News and Opinion

I am still amazed by those who have the time to maintain a blog. I don't, so the best I can offer here is occasional short bits of news and observations. 

I have disabled comments for this site. If you want to discuss Japanese cinema, please join KineJapan, the list for which I serve as co-owner. 

Aoyama Shinji’s “Nouvelle Vague Manifesto” Revisited

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I am back at Yale after a summer in Japan, and one of the pleasant surprises awaiting me when I returned was a copy of issue 6 of the magazine Nang. Nang is a magazine focused on Asian cinema that is only available on paper in expertly designed printed editions. Published twice a year by editor-in-chief Davide Cazzaro, it will continue for a total of ten issues, with each issue focused on a theme and supervised by a guest editor. Issue 6 was dedicated to the subject of “Manifestos” and was guest edited by Darcy Paquet.

I contributed to the issue through the republication of my English translation of Aoyama Shinji’s 1997 “Nouvelle Vague Manifesto; Or, How I Became a Disciple of Philippe Garrel.” I had previously published that online in Adrian Martin’s journal Lola, where you can still read it here. I had supplied an introduction to that manifesto (seen here), one that worked a lot off of my essay on Aoyama in Yvonne Tasker’s Fifty Contemporary Film Directors (I have posted that on the Yale repository here). For Nang, Darcy was hoping that several of the persons involved could revisit the manifesto from today’s perspective, but Aoyama-san was just too busy to write something, and I felt someone else should offer a more novel view. So I just provided a new one-page introduction, and my former student Ryan Cook of Emory wrote up a quite interesting analysis that reconsiders Aoyama’s relation to Hasumi Shigehiko. 

Movie Tourism: The Tora-san Museum and the Yamada Yoji Museum in Shibamata

There is much discussion these days about anime tourism such as seichi junrei, in which fans visit the locations of their favorite anime, especially when those anime took the pains to locate scenes and events in actually existing spaces. 

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Tourism based on moving images is nothing new, however. Postwar film series such as Nikkatsu’s Rambler (Wataridori) series or Shochiku’s Tora-san (Otoko wa tsurai yo) series featured roving heroes in part so that each film would be set in a different place and spark tourism to that location. The Taiga Drama series on NHK is famous for generating tourism to the locations the actual history depicted in the drama took place.

In going to the Tora-san Museum the other day, right after visiting the Ichikawa Kon Memorial Room, I could see a facility that attempts to generate tourism about a film series that itself attempted to generate tourism. In this case, the entire area around the museum has become part of tourist double mirror.

The Tora-san series, largely created and directed by Yamada Yoji, features the itinerant peddler Kuruma Torajiro. Forty-eight films were made in the series while the actor Atsumi Kiyoshi, who plays Tora-san, was still alive, making it one of the most successful film series in Japan, if not the world. In every film, he has to return home once or twice, and that home is in Shibamata, Katsushika-Ku, Tokyo. And that, naturally, is where the Museum is located.

Conversations in Silence 6: Kinugasa Teinosuke’s Crossroads (Jujiro)

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We had a good turnout in June for the fifth edition of Conversations in Silence at Haremame, where we showed the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Kataoka Ichiro was decked out in his frock coat (which he only wears for Caligari), and Kikuchi Naruyoshi set the mood using mostly German music from Stockhausen to body music. The talk afterwards was great, especially as Kikuchi-san talked at length about the difficulties of adding music to Japanese vs. European films.

The next film in the series might be a test of Kikuchi-san’s skills, since we will be showing Kinugasa Teinosuke’s experimental jidaigeki Crossroads (Jujiro) from 1928. We showed Kinugasa’s Page of Madness (about which I have written a book) for the first edition of the series, and Crossroads was the director’s attempt at experimentation subsequent to that, after having returned to mainstream filmmaking for a few years. It is quite unusual compared to the jidaigeki of the time, both for its noirish lighting and tale of love and blindness, but also for the fact it was one of the first period films not to have a sword fight, which was a defining feature of jidaigeki. A master director of jidaigeki, Kinugasa was bending genre rules and aiming for something else. I wonder how Kikuchi-san will interpret this film that is neither European nor clearly fitting the rules of a Japanese jidaigeki.

Ichikawa Kon Memorial Room

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Having published on Ichikawa Kon before (see my article here), I’ve been meaning to do it for some time, but I finally made the trek to visit the Ichikawa Kon Memorial Room (市川崑記念室). It is a small museum in Shibuya dedicated to the illustrious filmmaker Ichikawa Kon and his scriptwriter wife, Wada Natto

The museum itself is in Nanpeidaicho about a fifteen minute walk from Shibuya Station. It is located where Ichikawa and Wada had their house. The house was torn down and an apartment building built on the site in 2015. The first floor is where the Memorial Room is located.

It is not that large. The walls in the entrance hall are full of introductions to all of Ichikawa’s feature films. The main room is devoted to exhibits (see the photo below). On the walls are exhibits featuring some of his major films: Harp of BurmaEnjo, Her Brother, Ten Dark Women, Tokyo Olympiad, and The Makioka Sisters. They feature copies of the scripts, storyboards, press materials, and other items. Ichikawa was a very diligent and meticulous man, and he made colored charts for the productions of his films that are also on display. He was one of the first Japanese feature film directors to emerge from the world of animation, so his storyboards are quite delightful. Some of his last efforts at animation—cut out animation—are also on view, as are some materials from his TV work and a number of his awards. There are also his personal 35mm camera and Steenbeck editing table.

Conversations in Silence 5: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

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As you might remember, last year I did a series of silent film events at Haremame, the event space in Daikanyama, in conjunction with the benshi Kataoka Ichiro and the musician Kikuchi Naruyoshi. We called the series “Conversations in Silence,” and I mainly participated by introducing the film and leading the after-film discussion. The first one (which I wrote about here) featured Page of Madness, and the second one centered on Fukujuso (written about here). We three also did an event on Lotte Reiniger’s The Adventures of Prince Achmed, after which I returned to the States. While I was gone, Kataoka-san and Kikuchi-san did a fourth Conversations in Silence on Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, with Iwamoto Kenji, my coeditor on the Nihon sense eiga ronshu

Well, I’m back in Japan and I wanted to let you know that we will do the fifth edition of Conversations in Silence next week, on Monday June 17, 2019. We will be showing The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (using a DVD of a restored version). The three amigos have reunited, with Karaoke performing the benshi, Kikuchi deejaying music, and little ol' me hanging around to provide commentary. The film was quite influential worldwide, particular in Japan, providing one inspiration for A Page of Madness (as I discussed in my book on the film). Tokugawa Musei's narration of Caligari was quite famous, and Kyoko Omori at Hamilton has made available online a portion of a recording of Musei’s benshi narration, taken during a special revival some fourty years later (you can check it out here). So I am dying to see how Kataoka-san does it, and given how Kikuchi-san handled Page of Madness last year, this promises to be another very creative mix of music. 

Alexander Sokurov, The Sun, and Representing the Japanese Emperor

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A year and a half ago, on the occasion of the Nichigei Film Festival which as focused on the representation of the Japanese emperor in film (see my writeup here), I talked a bit on this blog about the difficulty of representing the Japanese emperor on film. This did not mean the emperor was never represented, but even a 1957 feature film like The Solitary One, which I discussed in the writeup, only showed the Crown Prince (later the Heisei Emperor) metonymically though his voice or hands. The emperor became a cinematic problem, posing questions as to how the gaze at the emperor (by characters, by the camera) can be constructed, and, in some cases, how the emperor himself can gaze. Can the emperor, for instance, be made the subject of a point of view shot, which essentially inserts the spectator’s gaze in his, and if so, how?

I had the opportunity to consider this when Alexander Sokurov made the film The Sun (Solntse, 2005) about Hirohito in the last days of WWII, with Issey Ogata playing the emperor. The right wing made threats against the film, but it ended up screening successfully in Japan. An “official book” was produced, and I was asked to contribute an essay. I introduced one of our Yale students at the time, Jeremi Szaniawski, who also contributed a piece (he later published his dissertation on Sokurov as The Cinema of Alexander Sokurov). Since the volume was in Japanese, I tried to save myself some time by writing the article in English and having another Yale student, Naoki Yamamoto, translate it. (It’s unfortunately another one of my Japanese articles I never got around to publishing in English, a few of which I have begun uploading on to the Yale repository, with English versions when available, such as my 1994 article on Suzuki Seijun’s firing from Nikkatsu and my best 30 Japanese films of 1989–1997.)

Of Sea and Soil: The Cinema of Tsuchimoto Noriaki and Ogawa Shinsuke

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As I mentioned in my last post, I went to Ghent in Belgium at the beginning of April to participate in the Courtisane Festival 2019. The Festival was holding a mini-retrospective of the documentaries of Tsuchimoto Noriaki and I was invited to give a talk, entitled “Tsuchimoto Noriaki, Minamata, and Japanese Documentary," and introduce a couple of his films. It was a wonderful festival—small but focused—and I was thrilled to see that most of the Tsuchimoto films were practically sold out. It was also a pleasure to see Paolo Rocha’s A Ilha de Moraes (1984), an intriguing documentary by the Portuguese director about the Portuguese writer and diplomat Wenceslau de Moraes, who ended up living the last portion of his life in Japan. 

Courtisane also produced a catalog of the Tsuchimoto retrospective, in collaboration with Cinematek in Brussels, which did an Ogawa Shinsuke retro. I contributed an essay to Of Sea and Soil: The Cinema of Tsuchimoto Noriaki and Ogawa Shinsuke entitled “Tsuchimoto Noriaki and Environment in Documentary Film,” which attempts to consider how Tsuchimoto’s environmentalism is based not simply in his film content but also his film form. 

Tsuchimoto Noriaki at Courtisane

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Just a quick note, but I will be traveling to Ghent in Belgium this week to participate in Courtisane Festival 2019. This year’s film festival will feature the sidebar “Artist in Focus: Tsuchimoto Noriaki” and I have been invited to give a talk on Tsuchimoto and the background to his films. The Festival will show seven of Tsuchimoto’s works:

  • An Engineer’s Assistant
  • On the Road
  • Exchange Student Chua Swee-Lin
  • Prehistory of the Partisans
  • Minamata: The Victims and Their World
  • The Shiranui Sea
  • Umitori—The Stolen Sea at the Shimokita Peninsula 

My talk will be on Saturday, April 6, at 15:00 in the Paddenhoek. The page on the retrospective is here

In addition to talking about Tsuchimoto, Minamata, Iwanami, and his approach to documentary, using several clips from his films, I will introduce the Tsuchimoto Collection, his personal papers that have been donated to Yale. Not just their contents, but the Collection itself I think speaks to important aspects of his character and approach to cinema. 

If you are in Belgium, come and say hello. If not, stay tuned for future announcements about Tsuchimoto related events and developments.

UPDATE: I posted about the catalog for the Tsuchimoto and Ogawa Shinsuke retros being made available on line. Check it out here.

Best 30 Japanese Films…of 1989–1997

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I’ve been uploading some of my old articles to the Yale repository, but most have been the ones in English. This time I decided to upload a rather unique piece I did in 1997.

As some of you know, I picked the best ten Japanese films of the year for the annual Eiga geijutsu poll for a number of years. But my first experience in producing a “best” list for publication was a few years before that in 1997, when the Japanese intellectual journal Yuriika (Eureka) asked me to produce a list for a special issue devoted to the theme "Japanese Cinema: From Kitano Takeshi On." I was asked to write an article selecting the thirty best Japanese films made since Kitano Takeshi debuted as a director in 1989. The time span and the number of films was the editor’s choice, but the project intrigued me as an assertion not only that a period of cinema began in 1989, but also that the period was significantly defined by Kitano. I of course cited that in my book on him.

I was also intrigued by the possibility of selecting what is “the best.” Yes, there was a tiny bit of excitement over participating in the process of canon formation (though frankly I don’t think anyone has ever cited this list as a canon former), but I was more enthusiastic about being able to support some excellent films, including a few virtually unknown works. More importantly, this was an opportunity for a precocious young scholar to interrogate the concept of the “best” list itself. In the end, I selected films that themselves questioned the categories assumed by the list itself, particularly the notions of “Japan” and “cinema.” 

Kinema Club XVIII: Gender and Sexuality in Japanese Cinema

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Our big Japanese film event at Yale this academic year is the Kinema Club conference, which is taking place February 22-24, 2019. As some of you know, Kinema Club has been around for over twenty years, serving as an informal network of those interested in Japanese film and media, including academics and non-academics. In the early years, it was primarily a means for exchanging information, but we soon took advantage of the internet and started a website at Ohio State University and began the KineJapan mailing list. We moved the website to Yale a few years ago (you can see it here), and last year moved the mail server for KineJapan to Yale as well. In the age of many other social media options, the old-fashioned mailing list is still very strong at KineJapan. You are welcome to subscribe here.

Although Kinema Club has no officers, no constitution, or membership fees, it has successfully put on conferences nearly every year in places ranging from Japan, the USA, Germany, Austria, and the UK. As a somewhat anarchistic organization, it has largely depended on a local institution or group of people to host the conference—and then everyone tries to go. Yale has hosted the event twice before: Kinema Club VII in 2006 (with Kurosawa Kiyoshi as a guest) and Kinema Club XII in 2013. Given Kinema Club’s anarchic nature, the  formats of the conferences have varied, from full-fledged conferences with papers read to small workshops where the papers are distributed beforehand and participants only discuss them (that was what KC XII was like). 

Repetition and Rupture in the Films of Kawase Naomi

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I hope everyone has been enjoying the new year of 2019. As some of you have noticed, I have tried to use the holiday break to update Tangemania, for instance by starting a new page on my Journal Articles (I’m not sure why I didn’t do that before), as well as adding more links on the site to my articles available on the Yale repository.

In the midst of doing that, I realized that I had some time ago uploaded my article on the film director and documentarist Kawase Naomi to the repository without announcing it here. Kawase-san and I go back a ways. I was one of the first to program her works at an international film festival (the New Asian Currents program of the 1995 Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival), and also interviewed her in 2000 for the YIDFF periodical, Documentary Box (see the interview here). We were close enough that my wife and I had her over for dinner at our house, and when the Infinity Film Festival in Italy did one of the first retrospectives of her work in Europe in 2002, I was invited as the outside expert, and did a day-long workshop with her. I sadly have not had much contact with her in the last decade, and some people I know grumble that as she has grown famous she has distanced herself from the people who helped her get started, but I still eagerly await her new films, even as I remain occasionally critical of them (like with Kitano, I tend to be a fan of the early work). 

Rediscovering Classical Japanese Film Theory: An Anthology

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It’s finally out!

As many of you know, Markus Nornes and I have been working on an anthology of Japanese film theory for over a decade. The English one is still in the works, but the first volume of the Japanese edition is finally out from Yumani Shobo under the title Nihon senzen eigaronshu: Eiga riron no saihakken. The title in English is Rediscovering Classical Japanese Film Theory: An Anthology.

It is really the first of its kind even in Japan. There have been collections of writings on film in Japan, but whenever there is a collection of “film theory” (eiga riron), almost all the authors are foreign. It is as if “film theory” did not or does not exist in Japan. This is a problem I have called the “theory complex” in a previous article (available here). 

There is and has been, however, a plethora of fascinating and stimulating writing about the nature of cinema—what anyone would call “theory”—in Japan since the first years of cinema, some of which I have been introducing for over two decades, starting with the work of Gonda Yasunosuke (an example is here). Others have been investigating Japanese film theory as well, and so Markus and I started putting together a table of contents for what could become an anthology of the more interesting theoretical pieces on Japan. The themed issue of the Review of Japanese Culture and Society I edited in 2010 was a test run of such an anthology. 

A Prehistory of Japanese Sci-Fi and Fantasy Cinema

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Continuing my project of uploading old articles onto the Yale repository, I recently uploaded a more recent piece on the history of Japanese science fiction and fantasy films in the prewar era. Mark Schilling, who has programmed several marvelous retrospectives at the Udine Far East Film Festival, put together a series for the 2016 edition entitled “Beyond Godzilla: Alternative Futures and Fantasies in Japanese Cinema” to give audiences a sense of how rich Japanese sci-fi and fantasy film is beyond the big green monster. He kindly asked me to pen a piece on prewar works for the catalog of the retrospective.

Prewar Japanese science fiction and fantasy film remains relatively unknown, primarily because not too many films were made and few prints have survived. As I argue in the piece, against a film culture that valorized realism, such works were often confined to the margins of the industry, with movies like the legendary King Kong Appears in Edo (1938; an ad for the film is on the right) or The Steel Man (1938; featuring samurai battling a robot) mostly being produced by third-rung studios. Toho was the exception, making for instance the time-slip film Shimizu Harbor, Part II (1940) or Son Goku (1940), and thus helping lay the foundations for Godzilla and postwar tokusatsu films. Son Goku was Tsuburaya Eiji’s first SFX flick for Toho, so I couldn’t help but talk about his beginnings as a camera assistant on Page of Madness (1926), one of prewar Japan’s most complex and inventive films in terms of camera effects. (An introduction to my book on the film is here.)

An Old and New Interview with Hara Kazuo

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Sorry for the paucity of posts. After a year in Japan, I have returned to Yale and been bombarded with work. One of my last gigs in Japan, however, was a conversation on 18 August 2018 with the documentarist Hara Kazuo after a screening of his A Dedicated Life (Zenshin shōsetsuka, 1994), which was shown as part of a retrospective of his work at Uplink in Shibuya (an image of the flyer is on the right). It was the first time I had done an event with Hara-san since the Berkeley conference in May 2009 dedicated to him. The theater was basically full and we had a great conversation.

The talk centered on a number of interesting connections. On a personal side, A Dedicated Life recalled my first interview with Hara-san back in 1993 for Documentary Box, the journal of the Yamagata Film Festival that I later edited for a couple of years. In it, he talked about the difficulty of filming a subject who was gradually fading away in front of his eyes. In this case, it was the novelist Inoue Mitsuharu, whom Hara started filming only to find out he had cancer. Inoue was one of those nonconformist characters Hara likes to focus on like Okuzaki Kenzo of Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987) fame, one who stand out in society. Inoue was not only a forceful presence, who performs his idiosyncrasy, but also a womanizer. Yet his body slowly wears away on screen. Hara-san talked about the difficulty of filming such a disappearing subject.

Reorienting Ozu: Hasumi Shigehiko, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Asia

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As part of my research on the history of Japanese film theory, I have taken advantage of opportunities here and there to approach the subject—and individual thinkers in particular—from various angles. One such occasion was a conference in Berkeley in 2010 centered on the place of Ozu Yasujiro within Asian cinema. I took the opportunity to triangulate some relations that, while not always direct, were suggestive not just about Ozu but also about the place of theory in contemporary Japan. In particular, noting the often facile comparisons between Ozu and the Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien, I wondered if there was not a better way to relate the two filmmakers by considering the thinking of Hasumi Shigehiko, the famed film critic and university president who was a champion of both Ozu and Hou. Even if he denied any direct similarity between the two, his approach to the two reveals both how contemporary Japanese theoretical discourse articulates the cinema and the Ozu-qua-Hasumi context behind Hou’s reception in Japan. My contribution also served as a good opportunity to summarize Hasumi’s approach to cinema—which can be highly theoretical even as it resists theory.

Conversations in Silence 2: Fukujuso and Queer Japanese Cinema in the 1930s

I reported on the first edition of Conversations in Silence back in April. On June 11, we held the second session at Haremame, again with Kataoka Ichiro serving as benshi and Kikuchi Naruyoshi deejaying music. This time the theme was “LGBT” and we showed a rare and fascinating film made by Shinko Kinema in 1935 entitled Fukujuso (director: Kawate Jiro). The film was released as a “sound-ban,” which means it had music and possibly sound effects on the sound track, but the sound no longer exists, so we showed it as a silent film. It is based on one of the stories in Yoshiya Nobuko’s Hana monogatari, and was the first of a couple films made at the time using that work. What was so interesting about the film was that it appears to strongly depict the love between two women.

Fukujuso

Often considered a pioneer of shojo shosetsu, Yoshiya has garnered much interest recently, as her stories narrated in elegant Japanese of the friendships of young women, often in boarding schools, have been interpreted through queer readings as explorations of lesbian sexuality. In the United States, for instance, Sarah Frederick at Boston University has been writing on and translating Yoshiya’s literature (here is one essay).

Rare Record of Japanese Movie Theater Advertising Troupe from 1929

A few people have been sharing online a YouTube video purporting to show street scenes in Kyoto from 1929. I was suspicious at first, since the same YouTube user previously also uploaded footage from the 1910s with sound the user added. But it does seem the video is a collection of authentic sound films of Japan in 1929, taken by Fox Movietone cameramen. The combination is sloppy, however, since at least one of scenes is not from Kyoto but from Kamakura.

What I find annoying is that these videos are not this user’s own films, but taken lock stock and barrel from the Moving Image Research Collections of the University of South Carolina. You can tell that from the watermark in the footage, but the user does little to foreground where s/he took this footage from, even though the Collection website states that "The University owns the rights to most of the material held by MIRC.” Archives, who do the hard and essential work of accumulating, preserving, and in this case, digitizing and making available online old films, should get proper credit.

Realism and the History of Japan-Soviet Film Interactions

I am currently trying to finish up my book on the history of Japanese film theory. One of the chapters I've recently worked on focused on Iwasaki Akira, arguably the most prominent leftwing critic in Japan from the 1920s to the 1970s. He’s both a legendary figure, one involved in many of the major trends in political cinema, as well as a contradictory one, as he problematically tread the spaces between cinematic art, Marxism, Soviet socialist realism, and humanism.

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Anastasia Fedorova has just published a fascinating book that accounts for part of the background for a person like Iwasaki. The title “Riarizumu no genso” can be translated as “The Illusion of Realism” and it offers a narrative that covers a significant aspect in Japanese cinema’s complex relation to realism: its interactions with Soviet cinema. She begins by detailing how Soviet avant-garde cinema and montage theory affected the mainstream Japanese film world in the 1920s and 1930s as a form of realism, one so powerful that there was even an early attempt at Japan-USSR collaboration in the 1933 travel film, Big Tokyo, directed by Vladimir Shneiderov (the book includes a transcript of the Soviet version of the film). It was the failure of that film, she argues, that led to a different Japanese appropriation of Soviet film technique in the name of politics and national culture by the documentarist Kamei Fumio, who actually studied in Moscow. The story continues into the postwar, as she first shows how a different realism—socialist realism—affected postwar Japanese film, especially the leftwing independent films of the 1950s that have largely been ignored in scholarship in Japan and the USA. Then, in what is likely to be one of the book’s most significant contributions, she argues that Japanese leftwing films’ particular appropriation of socialist realism—her main example is Kamei’s Woman Walking Alone on the Earth (Onna hitori daichi o yuku, 1953)—subsequently affected Soviet film by showing Russian filmmakers what a post-thaw cinema could look like. 

Kawabata and Cinema: The Ambivalence of Knowledge, Medium, and Influence

In 2014 I had the fortune of participating in an international symposium on the Nobel Prize winning novelist, Kawabata Yasunari, that took place in Paris. I wrote about that experience here. There I spoke about Kawabata’s relationship with cinema, a topic that was an extension of my book on A Page of Madness, a film which Kawabata helped create. Through the hard work of Wada Hirofumi and others, a Japanese anthology emerged first from that conference at the end of 2016, which contains a short version of my paper on Kawabata and film (I introduced that here). 

Well, the full version in English finally came out in January of this year. Thanks to the diligence of Michael Bourdaghs and others, the journal Japan Forum published an issue devoted to the theme “Kawabata Yasunari in the Twenty-First Century” largely composed of selected papers from the symposium. It features a wonderful piece by the novelist Tawada Yoko, as well as thought provoking scholarly articles by Irmela Hijiya-Kirschnereit, Kono Kensuke, Nihei Masato, Tomi Suzuki, and Wada Hirofumi. 

Conversations in Silence 1: A Page of Madness, a Benshi, and Music

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I forgot to announce this before it happened, but last week on April 5th, I got to participate in a rather unique event centered on Kinugasa Teinosuke’s A Page of Madness (Kurutta ichipeiji), about which I wrote a book. At the event space Haretara Sora ni Mame Maite (meaning “When it clears sow beans in the sky”—or Haremame for short), there was a screening of the film with Kataoka Ichiro doing benshi narration and the jazz musician Kikuchi Naruyoshi deejaying music for the film. Since Haremame is a small but delightful space (with tatami mats!), we used the Blu-ray of the film I discussed earlier, with permission from Flicker Alley. I introduced the film and MC’d the after-screening discussion. It was the first in a series of three silent film events called “Conversations in Silence” that the three of us will be doing at Haremame.

As I mentioned in the book, there is no historical record (that I could find), of the music that was performed with the film upon its first release, or of the style of benshi narration. What I could find is that it showed at the Tokyokan narrated by Ishii Masami and Tamai Kyokuyo with music selected by Oshima Kyotaro, or at Kyoto’s Shochikuza with Ishida Kyokka as the benshi and music arranged by Sasai Sei, to provide two instances. The great benshi Tokugawa Musei did perform the narration at Shinjuku’s Musashinokan, and there is a chance he did it in a style similar to his explanation of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (check out Kyoko Omori’s collection of clips of Caligari synched with a recording of the narration that Musei provided in 1968), since Page of Madness was influenced by that work. But Naoki Sanjugo (after whom the Naoki Prize is named), when noting Musashinokan audience members praising Musei for explaining that incomprehensible film, complained that it was contradictory for a film that rejected intertitles, if not also conventional meaning making, to have a benshi. So there was the question of what role sound—both words and music—was supposed to play with this supposedly avant-garde film.

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