HISTORIES OF FILM THEORIES IN EAST ASIA September 27-30, 2012 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Coordinated by A. M. Nornes.


(Abstracts related to Film Studies in Japan) (1)

Maeda Ai’s Cinematic Narratology
Takushi Odagiri, Duke University
I examine Maeda Ai’s narrative theories, in particular, his analysis of cinematic narrative. I begin with Maeda’s last work, Bungaku Tekusuto Nyûmon (Introduction to Literary Texts, 1988), which clarifies his narratological “predicativism.” In “Structures of Stories” and “Language and Body,” Maeda discusses cinema and novel as different forms of mediality, leading to distinct conceptions of social reality. Maeda characterizes modern literary texts as subject to two kinds of narrative linearity: temporal and “chrono-logical.” He considers chrono-logic linearity as related to modern readers’ habit of introspection. I propose that what Maeda called “predicatively-unified” narratives are not linear in either of these senses, and are thus free from the modern habit of introspection. I then investigate Maeda’s discussion of synecdoche as an example of his predicate-theory, and propose that his theory resembles one of montage. I argue that Maeda’s predicativism, if modified appropriately, can more accurately represent certain aspects of cinematic narrative than most subject-theories can. Underlying Maeda’s wide-ranging scholarship is his continuing interest in visuality cultures since Edo period. Thus, I examine his earlier writings on modern readers and printing technology, situating his narratology in a larger historical context, the one in which cinema is merely the latest component.

The Wound and the Knife : The Affective-Performative and the Queer Body in Matsumoto Toshio’s Funeral Parade of Roses
Livia Monnet, University of Montreal
Bara no sôretsu (Funeral Parade of Roses, 1969) is Matsumoto Toshio’s début feature film. Like his second feature, Shura (Pandemonium, 1971), it was co-produced by Matsumoto Production and the Art Theatre Guild of Japan (ATG). It is one of the most radical, challenging, and innovative films in Japanese independent and avant-garde cinema. Building on Deleuze, Guattari, Brian Massumi, and on Matsumoto’s own film theory, this presentation argues that Bara no sôretsu may be regarded as an affective-performative event that forces spectators to think the unthought or unthinkable, and which is expressed as a powerful aesthetics of the false. The film’s affective performance also radically undermines established conventions and understandings of genre. The second part of the presentation moves into the terrain of schizoanalytic film theory, and 1960s Japanese debates on political cinema. I contend that Funeral Parade of Roses envisions the queer body as a heterogenetic abstract machine; as an allegorical time-image of “the fundamental fictionality” (kongenteki kyokôsei) of art and existence alike (Matsumoto); and as a new paradigm for the construction of subjectivity in avant-garde and experimental cinema. Thus Matsumoto’s film (like his installations from the late 1960s and early 1970s) embodies his conviction that the aesthetico-political is immanent in the moving image, and that identity is queer by definition. The killing of Oedipus envisioned in the film announces the emergence of what Guattari would call a new aesthetic paradigm.

Film as fukusei geijutsu: social psychology at the movies in 1950s Japan
Michael Raine, University of Western Ontario
This presentation excavates the importance of social psychology to the turn to popular cinema by Japanese intellectuals in 1950s Japan. Prewar film theory in Japan was dominated by German art theory (eg. Konrad Lange’s book Eiga, which declared that film could not be an art because it was a technology of reproduction [fukusei gijutsu]) and by political critiques of the capitalist structure of the film industry (eg. Iwasaki Akira’s Eiga to shihonshugi). After World War 2, journals such as Shiso no kagaku became centers for a different kind of argument: writers with experience in the US academy such as Tsurumi Shunsuke, drawing on pragmatism, and Minami Hiroshi, drawing on social psychology, agreed with the Marxist critique of media concentration but insisted also on the importance of reception and cultural practice to cinema as a “total social fact.” Social psychology then became to ground on which a new generation paid new attention to Japanese popular cinema, in public study groups that were even employed by studios to advise on new youth problem films, and in journals such as Shin Nihon Bungaku, Kiroku eiga, Eiga geijutsu, and Eiga hihyo, as well as Shiso no kagaku itself. At its limit, writers such as Nakai Masakazu and Abe Kobo argued that film’s “reproduction” of the social world was precisely the source of its “art,” anticipating 1960s manifesto’s in declaring film a new “fukusei geijutsu.”

The Sound of Continuity: Tashima Tarō’s Film Theory and The Life of Lawless Muhōmatsu
Jonathan Abel, Pennsylvania State University
In his book Ken’etsushitsu no yami ni tsubuyaku (1938),  Tashima Tarō, a Japanese film censor, elaborated his deep concern for maintaining continuity in films for which the censor demanded deletions.  A close look at what continuity meant for this censor in context of larger discussions of continuity shows how aesthetic notions typically thought of as taking place in the realm of creativity and could also be launched against the creativity of the work and yet creatively contribute to its final receptions. This paper will explain Tashima’s notion of continuity through the successes and failures of deletions in the film Muhōmatsu no isshō (The Life of Lawless Matsu), released in 1943. The film is significant not only as the work of three preeminent masters of film—the director Inagaki Hiroshi, the writer Itami Mansaku, and the megastar of silent film Bandō Tsumasaburo—but also as one of the small subset of films to have been censored by both the wartime Home Ministry censors and the Occupation censors.  As such the imperial deletions and post-Occupation remake with Mifune Toshiro have much to tell us not only about continuities within the diegesis of film but also about the historical continuities of the conditions for film production across the war.

Preconstituted Panel: Chair: Marc Steinberg, Concordia University

Genealogies of Japanese Media Theory: From the 1960s to Zeronendai
What is media theory in post-1960s Japan? What are the conceptual genealogies of the so-called “zeronendai” (2000s) media theory? How have these genealogical precursors laid the ground for the recent effervescence of Japanese media theory in the 2000s? These are the fundamental questions this panel aims to ask. Conceived of as one part of a larger project aiming to translate and generate critical reflection on Japanese media theory of the 2000s, often known as “zeronendai no shisô” – or thought of the aughts – this panel aims to be an exploratory invitation to rethink the contours and lineages of current Japanese media theory. The larger project seeks to deal with questions of delimitation (where is media theory in Japan?), questions of purview (who makes it into the media theory of the 2000s canon?), questions of the institutional and cultural space of media theory in Japan (how to conceptualize theory that is fundamentally consumed as a commodity?), as well as questions of history (what are the historical antecedents of 2000s theory?). Propelled by questions of demarcation and problems of translation, this panel proposes to focus on an interrogation of the historical conditions and antecedents of contemporary media theory, focusing on the period of 1960 to 2000 in particular.

Tadao Umesao’s Theory of Information Industry and 1960s Japanese Media Theory
Kadobayashi Takeshi, Kansai University
Starting his academic career as a biologist and then as an anthropologist, Tadao Umesao (1920-2010) developed a unique theory of “information industry” through 1960s. This work culminated in his classic text Chiteki seisan no gijutsu (The Art of Intellectual Production) in 1969 on one hand, and the foundation of the National Museum of Ethnology with its pioneering media library in 1977, in which he held a position of director until his retirement, on the other. Reminiscent of contemporaneous Western discourses on technology and civilization such as the work of Marshall McLuhan and Alvin Toffler, Umesao’s theory of information industry took its place within the fluid intellectual atmosphere in the 1960s Japan, in which interests toward popular culture also emerged. Reconsidering Umesao’s work within the context of the discourses on media, technology and culture in the 1960s Japan, this paper attempts to clarify the social and cultural background of the media theory of 1960s Japan, which at a first glance appears only to be an epigone of its Western counterparts, and put into relief what is particularly envisioned in its culturally situated thread of thoughts.

McLuhan in Japan: Media Theory and Advertising Practice
Marc Steinberg, Concordia University
Discussions of the introduction and popularization of critical theory in Japan often focus on the introduction of structuralism and post-structuralism over the 1970s and the into the 1980s, leading to the rise of “New Academism,” and post-structuralist film writing such as that of Hasumi Shigehiko. This paper will look at another genealogy of theory in Japan, and media theory in particular: the introduction of the work of Marshall McLuhan over the years 1966-8. McLuhan’s work was particularly influential on the advertising industry, and the application of his media theory to advertising practice was explored in advertising magazines and broadcasting journals such as Brain and Hôsô Asahi. In this paper I will look at the context of interest in McLuhan’s work, focusing on debates around information society, and the take-up of McLuhan by the advertising industry. Of particular interest here is the way that the consumption of theory is already involved in circuits of advertising practice and (perceived) economic profitability that foreshadow the take-up of post-structuralism as marketing theory by ad agencies in the 1980s.

Girlscape: Consumer Demographics and Lifestyle Environment in Early 1970s Japanese Media
Tomiko Yoda, Harvard University
In the early 1970s Japan, market segmentation emerged as a significant media discourse, identifying young, single women as vanguard consumers.  How and why did this demographic profile become a target of intensive speculative investment by advertisers, marketers, and publishers?  Not only did medias actively constituted this demographics through gender- and age-calibrated addresses but also designed individuated lifestyle environments in relation to it. The “girlscape” was articulated as the environment of young women’s self-fashioning, unburdened by the tension between city and country or Japan and the West, unmoored from the disciplinary sites of economic production as well as socio-biological reproduction.  It was evoked through a number of visual/textual strategies, including non-perspectival visual field, concatenation of fragmented images, non-linear distribution of information, and whimsical cartography. This paper considers the historical status of girlscape by examining it against the “landscape” (fûkei), a term hotly debated among Japanese leftist filmmakers and photographers in the late 1960s to early 1970s.  The rapid proliferation of girlscape suggests the prescience with which landscape theorists raised questions over power and media at the transitional moments between the two decades, while also drawing our attention to their underdeveloped engagement with gender politics.

Enter the Media: Ironical Theory as Commodity/Resistance in 1980s Japan
Alexander Zahlten, Dongguk University / Harvard University
In the early 1980s a shift takes place in the economy of theory in Japan. Books on poststructuralist theory become massive bestsellers and a public intellectual like Yoshimoto Takaaki models for the Commes des Garcons label. Not a completely new phenomenon in itself, this is however the point where theory and its practice begin to converge. The writings of young intellectual stars such as Asada Akira and Karatani Kojin place a new emphasis on concepts such as irony and humor, and thus align their writings with their own commodification as an ambivalent form of resistance that lacks a distinction between interior and exterior. The rediscovery of the term “media” in late 1980s Japan is less frivolous yet heavily marked by these developments, and eventually leads to a new practice of media theorization in the 2000s. This paper will trace the interplay between the content and form of media theory in Japan since the 1980s, in which theory itself becomes a medium.


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