[KineJapan] The Meiji Period on Film

Jonathan M. Hall jonathanmarkhall at gmail.com
Thu Jun 27 16:58:06 EDT 2019

Dear KineJapanners,

Bravo National Film Archive!  It was encouraging for our field, too, that
the opening of this webpage was featured as a concluding news item on some
Japanese network news broadcasts last night. Thus encouraged, I checked out
the site and it's very worthwhile. The still images to which Aaron was
referring are, in some cases, explanatory screenshots that tell you what to
look for at certain points in the easily-played clip. I found these
screenshot explanations very useful. I can imagine using the site in the
classroom, too.

The news was broadcast on the day of the opening of the website, itself
meant to celebrate "in the first year of Reiwa"  "the 120th anniversary of
Japanese film," which it defines in a parenthetical commentary as the films
"shot by a Japanese person." "Nihonjin ni yotte satsuei sareta eiga"

These definitions are always problematic in national film histories. I deal
with this problem in a corollary way in my own timelining of queer
histories of film in Japan, histories of queer film in Japan, histories of
films by Japanese queers, histories of films by queers in Japan.  Of
course, a modern and foreign term like "queer" too needs to be
deconstructed into its own intrinsic distortions. Each definition reveals
an interestingly different history.  It's similar for other categories like
"woman," too.

The focus on shot / "satsuei" is curious to me as "shooting" is really one
of the most mobile parts of cinema. It's this mobility, along with the
mobility of exhibition, that Japanese cinema is meant to exclude. "Japanese
film" begins not with the screening of foreign films  in Japan, or the
shooting of films by foreigners in Japan, which were presumably then
produced elsewhere. (the Daguerre films, for example...) Japanese cinema is
very much national: both geographic and ethnic. I'm reminded of the work of
Eric Cazdyn. This makes a certain sense, and I don't want to fall into
pedantic discussions

But it raises for me questions that others may already have solved. Do we
know who shot the early Daguerre films? And more interestingly, do we know
who is the first "non-Japanese" resident in the Japanese Empire of the time
to both shoot and produce a film in Japan proper (Naichi) or in its
colonies at that time? And what about wandering, rootless early Japanese
cinematographers, perhaps shooting and editing overseas?  If someone can
recommend recent work that addresses these other early histories, I'd be

In closing, let me mention that the Q&A section for the webpage mostly
deals with technical questions on how to view the films the Archive is
making public. But the last section, Eiga ni tsuite ("On the films"), has
one very interesting question and answer, which I paste below. It gives
this month June as the "saisho no kôkai" ( "first exhibition")  of
 Japanese cinema and this history of Asano Shiro and Shibata Tsunekichi,
which the network news report I saw had also highlighted.  Hence, the
opening of the site in these last days of June. (If anyone needs it
translated, pop me a note.)



I'm sorry to write at length in this era of brevity, but it's what I do. I
like it when others on KineJapan do too. So please feel encouraged.


Jonathan M. Hall
University of Leeds

On Thu, Jun 27, 2019 at 8:20 PM Gerow Aaron via KineJapan <
kinejapan at mailman.yale.edu> wrote:

> The National Film Archive of Japan, after their popular Japanese Animated
> Film Classics site, has opened up another site focused on images from the
> Meiji era. It is called "The Meiji Period on Film." Right now, it only
> features some still images and five films, the most famous of which are
> Momijigari, Chushingura, and Nihon nankyoku tanken. The digital transfers
> are quite good and the versions are not necessarily the same as what has
> been floating around on the net, so these versions can be quite
> interesting. But unlike the Anime site, there are no English subtitles,
> even for films with intertitles. Let's hope they add some films and some
> subtitles.
> https://meiji.filmarchives.jp/
> Aaron Gerow
> Professor
> Film and Media Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
> Director of Graduate Studies, Film and Media Studies
> Yale University
> 143 Elm Street, Room 210
> PO Box 208324
> New Haven, CT 06520-8324
> Phone: 1-203-432-7082
> Fax: 1-203-432-6729
> e-mail: aaron.gerow at yale.edu
> website: www.aarongerow.com
> _______________________________________________
> KineJapan mailing list
> KineJapan at mailman.yale.edu
> https://mailman.yale.edu/mailman/listinfo/kinejapan
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