Asian Invasion

Cavanaugh, Carole cavanaug
Wed Jan 17 14:24:09 EST 2001

Responses to the New York Times piece have been especially compelling.
Perhaps some among the discussants can email letters to the New York Times
(letters at to express the most important concerns? We will get
much farther with this issue if we speak to an audience beyond this list, in
addition to discussion here. It might also be interesting for the NYT Arts
editor to know of the existence of the KineJapan list. 

If anyone is game, here are instructions from the NYT web site:

Letters to the Times should only be sent to the Times, and not to other
publications. We do not publish open letters or third-party letters. When
writing be certain to include your name, address and a daytime and evening
phone number. Letters should be limited to about 150 words. We regret we
cannot return or acknowledge unpublished letters. Writers of those letters
selected for publication will be notified within a week. 

Warm regards,
Carole Cavanaugh
Assistant Provost
Associate Professor of Japanese
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
cavanaugh at

-----Original Message-----
From: Joseph Murphy [mailto:urj7 at]
Sent: Monday, January 15, 2001 2:08 PM
To: KineJapan at
Subject: Re: Asian Invasion

Markus wrote:
>Did anyone see the article in the Sunday New York Times? (Kehr, Dave. "In
>Theaters Now: The Asian Alternative." NYT (14 January 2001): sec 2, 1, 30.
>What did you think? The Asian Invasion they are talking about was mostly
>Chinese (HUGE color picture of Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung on the from
page), with Korea thrown in here and there. Japan was carted in half-way
through to represent history: Mizoguchi, Ozu, Kurosawa.

I noticed that right away too.  It's an anomaly, given the success of 
Japanese film in the European festival circuit over the last 5 years. 
My impression was that there was a framework of nostalgia behind the 
article that couldn't accommodate Japan.  This "Asian Invasion" 
consists of films that have a certain grandeur that Hollywood has 
lost.  It is a place where "they still tell stories," and still have 
big, broad emotions and still believe in fantasy and love, and that 
American audiences are beginning to respond to this when all 
Hollywood can deliver is product placement and soulless, postmodern 
irony, and that the infusion of directors and actors is 
reinvigorating Hollywood by reacquainting it with its own traditions. 
The images in the article had a strong "classical" 1940's feel, the 
heavy romance of "In the Mood for Love," the people dressed in 
tuxedos from "Yi Yi."  Implicit is the idea that East and Southeast 
Asia are places where there are still real economic, political and 
social struggles, and these give rise to genuine emotions and 
generous, expansive feelings that members of jaded postmodern 
cultures can't produce anymore.  Japan's too close to the US 
socioeconomically to work as an object of nostalgia this way.  The 
Beatles were understood to have done the same thing: reacquaint a 
listless American rock scene with its own culture and history.

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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