Japanese Cinema from the Silent Era to the Present Day
Ethan de Seife
No twelve-week class can provide a truly comprehensive
survey of one of world cinema’s most vital, important, and fascinating
industries. Rather than aim for a rigorous chronology, the course’s
chronology is general, focusing instead on major directors, themes, genres,
and production cycles. The overall goal of the course is to provide you with
a solid general and critical knowledge of the history and aesthetics of
• Donald Richie, A Hundred Years of Japanese Film
• Sanjuro (Akira Kurosawa, 1962, 96 min.)
The Richie book has been placed on order at Broad Street Books in Middletown (45 Broad Street; 860-685-7323), but you should feel free to search around online for better deals. Good places to start are www.abebooks.com and www.daedalusbooks.com.
The Bordwell and Burch books are out of print, but, through the magic of the internet, PDF versions of both are available. Both books can be downloaded from this site: http://www.hti.umich.edu/d/cjs/. (From this page, click on “browse”; on the “browse” page, book titles are listed alphabetically. Click the link for each book, and select “link to full PDF” to begin the download.) Please note, though, that these are large downloads; if this presents a problem for you, just give me a blank CD-R (or $1) and I will burn you a disc with the full text of both of these volumes. Do this immediately, though, as these books are assigned for Weeks 2 and 3. Readings from these books are marked on the syllabus with a dagger (†).
Both Sanjuro and Tetsuo: The Iron Man are readily available on DVD, and, though they are on 24-hour reserve at Wesleyan’s Science Library, I strongly recommend that you purchase copies, as you will need to watch both films multiple times. Please do not view these films on VHS. VHS is awful.
Many of the readings for this course can be found in the course reader, which is available at PIP Printers (179 Main St. Middletown; 344-9001). All readings from the course reader are marked with an asterisk (*).
|Course Requirements and Assignments|
I will require each of you to meet with me – or at
least call or email me – so we can discuss your paper topic.
The final paper is due on April 25 – the last day of class.
Since this is a small, graduate-level class, I am counting on a good deal of class participation from each of you, and am looking forward to some lively discussions. Please don’t take this lightly: it’s a significant portion of your final grade. Participating in class discussions can only boost your grade.
I also expect you to be familiar with and abide by the tenets of the Wesleyan Honor Code: http://www.wesleyan.edu/studenthandbook/3_honorsystem.html
Please check your e-mail frequently. I will set up a class e-mail list, and will send you messages from time to time regarding course business. Email is generally the best way to get in touch with me; use firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need to speak with me, try my cell first (914-434-1958), then my home (860-343-7253).
|A Note on Class Meetings|
Though the readings are extremely important, our primary texts for this class will be the films themselves. Because time is so limited (and because the films we’ll be seeing have a tendency toward lengthiness), I have received special dispensation from the High Sheriffs of GLSP to have this class last for four hours, rather than the standard three. This should give us sufficient time to see and discuss all of the films. (Please, though, take note of the film scheduled for February 21: its extreme length necessitates alternate screening arrangements.) There will still be time for a brief break between film and discussion.Since our class overlaps prime dinner time, feel free to bring food and drink to class, so long as it doesn’t get too distracting for you or your classmates.
Yasujiro Ozu I
Yasujiro Ozu II
Reading: - Richie, pp. 177-212
- Mark Le Fanu, Mizoguchi and Japan, pp. 1-14; 27-46; 98-105; 178-182*
- Tadao Sato, “Mizoguchi and Ozu”*
- Max Tessier, “Mizoguchi Kenji”*
- David Bordwell, “Mizoguchi and the Evolution of Film Language”*
Screening: The 47 Ronin (Genroku chushingura) (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1941, 241 min.)
Due: segmentation of Sanjuro
**NB: The 47 Ronin is too long to show in class and still have any sort of discussion. For this reason, I have made alternate viewing arrangements; there are three options.
Borrow one of the two copies of this DVD from Science Library, and watch it on your own time. Please note, though, that, like all films for our class, this disc is on 24-hour reserve: for the sake of your classmates, please return it as early as possible.
Buy or rent a copy of the DVD. This is not particularly plausible, as this disc is rare, out-of-print, and very expensive.
Attend the alternate screening I have arranged. This will take place on the Wesleyan campus (exact location TBD) on the afternoon of Sunday, February 18.
The Japanese New Wave
Reading: - David Desser, “Introduction”*
- Maureen Turim, “Cultural Iconoclasm and Contexts of Innovation”*; “Rituals, Desire, Death: Leaving One’s Will on Film” (pp. 61-81)*
- Nagisa Oshima, “Perspectives on the Japanese Film”; “Beyond Endless Self-Negation: The Attitude of the New Filmmakers”; “What Is a Shot?”; “With Heavy Heart, I Speak of Korea”; “About Death by Hanging”*
Screening: Death by Hanging (Koshikei) (Nagisa Oshima, 1968, 117 min.)
Reading: - Anthony Antoniou, “Branded to Kill”*
- Tony Rayns, “The Kyoka Factor: The Delights of Suzuki Seijun”*
- David Chute, “Branded to Thrill”*
- Ian Buruma, “The Eccentric Imagination of a Genre Film-maker”*
Screening: Branded to Kill (Koroshi no rakuin) (Seijun Suzuki, 1967, 98 min.)
Giant Monster Invasion!
Reading: - Ken Hollings, “Gojira mon amour”*
- Chon Noriega, “Godzilla and the Japanese Nightmare: When Them! Is U.S.”*
- Barak Kushner, “Gojira as Japan’s First Postwar Media Event”*
- Anthony Enns, “’The Mutated Flowers of Hiroshima”: American Reception and Naturalization of Toho’s Godzilla”*
Screening: Godzilla (Gojira) (Ishiro Honda, 1954, 98 min.)
Due: Response Paper #1
** Spring Break: no class meetings on March 14 or March 21**
|**SPRING BREAK: No class meetings on March 14 or March 21**|
Reading: - Richie, pp. 213-259
- Kubo Masakazu, “Japanese Animation as an Industry”*
Screening: Project A-Ko (Purojekuto A-ko) (Katsuhiko Nishijima, 1986, 86 min.)
Reading: - Keiko McDonald, “Animation Seminal and Influential”*
- Thomas Lamarre, “From animation to anime”*
Screening: My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro) (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988, 86 min.)
Due: Response Paper #2
Reading: - Gregory Barrett, “Comic Targets and Comic Styles: An Introduction to Japanese Film Comedy”*
- Mark Schilling, Interview with Juzo Itami*
Screening: Tampopo (Juzo Itami, 1985, 114 min.)
Reading: - Mark Schilling, “Mainstream Japanese Film”*
- “Master Class with Takeshi Kitano”*
Screening: Sonatine (Takeshi Kitano, 1993, 94 min.)
Screening: The Ring (Ringu) (Hideo Nakata, 1998, 96 min.)
Due: Final paper