Asian Invasion

Joseph Murphy urj7 at
Thu Jan 18 15:41:28 EST 2001

Markus wrote on 18 Jan:

>  > I think Kehr is a conscientious critic who may well slap his forehead with
>>  dismay when he gets e-mail from Kine-Japan members pointing out his various
>>  sins, but I wouldn't read too much into his "Japan passing." January just
>>  doesn't happen to be our month.
>I think it's more that this, and that's why I brought this up in the first
>place. For example, I've noticed over the last couple years that lists of
>"essential movies," "top ten films of all time" know the
>genre...have started to drop Japanese films and directors and replaced them
>with directors from other Asian countries. I'm not offering these examples
>because I'm kuyashii. Rather, I'm suggesting we're seeing a shift in popular
>and academic canons. This will influence many things, not least of which is
>film and video distribution in the US (that members of this list are getting
>their Japanese films from Hong Kong VCD companies says a lot).

Okay, a shift in popular and academic canons.  Let me see if I can 
follow this.  I think Markus is suggesting that the reformulation of 
Japan's position for a western academic film discourse that used to 
privilege or even fetishize Japanese cinema might be sort of leaking 
back into less specialized and more commercial activities like 
journalism, film distribution, etc., and affecting the reception of 
new Japanese cinema "on the ground".  That is to say, there's some 
sort of attenuated but congruent movement in academic and popular 
canons.  It makes sense, there's got to be some kind of connection, 
but that would seem to imply either that Japanese film would be sort 
of erased from the academic and popular consciousness in tandem, or, 
that the anomalous position of Japanese film in the 1950's through 
1970's having been rethought, Japanese film is now evaluated as just 
one of many non-western cinemas (cinemae? cinemon?) rather than a 
fetishized representative of "the other".

The trouble is, that doesn't quite fit the puzzle we're considering 
now.  What we see here is the marked success of Japanese film both in 
the festival circuit over the last 5 years, and even mixing it up at 
the multiplex level (I just watched Sabu's 1996 film Dangan Runner at 
the local theater last night, advertised as "a parody of "Run Lola 
Run"!) on the one hand, and the omission of new Japanese film from 
the article on the Asian invasion.  That doesn't fit the model of a 
broad-based shift in tandem of popular and academic canons, and 
requires more specific attention to the logic of the article.

By the way, I agree with Markus, there's nothing really "kuyashii" 
(vexing and worrying) about this, and I don't intend it to be a 
criticism of Kehr.  I thought the article was very nicely done, 
especially in the way it situated 5th and 6th generation Chinese 
cinema, and somehow the omission of Japan "made sense".  Rather than 
wanting to stump for Japanese film, I'm interested in what made it 
seem coherent.
J. Murphy

Joseph Murphy
E-mail: <urj7 at>
TEL: (352) 392-2110/2442. FAX (352) 392-1443
University of Florida, Box 115565, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
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