Realism in Japanese Cinema

Aaron Gerow gerow
Tue Apr 11 02:05:24 EDT 2000

There seems to be some interest in this topic, so perhaps I can formulate 
some questions in the following way:

What are the problems entailed in calling Japanese films "realist"?  Some 
have already brought up the difficulty in applying "Western categories" 
to Japanese works, but what specifically does not fit with these 
categories (which I might emphasize are plural and not always consistent 
with each other)?  Are concepts of realism itself illegitimate for 
discussing Japanese film (or film in general), or have Western realisms 
been subjected to adaption, appropriation, and rejection?

This brings up the issue, which I raised, about how discourses within 
Japan have discussed the relationship between film and reality.  How has 
film criticism and theory in Japan approached this problem?  What 
directors or genres have been singled out and why?  When did the issue of 
realism and cinema first appear and why?  How has it changed over time?  
Some of those working on documentary may be able to tell us something 
about how this "realistic mode" of cinema was defined and what concepts 
of realism and reality were used.  The issue can spread beyong film into 
literature in the other arts.  Maybe those expert in those areas can 
postulate about the problem of realism in Japanese cinema by relating it 
to debates in, say, Japanese literature from naturalism to proletariat 
literature about the relationship of art and reality.

Any thoughts?

Aaron Gerow
Yokohama National University
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