Redbelt?
Unidentified Man # 1: There's only one.
CHADWICK: David Mamet is 59. We spoke at his Santa Monica office, and I wondered could he really physically go up against a man half his age, which is not me, by the way.
Mr. DAVID MAMET (Director, "Redbelt"): A wonderful idea about jujitsu either works or it doesn't. The central motion is all about body mechanics. How to use your knowledge to counteract the other guys' strength. They used to say that jujitsu is the old man's sport because as you get better at it, what you do is you learn to use less strength.
CHADWICK: Will people watching this film believe the reverence with which the - your lead character views the process of jujitsu.
Mr. MAMET: Sure. And did you?
CHADWICK: Well I did because your character can carry that off. What is that that people have there, this spiritual aspect of it?
Mr. MAMET: Well, you know Bob Dylan famously said you got to serve somebody. I've listened to a lot of interesting talks on AM Radio, between atheists and religious people. And I realize I don't think there are any - there's no such thing as atheists. That the people - I think that everybody believes in a higher power, except that some people for a variety of reasons don't choose to call that power God. But they might call it a force of the universe, or they might call it fate. In fact some people who would characterize themselves as very, very anti-religious, call it my bad luck. Nonetheless, these are all expressions of the human need to understand that there's some force at work in the universe.
One way that I think that an advance, which is to say, happier way to interact with this force, is to find that force to which one can be reverent. A lot of people give devotions to good works. A lot of people give devotion to sports. But all of us I think are looking for something unto which - something bigger than ourselves. And so, what the film is about - is about a man who is very spiritual man, whose expression of spirituality happens to be his devotion to the idea of the perfect fighter - he perfect jujitsu fighter. And as such he attracts a lot of adherence.
Unidentified Man # 2: You train people to fight?
Unidentified Man # 1: No, I train people to prevail. Everything has a force. Embrace it or deflect it. Why oppose it?
CHADWICK: But he's a fighter who doesn't want to fight.
Mr. MAMET: Well, the idea is as he says, the point is not to fight, but the point is to prevail. Right? The point is - because - conflict is a fact of life. We never get away from conflict. So, that one of the philosophical ideas contained in jujitsu is why oppose force to force. What is your objective? Is your objective to bluster? Is your objective to exhaust yourself in endless fighting? Or, is your objective to prevail over those forces to which you are opposed? And there are many ways to prevail. One way is to walk away. Another one is to take the force and turn it to the side, so that you don't have two guys saying, oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah. Take the force and turn it to the side, to divert the other person's energy. And a third way is, if the other person seems intent on fighting, to let him exhaust himself until such time as you can - using as little force as possible, subdue him.
(Soundbite of movie "Redbelt")
Unidentified Man # 1: That makes you mad. Control your emotions. Control your emotions. Breathe!
CHADWICK: A scene from David Mamet's new film "Redbelt". Tomorrow we'll continue our conversation with David, moving from jujitsu to other forms of combat like art and politics.
Mr. MAMET: Yeah, I wrote this piece for the Village Voice called "Political Stability," because it occurred to me half the country cannot be wrong all the time. That whether one's a Democrat or a Republican, it can't be true that the people wear a different colored lapel pin are not only wrong but savage monsters.
CHADWICK: More Mamet tomorrow on Day to Day.