Shiota Tokitoshi lecture in Munich - a third way

Mark Nornes amnornes
Mon Apr 29 16:05:24 EDT 2002

On Saturday, April 27, 2002, at 12:24  PM, Jasper Sharp wrote:

> I'm heartened by the fact that articles we have put up, such
> as the John Williams interview of the feature on Kurutta Ippeiji, are 
> still
> enduringly popular.

Yes, Midnight Eye is very refreshing for its catholic taste; I hope 
everyone on KineJapan is a regular visitor!

> In any national cinema, the middle ground is still increasingly ignored.

I did make a distinction between, if you want to put it crudely, art and 
cult film. However, I see this as mostly a temporal structure---the 
difference between what used to "stand for" Japanese cinema in the past 
vs. the last 5+ years or so.

I also don't see it as two ends of a spectrum, but simply as possible 
emphases that are, ultimately, in a theoretical sense, unlimited. I 
reject the idea of a middle ground; my own sense of "Japanese cinema" is 
an interconnected complex of possibilities (genres, styles, modes of 
production, media, etc. etc.).

> But this is happening because of decisions made at a far higher level 
> than
> either the cult or academic writers. The "gatekeepers" in distribution 
> and
> the film press seem to be totally out of touch with the general public.

They all work in concert to produce the _market_ gatekeepers cater to, 
but the relationships between these coordinates and the people who 
populate the system seem to have changed in the past decade, my basic 

> Foreign cinema is no longer meant to entertain,
> portray or inform. It is meant to "shock", "provoke", "challenge" or to 
> make
> use of a hilarious quote by British Film Institute Programmer and Time 
> Out
> reviewer, Geoff Andrews, to "reconfigure cinema in its own image". This 
> is
> not what most people go to the cinema for!

Interesting, as this suggests that the recent attention to good old/new 
Japanese sex and violence is part of a larger phenomenon.

> certainly no less narcissistic
> than writers such as Desser who indulged in excessive descriptions of 
> the
> films' technical style and cultural relevatism over the content of the
> individual films themselves. ....[his] inpenetrable prose that these 
> films elicited from lofty-minded academic
> writers.

Actually, Desser is one of the most readable scholars of Japanese cinema 
outside of Richie, and also, I might point out, one of the first to take 
the pink film seriously (see Eros Plus Massacre, which was published in 

> With this in mind, I'm wondering if any recent strain of  Japanese 
> cinema can be said to be representative of
> Japanese culture at present....There's a lot of rubbish being
> released in Japan at the moment, but at the same time, I still 
> regularly see
> stuff that really bowls me over and that I want to write about.

I'm not interested in promoting representatives; I am interested in 
watching and enjoying the widest variety of work (which puts us in 
complete agreement). I would, however, point out that the combination of 
"rubbish" and "jewels" is typical of every national context since the 
first decade of cinema, including the "fabulous 50s" of Japanese cinema.


More information about the KineJapan mailing list