Japan and Cult

Robyn Citizen rc1434 at nyu.edu
Mon Feb 15 18:24:51 EST 2010

Hi Nathen,

Your work sounds fascinating and I'm wondering if you have looked at some of Jeffrey Sconce's work on 'paracinema' and sleaze cinema as well as Mendik and Mathijs.  

When I first began studying Japanese cinema and filmmakers it was disturbing to me that none or very few of my friends from Japan had even heard of the films and directors that we were studying in my courses. If they had indeed heard of them, the response was usually along the lines of stating that they were weird, art cinema, or not representative of what was popular in theaters at the time.  (Of course, at the time I did not know that many of these directors had made TV movies or series that would have been much more recognizable to most Japanese youth at the time).  

It is interesting - and perhaps this is a question of what is standard practice in academia or the discipline of cinema studies - that when you have these inter/national cinema courses (I'm TAing for an Int'l Cinema 1960 to present class right now) so few of the films and movements featured were ever mass entertainment or were a majority of films in theatres at any given time both in the nation(s) of production and/or consumption.  I find myself having to caution my students against taking it for granted  that "Cruel Story of Youth" for example, was ever representative or reflective of the Japanese film industry or Japanese culture as a whole. And then the next question is inevitably "Then, why are we watching this? Who said this is good? etc..."

Robyn Citizen
PhD Candidate 
Cinema Studies
New York University
alternate e-mail: ladykaede1221 at gmail.com

"I'm giving her all she's got Captain!" - Scotty, Star Trek 2009

----- Original Message -----
From: Nathen Clerici <nclerici at interchange.ubc.ca>
Date: Monday, February 15, 2010 5:58 pm
Subject: Re: Japan and Cult
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu

> That's a good question, although one that I was hoping to cheat on by 
> avoiding it.  Cult is a category that cannot be separated from viewing 
> practices and fan reception.  This makes a definition of 'cult' very 
> slippery, and often contradictory.  The traditional idea of cult 
> movies is the Rocky Horror Picture Show phenomenon, or midnight 
> movies, but of course home viewing (VHS, DVD) and the Internet lend 
> themselves to fan appropriation of films, and the means to 
> communicate.  I generally look at the introduction to the Cult Film 
> Reader (2008, Mendik and Mathijs) as a good starting point for a 
> definition of cult, but really there is no consensus agreement on what 
> exactly 'cult' means.  It can be 'trash' cinema, aesthetically 
> excessive, socially transgressive, subcultural, so bad it's good, and 
> so on, but it often comes back to viewer reception.  I think that cult 
> film is defined by its meta qualities more than something intrinsic to 
> the film itself-- but, I don't want to ignore the content of the film 
> itself.  Finding this balance is one reason definitions are so 
> slippery.   
> You make a good point that film scholars are nothing but fans-- I 
> think that this listserv is a fine example of a cult following, though 
> more dispersed because the topic (Japan) is much broader than that of 
> a single auteur or movie.  I wonder how different the viewing 
> practices are for film scholars and hardcore fans of Japanese film and 
> anime... I'd guess there's a lot of overlap.
> With Japanese film outside Japan, I tend to think that the 
> overwhelming majority of them are cult.  Shall We Dance? and Miyazaki 
> Hayao's films are perhaps exceptions, but even the stuff you'll see 
> playing art houses or film festivals is still cult.  On the other end 
> of the spectrum are fan lists or books like Macias' Japanese Cult 
> Film, which makes a point to represent the lowbrow or edgy genres.  
> Nathen
> On 2010-02-15, at 2:06 PM, Mark Nornes wrote:
> > I guess this depends on how you define cult cinema? I mean, from a 
> certain perspective film scholars are nothing but fans!  
> > 
> > So what's your def?
> > 
> > m
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > _________________________________
> > A. M. Nornes
> > Chair
> > Department of Screen Arts and Cultures
> > University of Michigan
> > 202 South Thayer St., Suite 6111
> > Ann Arbor, MI 48104-1608
> > Phone: 734-647-2094
> > FAX: 734-647-0157
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > 
> > On Feb 15, 2010, at 5:03 PM, Nathen Clerici wrote:
> > 
> >> Hello all,
> >> 
> >> My name is Nathen Clerici, and this is my first post.  I am really 
> enjoying all the threads on this list.  
> >> 
> >> I am starting a research project that will examine how Japanese 
> film travels and the channels by which it comes to be seen outside 
> Japan.  I want to frame the problem by looking at how different forms 
> of distribution and exhibition (e.g. art house cinema, university 
> courses, Internet fan sites, etc.) affect how a particular movie is 
> received.  Within this framework, I am interested in the idea of cult. 
>  It seems that Japanese cinema is often classified as cult cinema, but 
> I am not sure that it could be received any other way.  Even if we 
> consider a particular Japanese film to be highbrow art, it is most 
> likely still confined to a small-but-adoring audience of cinephiles-- 
> or Japanophiles.  Perhaps J-Horror is an exception?
> >> 
> >> I am curious, KineJapaners, do you think Japanese films seen 
> outside Japan are cult cinema?  
> >> 
> >> I realize the cultural context changes, but I also think that the 
> modes of viewing (e.g. web-based, fan subs, art house) exert a strong 
> influence.  In addition, this is most likely not a question just for 
> Japanese film, but for all film that crosses national/linguistic borders.
> >> 
> >> Thanks,
> >> 
> >> Nathen Clerici
> >> University of British Columbia
> >> PhD Program
> >> Asian Studies
> > 

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