Japanese train films

Roger Macy macyroger at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Sep 12 16:48:59 EDT 2008

 Brian Ruh said (under the thread 'boyhood sublimations ...') "Are there any good train documentaries out there?"


You are definitely teasing us.  The only way this thread was staying smaller than the entire internet was to confine it to Japanese fiction films featuring Japanese trains.  But I'm enjoying the thread greatly, indulging in nostalgia for wonderful films, and wistfulness for ones that didn't stop at my station.

Thanks, Maria, for pointing to the article by Luc Béal.  I agree with him that Imamura's Akai satsui is right up there as one of the best.  Right from the start, he subverts the genre with a train scene showing a forced return to an unwelcome furusato .

Journeys are such a staple of Naruse films that it's hardly surprising his films figure.  Especially memorable for me are the emotional transitions in Midareru - Yearning and Ukigumo. 


The outstanding Japanese train documentary for me is TSUCHIMOTO Noriaki's Aru kikanjoshi - An Engineer's Assistant.  And I think I can squeeze it in under the subject of fiction.  It's actually billed to show at the BFI on October 8th and 11th.  The blurb says, or rather said http://www.bfi.org.uk/whatson/bfi_southbank/film_programme/october_seasons/levelling_the_playing_field/an_engineers_assistant_on_t

 until a few days ago, 'It is homoerotic and shows why Japan's work ethic helped it recover from the war.'  It would seem I wasn't the only person to think these were two entirely fictional perceptions, presented as facts.  You can watch it yourself and decide, under the banner of 'the Radical Role of Film Criticism'.  But another way it could be described as fictional was in the white glove-wearing of the crew.  FUJIWARA Toshi, who made Eiga wa ikimono no kiroku de aru: Tsuchimoto noriaki no shigoto, has Tsuchimoto claiming that he needed the white gloves for his night-shots, and that the adoption of this practice by the railways came after watching his safety film, turning embellishment into fact.


Changing trains again, I noticed that several of the documentary entries at the Venezia film festivals for 1938 and 939 were produced by Japanese Railways Tourist Board or South Manchuria Railways.

I expect this followed similar practice by other countries.

Roger Macy

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Brian Ruh" <brianruh at yahoo.com>
To: <KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu>
Sent: Friday, September 12, 2008 5:34 PM
Subject: Re: boyhood sublimations/ Japanese trainspotters

> --- On Thu, 9/11/08, Jonathan M Hall <jmhall at uci.edu> wrote:
>> Brian, prompting this kind of imagination is unforgivable
>> because there is no station at which to arrive: forgive me, but
>> it's in-terminal-able!    
> Sorry, I didn't mean to get the discussion off on the wrong track. Hopefully it doesn't make you too loco and prompt you to rail at me.
> Okay, I'm done. 
> Anyway, I didn't really mean for the topic to get out of control. Of course there are bound to be trains in many, many Japanese films. I was just trying to think of ones where trains are featured prominently or play a key role. Are there any good train documentaries out there?
> == Brian
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