attitudes to Ozu

Sven Koerber-Abe svenkoerber at
Sun Feb 20 13:00:25 EST 2005

Okay, there may be some points where especially the people here on the
KJ-list don't agree with Hasumi regarding the topic especially about Ozu and
how Non-Japanese could or could not understand Japanese cinema.

I personally don't want to defend Hasumi and his views that much, but what I
have to appraise a little bit is that he tries to break the status of the
big (foreign) names who are seen today as the untouchable writers about
Japanese film, especially Donald Richie. Please do not missunderstand me, as
I am a admirer of the works of Mr. Richie !
But as I made the exprerience many times in discussions and lessons (by
myself and by others, too) that it has become a kind of a final and not even
to be doubted argument that "Richie / Bordwell says it is so ...", I have to
say that it feels like a "vitalizing breeze" in the fields of the talks
about Japanese film when not every single word of the big names I mentioned
above is taken given like a commandment.

Of course, Hasumi sometimes exaggerates little bit and goes in a quite
unfavourable directon with it, but nevertheless I often miss the critic
minds who dare to doubt the words of the "established big names". I wish
more critic words towards them would come not from a big and established one
like Hasumi himself (who still seems to be rooted too much in his job at the
Todai years ago).

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Aaron Gerow" <gerowaaron at>
To: <KineJapan at>
Sent: Sunday, February 20, 2005 4:44 PM
Subject: Re: attitudes to Ozu

> While I think there are still some Japanese out there with the "Ozu is
> too Japanese to be understood by foreigners" attitude, opinion in the
> critical community now is much more complex. Just consider the case of
> Hasumi Shigehiko, Japan's most prominent film critic/scholar over the
> last 20 years who has penned the most influential book on Ozu in Japan.
> He actually begins that book by reviewing foreign scholars on Ozu
> (mostly Schrader, Richie and Bordwell) and argues against them not by
> stating that they don't understand Ozu's Japaneseness, but rather that
> their either don't understand that Ozu has little to do with
> Japaneseness (Schrader and Richie), or, more importantly, that they
> don't understand cinema itself (Bordwell). Ozu then becomes the
> representative not of Japaneseness, but of cinema, with the argument
> being that foreign scholars have lost touch with the ineffabilities of
> the medium. (Why Hasumi begins his book signaling out foreign critics
> is curious, if not disturbing, especially since there were plenty of
> Japanese critics he could have faulted.) Just look at Umemoto Yoichi's
> review of Bordwell's Ozu book and you can see this attitude persisting.
> It kind of culminates in Hasumi's infamous statement that Todai is the
> only place in the world that properly teaches film studies, and
> explains in part the rather isolated state of some sectors of film
> studies in Japan (evident in the lack of translation of foreign work or
> interaction with foreign scholars--of a certain kind).
> Aaron Gerow
> Film Studies and East Asian Languages and Literatures
> Yale University

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