Nihon eiga wa ikite iru

Aaron Gerow aaron.gerow at
Sun Aug 8 19:07:55 EDT 2010

>  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 0652

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