Asian Invasion

A.M. Nornes amnornes at
Mon Jan 15 18:40:02 EST 2001

At 12:29 AM -0500 1/16/01, Lang Thompson wrote:
> >Just out of curiosity, are there actually more Asian films being distributed
> >(or showing in NYC) today that, say, ten years ago. My suspicion is that
> >there aren't. If that's the case, what generates this? What brings Korea
> >forward? What moves Japan to the background? I do think something is
> >happening, but I don't think it has to do with distribution. Thoughts?
> I think it's one of those situations where several factors come together at
> once:  journalists need for a "fresh" story, high-profile Asian directors
> in Hollywood (I think "Mission: Impossible II" was last year's second
> highest grossing film), interesting films with an anticipated audience (the
> wave of interest in Iranian films never translated to much business in the
> US, though having seen several with predominantly Iranian audiences who
> were greatly entertained I think this was just too restrictive marketing).
> And of course the big success story of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon which
> is already one of the highest grossing foreign-language films in the US but
> has only just now gone into a wide release.  (In the multiplex near me it's
> only the second subtitled film that's ever played there.)

All good reasons, and so were Joe's. But wasn't Shall We Dance the highest
grossing foreign film just a while back? Why didn't that spark notions about
"invasion" and (popular) "Asian alternatives"? And historically speaking the
entry of foreign talent into Hollywood is hardly unusual, and has never
really translated into interest into the national cinemas those director's
came from.

I sense that there are other reasons. The first chapter of Mitsuhiro's book
is provocative, but only as a starting point. He suggests that Japanese
cinema played an important role in the ongoing construction of film studies
in general, but that role has all but disappeared as of the 1990s. I find
this convincing for thinking about the field of film studies---his major
concern---but what of cinema culture at ground level? One of the things
Mitsuhiro doesn't do (and I'm not saying he should; the chapter was already
incredibly long and ambitious) is articulate the relationship between
academic film culture, and that of critics (of various stripe) and audiences
(ditto). We could say the academic discourses around Chinese cinema have
been more "nigiyaka" than Japanese in the last decade or so, and that a
similar thing has gone on at those other levels. However, I don't think we
can say the academics are generating the position Kehr's taking. Where else
shall we look?


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