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Important Japanese Cinema: A Journey By means of 50 of Japan’s Lovely, Typically Weird Movies


In 2018, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters gained the Palme d’Or at Cannes. The award itself got here as much less of a shock than did the truth that Shoplifters was the primary of Kore-eda’s movies to win it, given how lengthy he’d been essentially the most broadly acclaimed Japanese filmmaker alive. And although it had been greater than twenty years for the reason that Palme final went to a Japanese film — Shomei Imamura’s The Eel, in 1997 — Japan had lengthy since established itself at Cannes because the Asian nation to beat. Imamura’s The Ballad of Narayama had gained the Palme in 1983, Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha in 1980, and Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Gate of Hell in 1954, when Western cinephiles have been solely simply beginning to admire Japanese cinema.

Why has that appreciation confirmed so enduring? That is one query investigated by “The Important Japanese Cinema,” a video essay from The Cinema Cartography. Narrator Luiza Liz Bond emphasised the “heightened aesthetic sensibility” of Japanese filmmakers, on show in “the tender statement of Ozu’s Tokyo Story, the poetic rhapsody of Kurosawa’s Goals, the harrowing female gaze of Videophobia.” However one can discover examples simply as wealthy and much more numerous in lesser-known movies from Japan comparable to Shūji Terayama’s engagé experimental drama Throw Away Your Books, Rally within the Streets, Kaizō Hayashi’s oneiric silent-film pastiche To Sleep as to Dream, and Gakuryū Ishii’s subtly psychedelic and science-fictional coming-of-age story August within the Water.

The video organizes these movies and plenty of others beneath a rubric of philosophical ideas drawn from Japanese tradition. These embody bushidō, the code of the samurai Westerners got here to know by the images of Akira Kurosawa and Masaki Kobayashi; wabi-sabi, a great of magnificence centered on imperfect issues; mono no conscious, a sensitivity to the transient and the ephemeral; and guro, which pushes the unsettling to its outer limits. Their heightened aesthetic sensibility “grants Japanese filmmakers the flexibility to be fine-tuned to the grotesque and the ugly,” Bond notes. They perceive that all of us take pleasure in magnificence, however an appreciation of ugliness is critical to amplify this course of. The sweetness and the ugly will not be opposites, however totally different facets of the identical factor.”

After all, one needn’t be accustomed to these concepts with a view to take pleasure in Japanese cinema. The feel-intensive eroticism of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Lady within the Dunes, the junkyard physique horror of Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man, the relentlessly weird inventiveness of Nobuhiko Obayashi’s Home: these might solely be delivered by filmmakers who perceive first that they work in a medium of visceral energy. Even the work of Yasujirō Ozu, famed for its imperturbable restraint, resonates extra deeply than ever with us six many years after his loss of life. “It’s unimaginable to talk of the chic with out talking of his portrayal of human fragility,” says Bond. “Ozu isn’t too sentimental, by no means too decorative.” Would that extra modern-day filmmakers, from Japan or anyplace else, appeared to his instance.

Associated content material:

How Did Akira Kurosawa Make Such Highly effective & Enduring Movies? A Wealth of Video Essays Break Down His Cinematic Genius

How One Easy Lower Reveals the Cinematic Genius of Yasujirō Ozu

Hayao Miyazaki Meets Akira Kurosawa: Watch the Titans of Japanese Movie in Dialog (1993)

How Grasp Japanese Animator Satoshi Kon Pushed the Boundaries of Making Anime: A Video Essay

Wabi-Sabi: A Brief Movie on the Great thing about Conventional Japan

A Web page of Insanity: The Misplaced Avant Garde Masterpiece from Early Japanese Cinema (1926)

Primarily based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embody the Substack publication Books on Cities, the e book The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.

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