What Is Japanese Cinema?

A History

Yomota Inuhiko. Translated by Philip Kaffen.

Columbia University Press

What Is Japanese Cinema?

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Pub Date: April 2019

ISBN: 9780231191630

248 Pages

Format: Paperback

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Pub Date: April 2019

ISBN: 9780231191623

248 Pages

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Pub Date: April 2019

ISBN: 9780231549486

248 Pages

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What Is Japanese Cinema?

A History

Yomota Inuhiko. Translated by Philip Kaffen.

Columbia University Press

What might Godzilla and Kurosawa have in common? What, if anything, links Ozu’s sparse portraits of domestic life and the colorful worlds of anime? In What Is Japanese Cinema? Yomota Inuhiko provides a concise and lively history of Japanese film that shows how cinema tells the story of Japan’s modern age.

Discussing popular works alongside auteurist masterpieces, Yomota considers films in light of both Japanese cultural particularities and cinema as a worldwide art form. He covers the history of Japanese film from the silent era to the rise of J-Horror in its historical, technological, and global contexts. Yomota shows how Japanese film has been shaped by traditonal art forms such as kabuki theater as well as foreign influences spanning Hollywood and Italian neorealism. Along the way, he considers the first golden age of Japanese film; colonial filmmaking in Korea, Manchuria, and Taiwan; the impact of World War II and the U.S. occupation; the Japanese film industry’s rise to international prominence during the 1950s and 1960s; and the challenges and technological shifts of recent decades. Alongside a larger thematic discussion of what defines and characterizes Japanese film, Yomota provides insightful readings of canonical directors including Kurosawa, Ozu, Suzuki, and Miyazaki as well as genre movies, documentaries, indie film, and pornography. An incisive and opinionated history, What Is Japanese Cinema? is essential reading for admirers and students of Japan’s contributions to the world of film.
A compact, breezy, and stimulating summary of Japanese film history. . . . Yomota's book offers something largely absent from English-language writing about Japanese cinema: a Japanese perspective. Kazu Watanabe, Film Comment
No living scholar-critic of Japanese movies possesses Yomota Inuhiko's encyclopedic range and sheer passion for film. What Is Japanese Cinema? is a tour de force of filmic history: a concise and spirited account of how Japanese film came to be, illuminating carryovers from native theatrical traditions and the tensions lining the political history of modern East Asia. That Japanese cinema has all along been local, and—in its imperial ambitions, aesthetic power, or moral force—global in its reach, is a matter that this insightful book brings remarkably to light. Paul Anderer, author of Kurosawa's Rashomon: A Vanished City, a Lost Brother, and the Voice Inside His Iconic Films
A famously rambunctious critic, Inuhiko Yomota proves to be an even better pedagogue. He deftly organizes Japan’s kaleidoscopic genres and film fashions into a totality you can grasp. Auteurs and stars sparkle above an omnivorous industry that metabolized traditional theater, popular manga, and Hollywood techniques into unmistakably Japanese forms. A swift, truly satisfying summary, What Is Japanese Cinema? is also just as vibrant and searching as its title, because its author is clearly in the thrall of his marvelous subject. Dudley Andrew, Yale University
What Is Japanese Cinema? goes beyond the auteurist criticism that tells a history of cinema as a compilation of masterpieces. Instead, the work locates cinema in the specific contexts of cultural history as well as technological history. Yomota Inuhiko's knowledge of and attentiveness to film theories and histories is incredible. Daisuke Miyao, University of California, San Diego
Note on Names and Film Titles
Preface to the English Translation
Introduction
1. Motion Pictures: 1896–1918
2. The Rise of Silent Film: 1917–1930
3. The First Golden Age: 1927–1940
4. Japanese Cinema During Wartime
5. Film Production in the Colonies and Occupied Lands
6. Japanese Cinema Under American Occupation: 1945–1952
7. Toward a Second Golden Age: 1952–1960
8. Upheaval Amidst Steady Decline: 1961–1970
9. Decline and Torpor: 1971–1980
10. The Collapse of the Studio System: 1981–1990
11. The Indies Start to Flourish: 1991–2000
12. Within a Production Bubble: 2001–2011
Notes
Index

About the Author

Yomota Inuhiko is an acclaimed Japanese essayist, cultural critic, and poet, the author of dozens of books on a wide range of subjects. He taught film studies and comparative literature at Meiji Gakuin University.

Philip Kaffen is an assistant professor in the Department of Languages and Culture Studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.