From the End of World War II to the present.
Ideology and Cinema
The defeat of the war and its aftermath brought the nation the realization that the forced "culture" and "science" under wartime control were mere sham and delusion. At the very time, one of the cineastes made public an earnest self-criticism of the responsibility for the war ("Senso Sekininsha no Mondai ( The Question of Who's Guilty of War)," 1946), which surprised the people. For they had regarded the cineastes en masse as the most indifferent to the ideology and politics. Mansaku Itami, the author of the piece, had been praised as a director "in the style of prose" by Fuyuhiko Kitagawa before the war.
The numerous film critics gathering around Kinema Junpo, it seems, paid no attention to the question of war guilt. They continued the impressionistic, art oriented or technical criticisms and interested in the box-office earnings of film. They did not reflect on social
responsibilities in wartime and thereafter, as if it had never happened that some of them had advocated the wartime regulation of cinema. Such control had been made by Hideo Tsumura in the Eiga to Minzoku (Cinema and the Nation) 1942, Eiga Seisakuron (The National Policy of Cinema), 1943, Eiga Sen The Cinema War), 1944 and even Taihei Imamura in Senso to Eiga (War and Cinema), 1942, and Norio Sasaki in Doitsu no Eiga Taisei ( The German Regulation of Cinema), 1942. The only exception was Akira Iwasaki, who had been arrested for his opposition to the wartime Cinema Act. After the end of the war he spoke candidly on his feelings and looked back impartially upon the course of the Japanese wartime cinema and to the fascism of Kinema Junpo. His voice was not accusing, but reflected modestly a self-criticism similar to Item's. Iwasaki carried on with the film criticism based on the criteria of "democracy and anti-capitalism". His doctrines were followed by Tadao URYU in Eiga to Kindai Seishin (Cinema and the Modern Mind), 1947 and Nihon no Eiga (Japanese Film), 1956.
Taihei Imamura continued his career after the war too. His cherished theories unfolded in the prewar On Documentary Film were repeated unchanged in his postwar theory of the newsreel. It gave weight to the autonomous cameraman and the power of camera and microphone for the presentation of reality. He also published many works as Eiga Riron Nyumon (Introduction to Film Theory), 1952, Italia Eiga (Italian Film), 1953 etc. But when he entered an argument with Iwasaki, whom he respected, about documentary film, he got so disgusted at the publisher's improper treatment if his articles that he broke off all relations with film journalism for ever. After the 1960's, he occasionally wrote essays on
cinema in a journal of philosophy, Shiso (Ideas), and published a volume on Naoya Shiga, a well known novelist, in 1973. Imamura had lost much of his critical vitality since the 1960's considering his prolific activities before that.
From the defeat of the war to the 1950s, film criticism confronted new issues related to political affairs and ideology. What was at issue came forth in the competition for the leadership between two trends in film production, in other words, between fiction film and documentary film. The issues were formulated in the following questions: "Should film created artwork or document the actualities in society?": "How can film production remain autonomous in modern society?": "What should be the real realism in film?": "Should a film observe or reform reality?"
However these questions were not discussed in mainstream film journalism for it was monopolized by cultivated connossieurism with Tadashi Iijima, literary moralism with Hideo Tsumura and enthusiasm for entertainment with Juzaburo Futaba. Film journalism left matters in the care of young directors like Yasuzo Masumura, Nagisa Oshima, etc. They felt keenly an urgency to resolve , in their own way, how to portray the ego of modern Japanese or how to define the reality of modern Japan in the late 1950's. At that time, a magazine, Eiga Hihyo (Film Criticsm), 1957-1959, edited by Sanpei Kasu, had a strong influence on the young directors who later formed the so-called "Nouvelle Vague in Japan".
Cinema as an Entertainment for the Masses
Following the course of the American film industry, the Japanese counterpart declined during the 1960s. Simultaneously film critics lost their influence over the general public. During the political season of Sartrian "engagements" or "protests" against the Japan-US Security Treaty, the Vietnam War, the conservatism of the Universities and pollution, a new generation of film critics replaced the old ones. Just like the distinction
between the "serious" and "light" literatures reduced its authority in literary criticism, the classification of film as "art" or "entertainment" lost its validity. The types of film criticism as art-oriented, moralistic, ideological and the likes, lost influence. These trends were already established in the 1950s when the Japanese film industry had both superior products and profits. The fascination of the vulgar and entertainment films, which film critics often neglected or made little of, were supported unprejudicedly by the critics outside film journalism. In "Hitotsu no Nihon Eigaron- Furisode Kyoji ni Tsuite (Note on the Japanese Cinema: Concerning A Madwoman in a Long Sleeved Kimono)", 1952, Shunsuke Tsurumi discarded the scheme of opposing the advanced Europe to the backward Japan and "highbrow" film to " lowbrow" one, and stressed the vitality of popular culture expressed in the entertainment film. His manner of textually analyzing film appears to be a forerunner of semiotic analysis (particularly of mythologies, folklore, comic strips etc.)
Among those who considered the cinema in terms of public entertainment and popular culture were Sadayoshi Fukuda, a philosopher, and Hiroshi Minami, a social psychologist, while Kanji Hatano, a psychologist, took interest in film theory and audio video education. A literary critic and also a playwright, Kiyoteru Hanada was rhetorical stylist who wrote unique and provocative film reviews using a dialectal approach, which are collected in Eigateki Shiko ( Cinematic Thought), 1958. His style was unconventional, sometimes eccentric, witty and paradoxical mode of expression not unlike sophistry, but it has many startling insights on the common features of various films which escape the notices of film critics.
A young film critic then, Tadao Sato, (born 1930) made his debut by reflecting on his involvement in the feelings of the common people expressed in the entertainment of films. He has remained extremely active since his first book, Nihon no Eiga (Japanese Film), 1956, continuing his tendency toward sympathetic studies of the Japanese common people. The critics sometimes called the " popular cinema school" included Tsurumi, Hanada and Sato, had started in the 1950s and encouraged the diversification of film criticism in the 1960s.
Diversification: The Marginal Criticism and the Interest in Cataloguing
During the 1960s, Kinema Junpo held campaigns and symposiums to help the declining Japanese cinema industry. Two magazines, Eiga Hyoron (Film Comment) and Eiga Geijustu ( Film art), acted with a progressive spirit. The former, edited by Shigeomi alias Jushin Sato, defended the underground cinema; the latter edited by Toru Ogawa, promoted film criticism by the non-specialists ( by novelists like Yukio Mishima, critics like Takaaki alias Ruymei Yoshimoto and by directors like Nagisa Oshima). Both of them approved non-commercial films (the underground, experimental and personal films) and outcast genres (The Yakuza film, the erotic film), opposing the conservative editorial policies of Kinema Junpo which dealt exclusively with art and commercial films.
Toru Ogawa's far-fetched political criticism corresponded to Shunsuke Tsurumi's critical claims of the "right to misunderstand". Based on the production of documentaries, fiction and experimental film, Toshio Matsumoto, filmmaker and also a vigorous debater, proposed avant-garde theory in Eizo no Hakken (The Discovery of Image) in 1963. It captivated young readers. While Kazue Yamada succeeded to the communist school of Akira Iwasaki and Tadao Uryu in accordance with the doctrines of Japan Communist Party, radical New Leftist criticism was preceded by the group of Eiga Hihyo (Film Criticism), 1970-1973, a magazine edited and contributed by Masao Matsuda et al.
In the middle of diversification of film criticism in the 1960's, the focus on "the popular cinema school" of the 1950s and the respect for Hollywood films (in particular for suspense and musicals, plus the worship of Hitchcock) paid by Juzaburo Futaba, Hisamitsu Noguchi and Junichi Uekusa influenced the discussion of critics of critics to B and genre films, and eventually after the permeation of television, in the TV reviews of film gourmets-guide like Nagaharu Yodogawa and Masahiro Ogi. Up to now these preferences have influenced the majority of average movie fans in Japan. During the same period in the USA, a film critic, A. Sarris began to reexamine the history of Hollywood film. He became dissatisfied with the hitherto aesthetic, sociological or ideological criticism, and advocated the so-called "auteur" theory, that is, the autonomous criterion within the cinema in "Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962" in 1963 and The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-68 in 1968. His theory was heavily influenced by the French Cahiers du Cinema group (A. Bazin, F. Truffaut et al.). His Japanese contemporaries, however, had evaluated the virtues of the American cinema long before, unrelated to Sarris, with the critics specializing in foreign films speaking highly of the Hollywood and genre films, and those interested in the popular culture were impressed with the vitality, wisdom and even avant-gardisn of B films, rather than Sarris's auteur-ship.
From the late 1960s to the 1970s, "la politique des auteurs" of Cahiers du Cinema was upheld and practiced by two critics, Koichi YAMADA and Shigehiko Hasumi. The former was an admirer of French Nouvelle Vague and of the Hollywood B film, and had discovered an auteur in the prolific artisan director, Masahiro Makino. Hasumi was and is, a professor of French Literature, know for the various critical activities. His idiosyncratic, provocative and rhetorical film criticisms reminds us of Kiyoteru Hanada, though their talents, social views, styles and evaluations of films are quite different. Hasumi is now one of the leading film critics, and is supported by the young readers of Eizo no Shigaku ( The poetics of image), 1979 and Kantoku Ozu Yasujiro ( the director Yausjiro Ozu), 1983. Though critical tendencies have been quite different from the former two, let me add the names of Rikiya Tayama, Yoshio Shirai, Youkichi Shinada as active film critics as well as Naoki Togawa, who has a longer career than any of them.
Present day film criticism is highly diversified due to the fact that the print medium is divided and individualized in all fields, including film journalism. It has resulted in the loss of a centralized figure or opinion leader. Everyone has his own critical views, which can easily be made public in print. The forms of film viewing are also diversified from the orthodox commercial movie theatre to TV broadcasts of movies, showings at clubs and personal viewing on video. This is another reason for the diffusion of critical poles. Film criticism from the marginal poles has been provided by Masao Yamaguchi, an anthropologist, Suehiro Tanemura, a professor of German literature and by Michitaro Tada, whose essay "the art of reproduction" has developed those of Benjamin and Nyozekan Hasegawa. They are superior instances of productive transversal diffusion. The other instance of this diffusion is the interest in cataloguing. Those interested in cataloguing enumerate their favorite films irrelevant to, and beyond, the dates of production. However as a result, the catalogist's attention has been directed to cinema history.
The Interest In Cinema History
The cinema has obviously a history like its brother, photography. Its years seem too short to be called a "history," but research on its origin and identity began immediately following its invention. Examples are the books which Mishio Imamura has called "the rudimentary book at the dawn of cinematography," and Kyoko Yoshiyama's two books mentioned above. Prior to Yoshiyama's were Yoshie Ishimaki's Oubei Oyobi Nihon no Eigashi (The Histories of Cinema in Europe, America and Japan), 1925, Akira Iwasaki's Eiga Geijyutsushi (The History of Film Art), 1930, Akira Takeda's Eiga Keizaishi (The Economic History of Cinema), 1933, etc. These histories were, however, of the film industry, and were not concerned with cinema in terms of the expression and techniques of film, and without an identifiable historical view such as in L. Jacob's The Rise of the American Film: A Critical History, 1939.
But the number of publications on the history of cinema in Japan has increased since it appears that cinema has completed a historical cycle and that it demands a proper treatment. As a result of this, some of the long films and the neglected filmmakers have been re-evaluated. The catalogists have enumerated the genre, filmmakers, and films, and indicated some blind points in orthodox cinema history. Basic information has been consolidated for almanacs and dictionaries. It should be stressed that Junichiro Tanaka (born in 1902) has complied a general history of Japanese cinema, featuring the rise and fall of the industry with a comprehensive chronology of films in a well-researched magnum opus, Nihon Eiga Hattatsushi (The Developmental History of Japanese Cinema), 5 Vols, 1957-1976 (pocket edition, 1975-1976). This work is indispensable to everyone interested in Japanese cinema. Other histories of Japanese cinema have also been published.
Books on certain epochs or subject matter continue to be published. There are also the reminiscences, biographies, interviews, and monographs on filmmakers in increasingly large numbers. One of the leading film critics, Tadao Sato has shown interest in the history of Japanese cinema in his prolific activities. He established a personal magazine, Eigashi Kenkyu (Study of Cinema History) in 1972, and published Kinema to Hosei---Nichu Eiga Zenshi (Cinema and the Sound of Fring: A Fore-History of the Cinematic Negotiations Between Japan and China) in 1985. He has also given "Nihon Eigashi (History of Japanese Cinema)" in serial form to Koza; Nihon Eiga (Lectures on Japanese Cinema, the cooperative works), 7 vols, 1985. In contrast to the vigorous Sato, Kikuo Yamamoto has devoted himself to academic study of which the accomplishment are now collected in the voluminous work, Nihon Eiga ni Okeru Gaikoku Eiga no Eikyo (The Influences of the Occidental Films on the Japanese Cinema), 1983. The histories of foreign cinema have been introduced energetically by the polyglot Tadashi Iijima. His two histories, Italia Eigashi (History of Italian Film), 1953, and France Eigashi (History of French Film), 1950 (the revised edition 1956), may be regarded as pioneering works. His main studies, Zenei Eiga Riron to Zenei Geijyutsu (The Avant-garde Film Theories and the Avant-garde Art), 1970, and Nouvelle Vague no Eiga Taikei (The Comprehensive Account of the Theories of French Nouvelle Vague), 3 vols, 1980-1984, have represented a trend in filmology in Japan. Kikuo Yamamoto has advanced this trend to a new stage of the "comparative study of cinema history." Both Iijima and Yamamoto have taught at Waseda University (the former is now retired), the only university in Japan, which has a graduate course of cinema. The author of this article also teaches the history of film theory at Waseda and specializes in the Russian Avant-gardism and Modernism in Japanese silent cinema. Some other film historians are Motohiko Fujita and Mamoru Makino. The former concentrates his attention on a specific period of Japanese film history, the latter specializes in the film
censorship before World War II. Other histories of foreign cinema are published, but they cannot be included within the restricted pages of this article.
Owing to the characteristics of cinema as a medium, the consequences and accomplishments of critical debates and studies are seldom inherited and developed by the following, especially in Japan. This lack of academic perseverance has an exception, Kenji Asanuma, aesthetician. He has continued rigorously to examine the procedures, coherency and methodology of the study of cinema in his works from Eigagaku (Filmology), 1965, to Eiga no Tameni (For the Cinema), 1986. He has questioned incessantly the nature of image, the problems of cinematic language and the methodology of history of cinema, etc. The name of Susumu Okada, former film critic, may be added to this school of researchers. This kind of quest for the nature of filmic images is one of two mainstreams in academic circles in Japan along with the study of cinema history. The influence of structuralism and semiotics can be traced, but its effects are not dominant. Younger researchers are beginning to be active. But, as the academic institutions on cinema are very few in Japan, it will not be possible in the near future to ground our film study on the consolidated knowledge or develop it in a more systematic way. The appearance of the new visual media, on the other hand, has made the study of cinema only one aspect of the general study of "images," which is the focus of the Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences.
The Foundation of Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences
In 1974, Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences was established. It is an academic association, not a guild such as say, the Japan Pen Club of Cinema whose members are film critics and journalists. Although academic, it is transdisciplinary organization including a range of participants in the imagistic media. Its uniqueness is a result of the different backgrounds of the members, which consist of researchers, academicians film-or-videomakers, film critics and engineers.
Historically, Japanese has two homophonous words or two different notations with the same pronunciation for "image"; the first eizo (literally meaning the "reflected or projected figure/shape") has been commonly used since the permeation of television: the second eizo (literally meaning the "shining or bright figure/shape") was used exclusively before the former, and did not contain any reference to the modern visual medium. The latter has three distinctive meanings; 1) A figure or portrait of a god, Buddhist divinity or person represented in a picture or sculpture, etc.; 2) A sight or appearance of things created in the head or mind; 3) An optical object projected by refracted or reflected light, a reflected image (on the surface of water or mirror, etc.). Probably after the Meiji Restoration (1867), the second eizo was adopted as the translation of the foreign word, "image", referring to the second definition, and as academic jargon of physics. The first meaning is the traditional or etymological one of the second eizo, which curiously shares the similar meaning with the Latin origin of "image," i.e. "imago" which signified "an embodiment or picture or portrait of an ancestor." In Japan, the second eizo in the second and third meanings was gradually replaced by the first eizo. The first meaning becomes archaic with the result that the second eizo is an absolute word in modern Japanese.
The entry of the first eizo in Shogakukan's Nihon Kokugo Daijiten (The Comprehensive Dictionary of Japanese) gives the definitions equal to the second and third meanings of the second eizo, plus "a shape of an object projected on the television screen." Examples cited from the literary works of Ryunosuke Akutagawa and Yasunari Kawabata appear to belong to the transition period from the second eizo to the first eizo. Before the coming of television, even if the first eizo was used, it usually signified not the broad sense including cinema, but the narrow sense of a framed picture-surface or a framed figure/shape. In the current usage, it refers mainly to the new types of image produced by the means of chemical, electronic or optical technologies such as photography, cinema, video, holography, computer graphics, etc. While the "re-presentation" is characteristic of the image in photographs, films and television, the image of the up-to-date media such as computer graphics should be regarded as the "creation," which has expanded the concept of the first eizo.
In addition, the phenomenon of having the print media vastly receive the visual materials such as photographs, illustrations, comic strips and graphics, has been broadly and vaguely called "the culture or age or generation of the image (the first eizo)." As general practice, this phenomenon is frequently treated form the sociological point view as a case study of mass communication, social manners or popular culture. But recently it has been examined by structural analysis based on a new development in linguistics.
As shown above, the Japanese equivalent of image has a broad and ambiguous sense, while it has the convenient merit as an all encompassing label for the visual media en-masse. Therefore the first eizo will continue to circulate among the researchers of Japan, unifying the technological developments and the future expansions of the visual media. Accordingly, Eizogaku, (ICONICS), the organ-bulletin of Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences (Nihon Eizogakukai) has been, and will be, offering the open place for the subjects from photography to the latest computer graphics.
Note: The article was originally published in English in ICONIC, No.1, published from Japan Society of Image Arts and Sciences in 1987.