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


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.

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