Audience studies of the Occupation

Michael Kerpan mekerpan at
Sat Sep 4 13:43:00 EDT 2010

I think, having lived so long under strict censorship by wartime government officials, Ozu had mastered Aesopian discourse.  Perhaps he could not resist testing his skills against the new occupation censors.

The key requirement for this kind of actvity is "deniability", the ability to say with a straight face -- "how could you imagine that is what I intended to do?"

--- On Sat, 9/4/10, Roger Macy <macyroger at> wrote:

From: Roger Macy <macyroger at>
Subject: Re: Audience studies of the Occupation
To: KineJapan at
Date: Saturday, September 4, 2010, 11:27 AM


I'm grateful for Kirsten for raising the issue the 
'reception' of Edward Fowler's 'Piss and Run ..' and would like to wrangle on 
Whilst Fowler does indeed produce convincing detail on how 
we westerners 'missed' the flag in Ozu's Nagaya shinshiroku, 1947; in 
legal, or logical terms, he is not producing new evidence of 'our' oversight of 
the flag - until Fowler saw it, no one else did.  As such, if none of 'us' 
saw it, the evidence can be re-marshalled to argue that no one saw it that 
As prosecutor, he paints a plausible scenario on how Ozu 
might have been motivated, but no evidence at all on Ozu or anyone else actually 
seeing it that way.  It is merely implied that, as the auteur, he had the 
opportunity.  But in fact, to have the opportunity either, he alone saw it 
and put it past the film company clandestinely, or, as Fowler and others imply, 
many Japanese saw it but were content to be complicit in it.
But surely the bar has been set far too low 
Ozu could not have dreamed of what lay ahead of him.  
But he would surely have been acutely aware of his contemporary 
difficulties.  His country was occupied by a country that, at home, was 
still intensely anti-Japanese.  The arguments in the American press about 
Japanese anti-Americanism were still ahead, but, I suggest, the sensitivities 
that underlay them would have been readily apparent, as would the extent of both 
formal and informal influence of SCAP upon Japanese polity.  Ozu, as an 
experienced, middle-aged director, could not have failed to appreciate, if he 
had indeed 'seen' it, that only once would someone have to whisper 'flag' 
to an American whilst showing the picture and the 'cover' was blown.  (And 
it would only need one Korean to whisper to one Frenchman and ...)  Imagine 
Ozu, or perhaps more importantly, Kido or his like, imagining Fowler's figure 36 
and the headline of your choice splashed across every newspaper.  Imagine 
the Americans seeing copies of Soviet and other foreign newspapers with this 
splash.  If Ozu had done a number on Shochiku and very likely lengthened 
and deepened the occupation, seppuku wouldn't have remotely expiated and a 
rather obscure director would have been mainly known, beside by a few 
scholars, for one infantine gesture.
Perhaps I'm over-influenced by my own errors.  I was 
one of a score of people, of varied gender and age, who were connected with a 
charity that implicitly approved a poster that showed a little girl's hand 
clutching a finger.  Others saw it differently and, once they had, we all 
did.  Ten thousand posters were pulped and, hopefully, you will never see 
it.  But I would reject any prosecutor's argument that, for all that 
destruction of evidence, 'it would have been obvious' to us at the 
But Bob Buscher is absolutely right to look for evidence 
that supposedly subversive images were received in such a way.  In the case 
of the futon, the subversive reading is so implausibly suicidal - and would have 
been readily perceived as such at the time -  that the rule of parsimony 
requires some proper evidence of reception.
Happy, as ever, to be proved wrong, or at least on the 
disproven side of an argument.
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