A director whose long-term international reputation may rest on his taiyozoku, or “sun tribe” films. He did these for Nikkatsu Studios in the ‘50s and ‘60s. This is not what he was best known for in Japan in the decades before his death in 2002, though: after he left Nikkatsu (...)
Toshiro Mifune - The last shogun
Toshiro Mifune (1920-1997) was the most influential Japanese actor of his time and achieved more fame than any of his Japanese colleagues in the twentieth century. With his vivid portrayals of powerful warlords, rugged samurai (...)
Hiroshi Teshigahara was only incidentally a filmmaker. For decades recognized for his work in various classical Japanese art forms, he was a master and a modern trailblazer all at once. Son of the founder and grand master of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, he turned to film as an (...)
Inside the Well of Loneliness
In Japanese horror film, this environment is constitutive of the syntax of despair, emptiness, and isolation through which character is constructed. Sometimes the horror emanates from empty and forgotten spaces.
Before the rain
In three Kurosawa movies in particular, the scope and slant of the action are not just coloured, but virtually defined by an oppressive heatwave. His crime dramas are all pervaded by images of relentless, inescapable heat. Every character, male and female alike, is constantly (...)
Nobuhiko Obayashi - Vagabond of Time
Nobuhiko Obayashi is perhaps best known outside of Japan for the audacity and sheer randomness of his debut feature, the youth-horror escapade House. But while House continues to circulate in the confines of a cult cinema context, (...)
HIROSHI SHIMIZU - SILENT MASTER OF THE JAPANESE ETHOS
Because of the rediscovery of Shimizu's great silent films of the 1930s, we now do know how much more there was to this singular filmmaker who emerges as an artist of far greater stature (...)
FAMILIES, FATHERS, FILM: CHANGING IMAGES FROM JAPANESE CINEMA
In many respects, since its inception in the late 1800s, Japanese cinema has been and remains critically concerned with the family, seeing it as continuously on the verge of collapse. [PDF]
The 1960s and the possibility of underground film in Japan
If we look back at the emergence of Japanese independent films, we have to name three groups from the 1960s; the group of students centering around (...)
Filming at the Margins: Kazuo Hara
The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On, a highly original and controversial film, introduced a major talent in international cinema, the Japanese documentarist Hara Kazuo. With the release of this film, Hara was awarded the New Director Prize (...)
No Wasted Moments - The anti-cinema of Kiju Yoshida
The psychological atmosphere and the formal strategies of Yoshida's films are very different from those of the work of Nagisa Oshima, another New Wave director to whom he is frequently linked.
Mode of Social Critique
Like other artists of the period who began their careers in documentary, Yanagimachi maintained a fair distance from the studio system, and in his later career maintained that sense of independence. This was unlike the beginnings of many of the filmmakers (...)
The Spectral Landscape of Teshigahara, Abe, and Takemitsu
Takemitsu’s music for Woman in the Dunes relies almost totally on a string ensemble, first recorded and subsequently rearranged and distorted electronically for desired sound effects.
Towards a Theory of Ogawa’s Filmmaking
Narration explains what appears in the screen from outside of the screen. It both explains the situation taking place and places it in a context. It explains as well as constructs the context of the film. It constructs at the same time it unifies (...)
A master puppet-maker and painstaking animator, he left behind some incredible films that shared with us his exceptional insight into the anguished humanism of ancient Japanese Buddhism. He devoted his life with intense focus on his very special area of interest and reached (...)
Love Letter - A centenary valentine to Kinuyo Tanaka
The legendary Japanese star, invites reconsideration of a career whose significance—not only cinematic but also cultural—is little recognized in the West and perhaps has yet to be fully explored (...)
Full Metal Apache
The Tetsuo Series constitutes a very interesting revolving door of reading, for it has been skillfully hovering between the postwar Japanese discourse of creative masochism and tge post-Vietnam American discourse of post-colonianism. If you choose one, you will miss the other.
A Land Where Femmes Fatales Fear to Tread
The femme fatale is characterized by her potent sexuality and destructive power, with which she triumphs over her male prey and works his doom. In Japanese films of the late forties and fifties, westernized romance with sexual love (...)
Yusaku Matsuda - Lost Rebel
To gauge the impact and enduring popularity of Yusaku Matsuda in Japan, one need only walk into a Tokyo bookstore. In the cinema section, at least half a shelf will be taken up by photo books, essays, tributes (...)
Fleeting Glimpses - Sadao Yamanaka
Yamanaka is one of the filmmakers whose reputations are most tinged with the particular melancholy that clings to the fragility and evanescence of a medium that was never supposed to survive and whose existence always seems (...)
JAPAN, GODZILLA AND THE ATOMIC BOMB
During the flight back to Tokyo Tomoyuki Tanaka sat in his seat a worried man. Ordinary looking, having inherited the short stocky build characteristic of many Japanese men, he had just celebrated the passing of his forty-fourth birthday (...)
The concert films of sogo ishii
Ishii himself dabbled in music as a singer and guitarist, but soon found his true vocation after moving to Tokyo to study in 1977. In university, 19-year old Sogo Ishii turned to film. His early shorts, shot on 8 mm and 16 mm equipment borrowed (...)
Tatsuya Nakadai's Dissidents, Outcasts, and Shadow Warriors
Nakadai's screen debut came a year after the end of the American occupation in 1952. During the war, Japanese filmmakers had been compelled to uphold the feudal values of loyalty, duty (...)
The Shaw Brothers & The Japanese Connection
Shaws had already developed some ties to Japan, most steadily in the firm’s reliance on Tokyo’s Far East Film Laboratory for post-production work. Shaws occasionally collaborated with Japanese production firms too (...)
Portrait of Shintaro Ishihara as a young man
The emergence of the Sun Tribe ran parallel with the birth of the “teenager” in other countries, although the scale and scope in Japan was much less significant than American Graffiti-era teenyboppers in the U.S.
Tadanari Okamoto - The Heart of Animation
he continuously experimented with a huge range of methods and styles for creating films. His tenet was 'never the same thing twice'. He never allowed himself to repeat the same method twice in a row, always adding some new little touch (...)
"But my greatest obsession was individual freedom—the condition that the state had denied us absolutely during the war years—and I became fascinated by existentialism. At the time I was making a living from the black market: I bought illicit liquor and cigarettes from soldiers (...)"
"My tendency back then as well as now is that I lack the sense of discerning and discriminating between individual and society. Categorization isn’t my greatest gift. A typical concentric pattern of thinking — starting with an individual, there is a family, then there is a tribe (...)"
Pia film festival and jishu eiga
In contrast, jishu eiga are funded and produced totally outside of the industry. Jishu eiga filmmakers might be best described as "amateurs", people who make films for love rather than money, though more than a few hold (...)
Japanese cinema, the classroom, and Swallowtail Butterfly
Swallowtail Butterfly stands as a particularly illuminating example of the problems of value-based scholarship of Japanese cinema because it achieved popular box-office success but was (...)
A Page of Madness
Advances in Japanese cinema, as much as any other nation, are about breaks from conventional styles and means of representation. Every generation has turned out a handful of directors whose work has broken the mould to go far beyond the standards set by their contemporaries.
A New View of Porn
Tatsumi Kumashiro became a leading maker of Japanese soft-core porn films in the 1970s and 1980s. Because he aimed to make films whose interest ranged beyond sexual arousal, his work sheds new light on the debate over screen pornography. This study examines (...)
Like the outlaw and the artist, the would-be reformer takes a rebel stance against normative behaviour. In almost every film, Oshima’s main character or characters, whether artist, criminal or activist, makes the conscious choice to live in defiance of the law.
Epic Dreamer: An Akira Kurosawa Profile
To complete his transformation into a reputable moviemaker, Akira Kurosawa devoted himself to the art of screenwriting. “The best thing is to write screenplays,” stated Kurosawa. “This is basic to filmmaking, because an excellent (...)
Drawn to Anime: A Hayao Miyazaki Profile
“I was an overly self-conscious boy and I had a hard time holding my own in fights with others,” recalled renowned Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, “but my classmates eventually accepted me because I was good at drawing.”
Sex Education films in Japan
here are several genres within Japan's large cinematic legacy which - for better or worse -haven't drawn much attention so far. One of these unexplored genres is the sex education film, which despite persistent criticism has at times (...)
Ozu, Mizoguchi and Radical Politics
Questions over the figure of the emperor, his authority and divinity are raised, unconsciously, in Ozu's film. Whereas film critics have been quick to point out Ozu's themes on the inequalities of Japanese society and its hierarchical nature (...)
Secret History of Japanese Cinema: The Yakuza Movies
This article explores the interplay among economic imperatives within the entertainment business, the mafia’s role in the creation of its own media image, and the production of gangster films.
Climbing Mount Suzuki
In the noble range of Japanese cinema, Mount Suzuki may not be the highest peak, but this is a crag of unmistakable power and individuality, characterized by unique paradoxes: the works are earthy yet aestheticized, egalitarian yet obsessed with hierarchy, practical yet abstract.
A nightmare of capitalist Japan: Spirited Away
Hayao Miyazaki, who won the Oscar for the Best Animated Feature in 2003, makes films for children. But he does not to turn them into princes or princesses in a fairy tale world; instead he makes them employed workers in a fantasized (...)
In 1983, Tai Kato gave an insightful masterclass, named “The Fundamentals of my Filmmaking“. He talked about his favorite directors, how he discovered cinema, what it was like to work in the studio system, why low-angles are his trademark, who are his major (...)
Avant-garde, Pastiche, and Media Crossing
Terayama had many faces; playwright, stage-director, the founder of theatrical troupes, poet, novelist, lyricist, songwriter, essayist, journalist, critic, script writer, film director and TV presenter. His creative activities covered a wide range of media.
Pioneers of Japanese animation
Throughout the 30s, synchronised sound would come to replace the benshi, and many older films were reissued in new prints with new pre-recorded soundtracks. Kenzo Masaoka, who introduced groundbreaking changes into (...)
When Tomu Uchida died of cancer in 1970, Sight and Sound recorded, in one line, the demise of a “veteran Japanese director, little known in the West.” Thirty-five years later, this situation has barely changed. Occasional screenings of Uchida’s later films (...)
Natural Culturalism in "The Ballad of Narayama"
Imamura's portrayal of the characters and events in this film from his naturalistic standpoint should be regarded as his most important contribution. In this film, the whole cosmos is dominated by the laws of nature, which describe that everything (...)
Art Theater Guild
Founded in 1961 as a distributor of European art films in Japan, the Art Theater Guild (ATG) began co-producing independent films in 1967, and quickly established itself as the leading platform for highly experimental and innovative film. For three decades, ATG played (...) [PDF]
Tetsuji Takechi - Erotic Nightmares
Tetsuji Takechi is somewhat of an enigma to those of us trying to make sense of the wild and wonderful world of Japanese cinematic history. Primarily a theatre director who in the 50s successfully staged a number of plays described (...)
The Revisioning of the Real: Shinoda & "Double Suicide"
The similar experimentation that Terayama carried out in "Inugami" was done by film director Shinoda Masahiro in "Love Suicide at Amijima" independently but almost at the same time.
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