News and Opinion

Film, Benjamin, and Art

Sorry for the string of publication announcements, but I just had to note two more interesting books that have just come out.

Nakamura Hideyuki, Gareki no tenshitachi: Benyamin kara eiga no mihatenu yume e瓦礫の天使たち—ベンヤミンから“映画”の見果てぬ夢へ』(Serika Shobo, 2010)

Nakamura-san is really one of the smartest people writing on film in Japan today and this book, a collection of his previous essays, uses Walter Benjamin and Michel Foucault to reconsider the relationship between film and urban space, focusing in particular on Chaplin, Keaton, and King Vidor.

Oshima and the Postwar Image

I've been meaning to mention this for some time, but two books recently came out on postwar Japanese film and media that are worth taking a look at.

Imeji toshite no sengoイメージとしての戦後』, eds. Tsuboi Hideto and Fujiki Hideaki (Seikyusha, 2010).

This features articles on a variety of media, but of particular interest are those on Tezuka Osamu (by Tom Lamarre), Ozu Yasujiro (by Dogase Masato), Oshii Mamoru (by Mizukawa Hirofumi), robot manga (by Baba Nobuhiko), and Mizoguchi Kenji's Akasen chitai (by Nakamura Hideyuki).

Yomota Inuhiko, Oshima Nagisa to Nihon大島渚と日本』  (Chikuma Shobo, 2010).

This, as the obi announces, questions whether translating the Japanese "to" as "and" is really appropriate for considering Oshima's relation to Japan, and then asks whether "versus" is not a better option. Yomota is arguably the best scholar on Oshima in Japan today.

Two New Japanese Journals

A number of research chores and a bad cold have kept me out of the blogging loop. The gap, however, did remind me that I have been meaning to mention two new journals that have appeared in Japanese that promise to pursue at least some issues related to film and other moving image media. Both have also recently published reviews of some of my publications (which means they can't be all that bad!).

JunCture 超域的日本文化研究 had its first issue published in January. It is the official journal of the Research Center for Modern and Contemporary Japanese Culture at Nagoya University and should be published once a year (their website has a call for submissions for the next issue). The first one featured the special topic "Deconstructing Japanese Culture" and articles by such well-known culture scholars as Naoki Sakai and Mori Yoshitaka. Among the many articles on various topics, including literature, dance, and ethnography, there are several film-related pieces, including Fujiki Hideaki's examination of the ill-fated National Center for Media Arts (the so-called "Anime no Dendo"), Mizobuchi Kumiko's piece on the use of film in Japanese language education in the 1950s, and Hata Ayumi's analysis of Ogawa Shinsuke's Forest of Oppression.  Dogase Masato also contributed a nice review of our Research Guide to Japanese Film Studies. The website tells you how you can get a copy. 

The Akira Kurosawa Memorial Museum Memorial

Some may recall that an Akira Kurosawa Memorial Museum was being planned for the city of Imari in Saga Prefecture. Kurosawa himself had picked the location after visiting it during the production of Ran.

Well, the last straw has fallen and the Museum plan has gone kaput. The news services report that the city has demanded return of the money it paid to the Akira Kurosawa Foundation--the foundation in charge of creating the museum which is run by Kurosawa Hisao, Akira's son--for the initial rights to host the museum and use Kurosawa's memorabilia.

This is the result of many months of problems with the Foundation, which has been accused of serious mishandling of money. The Foundation had been collecting donations to build the Museum, which was estimated to cost about 1.4 billion yen. It submitted some reports saying it had collected about 380 million yen, but when forced to submit official accounting it then became apparent it only had about 1.4 million yen in cash on hand: whatever money had been donated had been diverted into running a prefab "satellite studio" in Imari or to other purposes, but that had not been properly reported to the city or the prefecture. Other problems soon came to light: the Foundation had, contrary to law, not held a meeting of its board of directors for 5 years, and thus had not created proper yearly accounting statements; the Foundation publicized that Spielberg, Lukas and Scorsese were official members of the board when they only agreed to be honorary members; etc. There are some related articles in Japanese here and here and here.

Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences (JASIAS) 2010

A few weeks ago I wrote about academic film societies in Japan, and in particular the Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences (Nihon Eizo Gakkai 日本映像学会). The JASIAS had its annual conference last weekend at the Arts Faculty of Nihon University in Tokyo, so I thought I'd report on it.

JASIAS conferences can be hit and miss. They are usually held the first weekend in June and  schedule is often to have a symposium on Saturday and paper panels on Sunday. The society usually switches back and forth between holding the conference in Tokyo and holding it elsewhere (next year it will be in Sapporo), and the Tokyo sessions are much better attended with many more papers. So this time they had papers even on Saturday. The symposia, planned around a particular topic, are often a mish-mash of honored guests, which sometimes results in a lack of focused discussion. This year's topic was "The Digital and the Analog," but again the guests were too diverse to get a debate going. The famed photographer Hosoe Eiko was there, but his talk about digital as just one new tool in his toolbox did not quite mesh with talks about digital broadcasting. Okajima Hisashi, head of the Film Center and now president of FIAF, gave a needed talk about how bad digital is as a preservation medium, but everyone was too deferential to argue over the another panelist's assertion about improvements in digital archiving. 

Censoring The Cove in Japan

As a scholar who has done a lot of research on the history of film censorship in Japan, I like to remind people that censorship takes many forms and need not all be state centered.

The Asahi reports this morning that one of the theaters scheduled to show the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove has broken under pressure from right-wing organizations and decided not to show the film. The right-wingers, who had threatened to begin protests on the 4th in front of the theater, had already performed loud protests in front of the distributor in April, charging those associated with the film with being "anti-Japanese" and "terrorists destroying the Japanese spirit." Theater N in Shibuya, which is owned by the publishing distributor Nippan, decided after consulting with the police not to show the film for fear something might happen to one of the customers or someone in the building. Cinemart Roppongi, the other theater scheduled to show the film, is considering whether to go on with the screening.

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