mroberts37 at mail-central.com
Tue Nov 10 21:29:46 EST 2009
The whole issue of the JF as "competition" recalled some remarks by
Donald Richie on the distribution policies of the majors, specifically
concerning domestic screenings and subtitled prints. These were during
a talk that he gave, following a screening of Mizoguchi's "Osaka
Elegy" at the Japan Foundation's old office in Akasaka, in 2004. While
trying to locate details on this screening, I actually found a
complete transcript of Richie's lecture on the FILMeX web site. Here
is the relevant extract:
"In the case of Japanese film's titled prints, these are not only sold
through commercial distribution channels, but they are also circulated
for museums and university showings by the Japan Foundation, by the
Kawakita Foundation and others. They have usually acquired, that is,
they bought a print from original company, a titled print, and have
agreed to show it only abroad.
The reason for this, the only showing abroad the titled print, is that
the original producing company (Toho, for example) fears that if a
print is shown in Japan outside customary distribution venues it will
attract Japanese viewers who will not be paying admission directly
into the company. Even if the film showing is free it is still thought
that potential customers are lost. Though this logic is shaky, this
ban has been permanent for quite numbers of years now.
Perhaps, the question I am asked most often by both foreigners and
Japanese is why subtitled Japanese films cannot be shown in this
country. There have been several exceptions, for example, the Japan
Foundation office in Kyoto had a very successful series of Japanese
films for numbers of years, but the stipulation was that only
foreigners could come and see them, and no Japanese could, so they
were forced to limit these showings.
In my own organizing of the film showings of titled films, here in
Japan, I have sometimes been denied the use of a titled print even for
educational or membership audiences. The reason was always the same:
the producing company objected. If I could get their permission then I
might use the print, but of course getting this permission was never
On the other hand, these titled prints, permission granted, could be
readily shown overseas since the foreign audience was not considered
large enough to represent any appreciable financial loss. It is for
this reason that titled prints of Japanese films are often to be
encountered abroad and almost never here.
Now, however, for the very first time, permission has been granted to
show titled prints to a mixed foreign-Japanese audience today. Anyone
is free now to buy a ticket and to attend.
This is a great step forward in the dissemination of titled Japanese
prints in Japan. It means that such films may now be screened in the
director's own country, to be appreciated by both local audiences, the
Japanese and the foreign."
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