Thursday, December 9, 2010

UTCP Talk: "Film as a 'Synthetic Art': Imitation, Copyright Infringement, and Masquerade in the Toho Film Musical"

Announcement from J-Japan:

A talk by Michael Raine (University of Chicago)

The project of "unthinking eurocentrism" in film studies asks us to incorporate  non-western practices of filmmaking and film criticism into a global history of  cinema. Earlier attempts to write Japanese film history often reinforced its exotic difference but recent work emphasizes the cultural permeability and global simultaneity of Japanese cinema, as well as the geopolitical incline between Japan and the West. This presentation argues that a reconsideration of film study in 1950s Japan would "de-provincialize" western film studies by reminding us of alternatives to the auteurism and political modernism that came to define it. In particular, the importance of social psychology in the 1950s and 1960s marks an interest in the popular audience that motivated Abe Kobo and other critics' embrace of musicals as a form of anti-naturalist critique. In its most extreme form that defense celebrated a “culture of the copy” that stood in opposition to a “culture of authenticity” canonized in the Japanese
New Wave.

Japanese film around 1960 was a synthetic art [sogo geijutsu] in two senses:  the aesthetic dialectic of avant-garde music and theatre in the "Japanese New Wave" was housed within a synthetic "transmedia exploitation" of musical and televisual celebrity in popular genre cinema. This presentation expands on that reading formation to explore how practices of imitation, copyright infringement, and cultural masquerade in the Toho studio's color-coded musical-comedy celebrity vehicles, from Janken Girls (1955) to You Too Can Succeed (1964), could be understood as forms of "modernist mimesis" that modeled the experience of postwar modernity in Japan even as they furthered the growth of celebrity culture.

Michael Raine is Assistant Professor in Japanese Cinema at the University of Chicago. He has a palimpsest on the tension between a "culture of the copy" in postwar Japanese commercial cinema and a "culture of authenticity" in the Japanese New Wave around 1960, and is developing a project on image culture in wartime Japan and its territories, with a particular focus on the style and significance of the People’s Film [kokumin eiga]. His other interests in film studies include rethinking the history of film theory through pragmatism, and using digital media for teaching and research, including subtitling, data-mining, and a metrical analysis of Ozu Yasujiro’s “silent” films.

Time: Tuesday, December 14 at 16:30
Place: University of Tokyo, Center for Philosophy, Collaboration Room 1, 4th Floor, Building 18, Komaba Campus

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