Nihon eiga wa ikite iru

Alex Zahlten Alex.Zahlten at
Mon Aug 9 23:36:38 EDT 2010

I have to agree that I find the title implicitly continuing the discourse of crisis that has been running through film criticism in Japan (and outside of it - I once found an article in a German magazine, not a film related one, from the 1970s absurdly titled "Porno and Apocalypse", about the supposed self-destruction of the Japanese film industry) for many decades now.

That said, compare it to the title of Abe Casio's book "Nihon eiga wa sonzai suru" from ten years ago. Abe-san of course had his own take on the title, but the shift from confirming existence to asserting some form of life may be part of certain "revival" (or resuscitation?) narratives that came to play from the mid- 2000s.


-------- Original-Nachricht --------
> Datum: Mon, 9 Aug 2010 08:07:55 +0900
> Von: Aaron Gerow <aaron.gerow at>
> An: KineJapan at
> Betreff: Re: Nihon eiga wa ikite iru

> >  Honestly, "Nihon eiga wa ikite iru" is actually how I, a Chinese  
> > fan of Japanese movies, think of the situation of the Japanese movie  
> > industry and its influence in East Asia. It is not popular or strong  
> > as it was, but when we see a couple of good movies coming out every  
> > year,  we will say,"Nihon eiga wa ikite iru."
> Yomota Inuhiko does try to explain it in his introduction in the first  
> volume. He starts by noting those who proclaimed the death of cinema  
> around its centenary, so first off, "Japanese cinema is alive" is an  
> answer to those who said it is dead: "No, Japanese film is alive and  
> well, thank you." (And at the domestic box office, it is beating  
> Hollywood.) But at the same time, it is a recognition of profound  
> transformations in media technology and global flows. Much has changed  
> and we all must rethink how we approach Japanese film, but Yomota is  
> generally positive here. Despite all this, Japanese cinema is  
> energetically finding new ways to keep on living. (One of his  
> prominent examples, which I saw in 2007, was Sawato Midori's example  
> of "reviving" Mizoguchi's lost "Chi to rei" by doing a benshi  
> performance to existing stills.) He is not really saying it in your  
> sense, that it is still breathing (perhaps on life support).
> I agree with Yomota here and thus understand his reasoning behind the  
> title. My concern is that the title is not exactly productive for film  
> studies. Has Iwanami ever published a koza with such a title for other  
> disciplines? No. Perhaps that does make film studies special, as a  
> space that can mix the popular and the academic, but that's not really  
> what was going on at Iwanami. There's still the sense amongst the  
> institutions in Japan that film studies (and, I think, film culture)  
> is not worthy of the same consideration as other disciplines or arts.  
> Furthermore, while I often hear people talk about doing film studies  
> while avoiding the evils of academicization (and I myself admire early  
> efforts by Gonda Yasunosuke, et al. to do that), they often say that  
> without really strategizing about how you then get universities to  
> develop programs and hire scholars, how you get publishers to print  
> academic works, how you get government committees researching the  
> promotion of film culture to even consider preserving film history and  
> its study, how you get companies to recognize scholarly fair use, etc.  
> The title "Nihon eiga wa ikite iru" to me still seems like the a  
> continuation of the old condition of film studies--as if it's saying  
> that film studies is still barely breathing.
> Again, the title does not obscure the fact that this is a great series  
> of books, which hopefully should be able to speak on its own. I do  
> think there was a missed opportunity, however.
> Aaron Gerow
> Associate Professor
> Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
> Director of Undergraduate Studies, Film Studies
> Yale University
> 53 Wall Street, Room 316
> PO Box 208363
> New Haven, CT 06520-8363
> Phone: 1-203-432-7082
> Fax: 1-203-432-6764
> e-mail: aaron.gerow at
> site:

alex at

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