Edward Seidensticker 1921-2007

Cook, Theodore CookT at wpunj.edu
Tue Aug 28 16:35:03 EDT 2007

Thank you Alex for your mentioning Ed Seidensticker. I also want to thank Mike McCasky for the thoughtful comments on Kamei Fumio, too, as his work, career, and fate are of great interest to me.

The Japanese film industry is of immense value as a topic of historical study, even though it was so grieviously impacted by the war and wartime limitations on all dimensions of creative work.


Theodore F. Cook, PhD
Asian Studies Program Director
Professor of History, Atrium 206
William Paterson University of New Jersey
Wayne, NJ 07470

cookt at wpunj.edu
phone: (973) 720-2243
fax: (973) 720-3079

-----Original Message-----
From: Alexander Jacoby [mailto:a_p_jacoby at yahoo.co.uk]
Sent: Mon 8/27/07 8:23 PM
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Subject: Edward Seidensticker 1921-2007
Although he was not directly related to the art of the cinema, I think that everyone on this list should shed a tear at the passing of the pre-eminent translator of Japanese literature. Western appreciation and understanding of Mishima, Tanizaki, Kawabata and indeed The Tale of Genji itself would have been much diminished without his tireless work.


----- Original Message ----
From: Michael McCaskey <mccaskem at georgetown.edu>
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Sent: Monday, 27 August, 2007 12:13:51 PM
Subject: Re: Tenkô in Japanese film ?

Dear Mark Roberts,

It sounds to me as if you should write a book about this.

Yamada Yoji's Kinema no tenchi (1986), which as you likely know is sort of a sentimental tribute to the Japanese film industry, covers the police repression a bit--I haven't seen it for a couple of years, but I believe there is a secondary character who is hiding out from the police. The police search the house of one of the main characters, and find a book about the Marx Brothers. Being stupid, they figure this makes him a Marxist, and he is sent off to jail, and beaten up. He's not saved by any legal justice--rather, the head of the studio uses influence to get him released.

In Kon Satoshi's Millennium Actress (2001), an anime history of the film industry in Japan starting ca. 1930, the figure of the rebel artist is a recurring image throughout. This artist, not specifically a film artist, is arrested, tortured, and finally killed. I imagine this was a way Kon could handle fascist repression of the film industry.

There were one or two film makers/directors who wound up being drafted into the army and sent off as regular soldiers to fight in China. I think one of them had made a film that portrayed the war in China too realistically (i.e., told the truth about it to some degree). 

If you have not already, you may want to look at the chapter on Cinema and the State in A New History of Japanese Cinema, by Isolde Standish, and perhaps most especially at the case of Kamei Fumio, who was jailed during the war for his left-wing thinking, and his film, The Tragedy of Japan (Nihon no higeki) pp. 152-154. You may well already have read this material.

It may be that tenko was so prevalent in the Japanese film industry that history tends more to note the few people who resisted, rather than the majority of people who went along. In Peeling the Onion, Gunter Grass has the repeating theme re people who did not actively support the repressive activities of the 1933-45 regime, but just avoided saying or writing anything about them (Grass includes himself pre-1945).

In the case of Germany under the NSDAP, pretty much all of the good directors and cinematographers and actors and actresses managed to leave for Hollywood in the 1930s. People in the Japanese film industry, on the other hand, mostly had nowhere they could go, even if they could leave.

I hope you'll seriously consider writing about tenko in the Japanese film industry.

With Best Wishes,

Michael McCaskey
Georgetown University

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mark D. Roberts" <mroberts37 at mail-central.com>
Date: Sunday, August 26, 2007 9:40 pm
Subject: Re: Tenkô in Japanese film ?

> Dear Michael, Mathieu, and others,
> Thanks very much for all of your enlightening comments. I had 
> thought  
> of Kurosawa, and Oshima's "Night and Fog", the latter being one of 
> the reasons why I was curious about pre-1960 films. Also, Oshima's 
> film touches on this but seems more concerned with disillusionment 
> and analysis of "internal" failure.
> Tsurumi indeed is the main source for analysis, though I'm not 
> sure  
> if he discusses the phenomenon of "mass tenkô". It seems there is 
> not  
> so much in the field in film studies, though. On this point, 
> Richie's  
> "Art and Industry" is somewhat critical of Imai Tadashi for his 
> shift  
> from left to right to left, but Richie doesn't really acknowledge  
> what was involved in tenkô. He treats it as a lack of political  
> conviction on the part of the individual, and makes little or no  
> mention of practices of coercion. In a more recent book review,  
> Yomota remarks that Peter High's book received a mixed reception 
> in  
> part because of some ongoing resistance to discuss tenkô.
> Based upon a very brief survey of this, my impression is that the  
> generation of directors who began working in the late 1950s were  
> perhaps the first with the liberty to openly treat topic this in  
> their films.
> Again, thanks much for your thoughts about this.
> Best,
> M. Roberts

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