During the last several decades, Japanese cinema has won international acclaim for its artistic achievement in form and content while gaining commercial dominance over the power of Hollywood films in its domestic film market. What have been the driving forces for the development of Japanese cinema as both art and industry? How have Japanese filmmakers contributed to the creation and advancement of new cinematic languages and genres that appealed not only to domestic audiences, but also to global cinephiles? What have been the central issues and themes in Japanese film history?
This course surveys Japanese cinema from its beginnings to the work of contemporary film auteurs. Students will learn the history of Japanese cinema by watching and discussing the canonical pieces by the prestigious directors and the studio genre films produced by the various major and minor local film companies. At the same time, we will examine the main topics and trends of Japanese cinema such as the pure film movement, Shochiku's shoshimin eiga, wartime film culture, melodramas under the U.S. occupation, New Wave films and political cinema, art cinema, the popularity of "series" movies, and the transnational and digital film culture in contemporary Japan. We will explore the world of the masters of classical Japanese cinema, including the films of Ozu Yasujiro, Mizoguchi Kenji, and Kurosawa Akira, and also those by Kurosawa Kiyoshi and Koreeda Hirokazu--the major contemporary Japanese auteurs.