Edo influences on modern films

Michael McCaskey mccaskem at georgetown.edu
Sun Aug 14 14:25:18 EDT 2005

Dear Elkie Leenen,

There are likely lots of influences in the area of what is known as jidai-geki, "period drama," mostly "samurai" pictures set in the Edo Period. People might visualize and set up scenes in such films, based on settings in Edo Period prints. It may be hard to pinpoint specific Edo visual influences in various films readily, but one pretty clear case is the Edo drama Chushingura. There are several books on Chushingura in English, but the one below is perhaps the most applicable.
Author Bell, David, 1950-  
Title Chushingura and the floating world : the representation of Kanadehon Chushingura in Ukiyo-e prints / David Bell  
Imprint Richmond, Surrey : Japan Library, 2001 
Descript 170 p. : ill. ; 24 cm 
Bibliog. Includes bibliographical references and index 
ISBN 190335000X 
Subject Takeda, Izumo, 1691-1756. Kanadehon Ch¯ushingura  
 Forty-seven R¯onin in art  
 Color prints, Japanese -- Edo period, 1600-1868  
 Kabuki in art  
 Forty-seven R¯onin in literature 
This wd. be about the way that 1) Edo prints visualizing the actual events might affect staging of dramatizations, 2) the dramatizations wd. give rise to prints visualizing the atage settings, and 3) processes 1) and 2) cd. interact, and yield a whole artistic tradition.

I believe there's also a fairly recent book in German about this topic.

There are many, many film and TV versions of Chushingura on DVD. The early 1960s Inagaki Hiroshi version of Chushingua and an even older one by Mizoguchi, from the early 1940s, are the only readily available Chushingura DVD's in US format.

Since you are in DVD Region 2, you may be able to get other versions of Chushingura in PAL format. There are a lot available in Japanese Region 2 NTSC format--actually enough to watch full-time for a couple of weeks, to compare settings of given scenes.

A major visualization to compare in many different film and TV versions is the fight out in the snow-covered garden, from Act/Scene 11 of the traditional drama. That setting goes back to the earliest Edo print visualizations. It's in almost every one of the later film and TV versions on DVD, and it was also borrowed by Quentin Tarantino for Kill Bill Vol. 1. Though Tarantino may have been directly influenced by another derivative Japanese film which borrowed the visual concept of the fight in the snow in the garden from the Chushingura films.

There's so much Chushingura material that there's more than enough there to occupy several more researchers. There are also dozens of books in Japanese about Chushingura, and a number of different novelizations of it.

You could of course pick some other sort of film if you prefer, but in this case there are a number of parallel sets of Edo prints for Chushingura, and there are 11 acts/scenes, so each set will tend to have a dozen or more pictures, which can be compared with each other, with films, and with scenes in books. Plus various related books in European languages. 


----- Original Message -----
From: elkie leenen <elkieleenen at hotmail.com>
Date: Sunday, August 14, 2005 8:50 am
Subject: Edo influences on modern films

> Hello, my name is Elkie Leenen. I'm a dutch student, and currently 
> I have a 
> project involving Japanese art. One of the subjects is Japanese 
> cinema. I'm 
> trying to find out if there are any artistic influences from the 
> Edo-Period 
> which affect modern Japanese cinema. If there aren't any, I want 
> to find the 
> main differences between modern cinema and the artistic diciplines 
> from the 
> Edo-period.
> Does anyone have answers to this, or maybe any good resources?
> Thank you in advance.

More information about the KineJapan mailing list