The Inter-space of Japanese film

Film, as a western science and technological achievement and a western reflection inevitably juxtaposed the Japanese and western style, enabling movement of both models

This year’s program of Japanese films, organized in collaboration with the Japanese Embassy in Zagreb and the Japanese Foundation, consists of fifteen films directed by famous Japanese directors made in the last five decades. All these films were made in conditions of radical changes in the production and reception of Japanese films, especially their reception outside of Japan. At a time when the West was only getting acquainted with and starting to research the diverse Japanese film culture, a nostalgic look at its film production in the 1930s and 1950s and the flourishing of independent New Wave film in 1990s implies the esthetic and genre an abundance of sources, inspiration and stimulations. Outside of Japan, Japanese film is usually considered to be a special case of deconstruction of the dominant (American) representational model. In the beginning of the 1970s the domination of studio system in Japanese film ceased and the New Wave films of “anxiety of influence” deconstructed the opposition model because they regarded it as politically reactionary, and chose the personal film with active subjects.

During the Meiji period (1868 - 1912) in Japan, thirty years after Japan opened up to the West, within presentations of diverse western knowledge and techniques, American and French cinematographers and entrepreneurs presented the film technique. In the Western quest for characteristics and reasons for the uniqueness of the Japanese film style, its unstable balance of norms is usually thought to stem from the self-imposed three-hundred-years-old political isolation that preserved the traditional esthetic sense, and as a unique interplay of domestic and foreign cultures in Japanese film practice. Film, as a Western science and technological achievement and a Western reflection inevitably juxtaposed the Japanese and Western style, enabling movement of both models, which at the time was known by the term wayo sechu, which stands for the inter-space of Japanese and western styles.

One of the enduring distinctive characteristics of Japanese film is the frequent drawing from domestic and foreign literary originals. All the films from this program are based on Japanese literature, ranging from pure fiction or novels in the first person by Shimazaki Toson directed by the skillful eclectic of the classic period, Kozaburo Yoshimura, circles of craving by Chikamatsu directed by the baroque New Wave director, Masahiro Shinoda, to different forms of popular literature such as the criminal by Shohei Ooke about crime and punishment adapted for screen by the master of Japanese film noir, Yoshitaro Nomura. The two genres, historical and contemporary film, were defined in the beginning of the 1990s when the director of the new studio Shochiku, proclaimed in a manifesto the production of pure film, which would contrast the theatre representations of male stories with historical topics mainly from the Nikkatsu studio. His goal was to establish female film and family dramas as the dominant film model. Shinji Somai’s film, Dora heita, is such a film. The screenplay for this film was written in 1969 by the “Circle of Four Knights” - Kon Ichikawa, Akira Kurosawa, Masaki Kobayashi and Keisuke Kinoshita, and it is a typical representative of the nostalgic jidai-gekifilms. This program also includes a biography of Kinuyo Tanaka, a protagonist of films by the most important of classic directors and a director herself, and a film by the cult director Kinji Fukusaku, which describes the history of the golden age of Japanese cinema. (Tanja Vrvilo)