Japan and Cult

Nathen Clerici nclerici at interchange.ubc.ca
Thu Feb 18 15:06:55 EST 2010

On 2010-02-18, at 5:56 AM, Jasper Sharp wrote:

> This is of particular relevance to this discussion: Nikkatsu have just started up a new label called Sushi Typhoon which seems to be explicitly targeting this Western market previously tapped by the likes of Tokyo Gore Police et al...

Thank you for bringing this to my attention-- it's a great example of how Japanese cinema travels, and fits very well into the discussion on cult.  I agree that a film marketed as cult by a studio is paradoxical.  Most films that gain a cult following do so by accident.  Part of the joy of being a hardcore fan is appropriating the film for your own purposes, which often means viewing the film in a contrarian way.  A ready-made cult movie would probably turn off a lot of  hardcore fans, but maybe it attracts those with passing interest who want to tap into some of the subcultural capital of cult film.  

> Comparisons/distinctions might be drawn with Tartan's attempt at creating a cult around their 'Asian Extreme' label, and Ring-producer Tak Ichise's attempts at producing films also with his main eye on the Western market.

I wonder how long studio or distributor-manufactured cults last-- perhaps they last, but develop in unexpected ways.

Do you know whether or not the idea of cult film exists among Japanese audiences?  Either for Japanese or foreign movies?

> As an aside, one can probably say that the word 'cult' was first really applied to Japanese cinema with Thomas Weisser's magazine Asian Cult Cinema, first published under the title Asian Trash Cinema - this celebrated the more vernacular productions that Western critics had hitherto pretty much ignored before the 1990s.

This is good to know-- it seems that the correlation between 'trash' and 'cult' was strong in the 90s.  That's when Sconce first started tackling the subject, too.  

> When we kicked off Midnight Eye, our slogan was "Japanese Cult Cinema", which was quickly ditched as we realised it was too limiting and didn't really seem appropriate to a lot of the films by the likes of Shinji Aoyama and Naomi Kawase which we were covering at the beginning, nor older titles by directors such as Teinosuke Kinugasa and Keisuke Kinoshita. I think we changed it after about six months to "the latest and best in Japanese cinema".

Very interesting anecdote, thank you.  If you had kept 'cult' in the title and continued to write about the same things you do now, you would likely have expanded its definition, and perhaps muddied the waters even more!  What in particular did you feel was limiting about the word 'cult'?  For example, did you feel that 'cult' excluded certain genres, studios or directors?  And why did you use the word in the first place?

> Also, it might be worth checking up the archives of the old Mobius Home Video discussion forum (http://www.mhvf.net/), which was, around 1999-2000, one of the main websites discussing Asian cinema, in seperate forums to those of Sci-fi/Horror, Eurocult, Exploitation etc. You'll get an idea of the type of films that were falling under discussion.

I will definitely look into this.
Thanks for all your suggestions and information-- it's very helpful.


> > Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2010 03:22:20 +0100
> > From: berndstandhaft at gmx.de
> > To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
> > Subject: Re: Japan and Cult
> > 
> > Hi,
> > 
> > Mark Mays wrote:
> > 
> > > Interesting. I think the notion speaks to how Japanese films make it to
> > > the West (the US in my case) and how they play to certain expectations/
> > > notions of Japanese cinema especially in the 18 to 34 demographic.
> > 
> > I think an interesting example of transnational film marketing can be experienced in the way some film producers in Japan tried to hop on the wave of Japanese Cult Cinema in the West and produce films with an international Cult Film Market in mind. I think of Machine Girl, Tokyo Gore Police, Chanbara Beauty, Samurai Princess, Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl... . Maybe the success of these films can explain why a film of the type of Hausu can appeal to certain audiences even more than 30 years after the original release in Japan and become Cult.
> > 
> > 
> > Greetings
> > Bernd
> > 
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