Auteur theory

Aaron Gerow gerow
Mon Jul 5 04:15:43 EDT 1999

Michael Badzik asked,

>The French critics were activists spearheading a revolution in 
>filmmaking, and had a strong influence on filmmakers in other countries 
>as well - more so then the other auteur theory critics who I believe 
>(correct me if I am wrong) mostly influenced other critics. What degree 
>of influence did they have on Japanese films, in a country that already 
>seemed to have post-war revolutions going on in film and all of its 
>other popular arts?

This may be way out in left field, but my hunch/hypothesis is the 
following: French auteurst criticism did not affect Japanese cinema in 
the Japanese "version" of the New Wave (the Shochiku Nouvella Vague, 
etc., considered here as a trend in art cinema), but rather via popular 
cinema, in particular Nikkatsu Action (I'm thinking more of the post 1960 
work, not the early Nakahira Ko) and Toei yakuza films.  I think it is 
extremely significant that it was a Nikkatsu action film, _Kurenai no 
nagareboshi_ (Masuda Norio), that tried to "replicate" Godard's 
_Breathless_ in a Japanese movie (albiet not necessarily stylistically).  
Yomota Inuhiko, for an upcoming anthology project on Nikkatsu Action, is 
planning to write on Nikkatsu and the French Nouvelle Vague, and I for 
one cannot wait to see the results.

While the influence of the French on Nikkatsu Action is real, I am less 
sure of Toei yakuza product.  But what is interesting is that it was 
Japanese critics like Hasumi Shigehiko who were influenced by the French 
(Hasumi interpreted for Godard when he came to Japan; Godard is still the 
God of Hasumiesque scholars; etc.), who took up a stance very similar to 
that of French auteurism by opposing both art film criticism and 
political criticism with a method that saw the cinematicity of even 
popular cinematic works when created by certain auteurs.  And more than 
anything else, it was Nikkatsu Action (particularly Seijun) and Toei 
yakuza films (Kato Tai and Yamashita Kosaku) that served as their 

A flimsy hypothesis full of holes.  More needs to be done to see what 
Hasumi and the others were reading at the time (it was Yamada Koichi who 
was doing much of the translation of French work then).  And David 
probably has more than a few points to make.  But perhaps a start for an 

Aaron Gerow
Associate Professor
International Student Center
Yokohama National University
79-1 Tokiwadai
Hodogaya-ku, Yokohama 240-8501
E-mail: gerow at
Phone: 81-45-339-3170
Fax: 81-45-339-3171

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