News and Opinion

Review of Research Guide to Japanese Film Studies

Donald Richie has again kindly written a review in the Japan Times of one of my books, the Research Guide to Japanese Film Studies, which I co-authored with Markus Nornes. I'm humbled and grateful. As one colleague said, "You should take him out to dinner!"

By the way, the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan is having a summer sale of its publications. So this is your chance to get the Research Guide and my A Page of Madness at a discount! I also strongly recommend Tom LaMarre's Shadows on the Screen and Yoshida Kiju's Ozu's Anti-Cinema

Hasebe Yasuharu

The news services are reporting that the action film director, Hasebe Yasuharu, passed away on June 14th from pneumonia. He was 77.

Hasebe went to Waseda before joining the Nikkatsu film studio in 1958. There he worked as an assistant director to such greats as Suzuki Seijun and Nomura Takashi before debuting as a director in 1966 with Kobayashi Akira's outrageous Black Tight Killers (Ore ni sawaru to abunai ze). He was one of the central directors of late Nikkatsu Action, with Mina-goroshi no kenju and Shima wa moratta being two of Nikkatsu's best hard boiled films of the late 1960s. Hasebe often participated on the scripts using the name Fujii Takashi. As Nikkatsu moved to New Action in the 1960s, Hasebe helmed several of the Stray Cat Rock (Nora neko rokku) films, including Sex Hunter, which is a brilliant exploration of sex, violence, race and nationalism (this is out on DVD in the USA). Using Kaji Meiko from that film, he also helped out with the Sasori series at Toei (DVD). Although he made the important Assault! Jack the Ripper (Boko kirisaku jakku - also on DVD), he never fit with Nikkatsu Roman Poruno and switched to doing mostly TV from the 1980s on. His obituaries all note Abunai deka and the recent hit Aibo as his major works (both related to TV), but it's his Nikkatsu films that are worth a second look.

New Technology and the Death of Japanese Film Criticism?

Sorry for the delay in updating this, but I leave for Japan in two weeks (I'll be there for a year) and am frantically trying to get a bunch of things done.

So today will be a "re-cycled" post as I pass on some things I wrote up in KineJapan (slightly re-written) about the state of film criticism in Japan. Markus Nornes asked us all whether any of us on the list felt threatened by Midnight Eye and the kind of new technologies it is bringing into film criticism and film studies. 

My first response was the following:

I don't feel threatened by Midnight Eye--I've even written for it before--but is Midnight Eye the only representative of what is being produced on the internet (the new technology)? Could one argue it is rather the exception as it seems that most of what is being produced are fan blogs of various levels of seriousness and breadth. Some are good (Ryuganji, J-FIlm Pow Wow, etc.), but a lot are just sites of narrow, shallow expressions of likes and dislikes. It's like the Japanese cinema page on Wikipedia: just a list of favorite movies or events with absolutely no historical or critical perception. While one can ask whether new technologies are enabling cinematic critique, there is also the question of whether the technologies--perhaps not inherently, but at least in their current manifestations--are undermining critique. They are also affecting, to a degree, what is being put out on DVD or getting released in the theaters, as we are swamped with J-horror and action and very little else.

Aaron in Japanese

I subscribe to one of those web stat services that lets you know how many people are looking at your site, as well as what keywords they are using to get here. In some ways it is pretty frightening: the service gives me the IP address of the user and in many cases the provider/server he or she is using. In some instances, especially with a few universities that give the professor's name to the particular server, I can even tell which individual is visiting the site. (Personally, I don't think institutions should do that.)

But it is kind of fun to look at why people come to the site. Most people come because they are looking for something about me or about Japanese cinema, but I also get a lot of hits for people looking for something quite different. For instance, I get a lot of visits for keywords like "movie industry statistics," which brings them to my introduction to the stats for last year, but I'm sure most are looking for American industry statistics, not Japanese ones. Amusingly, I sometimes get visits from Japanese users looking for "poruno" and ending up on my post on Akatsuka Fujio. (Please,  if you are looking for English language skin flicks, it is spelled "porno" not "poruno"!).

Miike Takashi and Contemporary Japanese Cinema

I had mentioned before that I had an article coming out on Miike Takashi. Well it's now out, as part of a special issue, entitled "Contemporary Japanese Cinema in Transition" and edited by Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano (author of Nippon Modern), of the Canadian Journal of Film Studies (volume 18, number 1).

Here are the main articles in the issue:

Daisuke Miyao, "From Doppelganger to Monster: Kitano Takeshi’s Takeshis’"

Aaron Gerow, "The Homelessness of Style and the Problems of Studying Miike Takashi"

William Gardner, "The Cyber Sublime and the Virtual Mirror: Information and Media in the Works of Oshii Mamoru and Kon Satoshi"

Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano, "Capturing 'Authenticity': Digital Aesthetics in the Post-Studio Japanese Cinema"

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