Time Frames: Japanese Cinema and the Unfolding of History

Scott NygrenTime Frames: Japanese Cinema and the Unfolding of History

University of Minnesota Press, 2007
ISBN-10: 0816647089
ISBN-13: 9780816647088

Until 1951, when Kurosawa’s Rashomon won the Golden Lion award for best film at the Venice Film Festival, Japanese cinema was isolated from world distribution and the international discourse on film. After this historic event, however, Japanese cinema could no longer be ignored. Scott Nygren explores how Japanese film criticism and history has been written both within and beyond Japan, before and after Rashomon. He takes up the central question of which, and whose, Japan do critics and historians mean when reviewing the country’s cinema – an issue complicated by assumptions about cultural purity, Japan’s appropriation of Western ideas and technologies, and the very existence of a West and an Orientalist non-West.

Deftly moving backward and forward from the pivotal 1951 festival, Nygren traces the invention of Japanese film history as a disciplinary mode of knowledge. His analysis includes such topics as the reconfiguration of prewar films in light of postwar recognition, the application of psychoanalytic theory to Japanese art and culture, and the intersection of kanji and cinema. He considers the historical inscription of 1950s Japan as “the golden age of the humanist film,” the identification of a Japanese New Wave and the implications of categorizing Japanese film through analogy to other national cinemas. Bringing the discussion to Japan’s reception of postmodernism, Nygren looks at the emergence of video art and anime and the end of Japanese film history as a meaningful concept in the rise of the Internet and globalization. Nygren highlights the creative exchange among North American, European, and Asian media, places Japanese film at the center of this discourse, and, ultimately, reveals its global role as a cultural medium, capable of transforming theory.

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