Shochiku

Reframing Japanese Cinema: Authorship, Genre, History, edited by Arthur Nolletti Jr. and David Desser

Reframing Japanese Cinema provides a comprehensive and varied perspective on Japanese cinema through a series of essays on a director’s signature style (authorship), culturally representative film genres, and historical evolution of the Japanese film industry. Of the three sections on Authorship, Genre, and History, the articles on Authorship provide the most revealing insight into the… read more »

Woman of the Mist, 1936

In the essay Woman of the Mist and Gosho and the 1930s from the book Reframing Japanese Cinema: Authorship, Genre, History, Arthur Nolletti examines the complex narrative and visual strategies employed by Heinosuke Gosho that culminate in what would become one of his most accomplished works. Perhaps the most indicative of this style is his… read more »

The Neighbor’s Wife and Mine, 1931

Heinosuke Gosho’s The Neighbor’s Wife and Mine is a breezy and effervescent slice-of-life comedy on a harried – and easily distracted – freelance writer (Atsushi Watanabe) whose deadline for a commission work to write a play for a theater company in Tokyo is quickly approaching. Scouting for a suitable retreat where he can complete his… read more »

Army, 1944

Keisuke Kinoshita’s wartime film, Army is anything but the rousing call to arms and reinforcement of patriotism that the authorities had envisioned the film would be. Known for his Ofuna-flavored shomin-geki “women’s pictures”, Kinoshita subverts the official themes of duty, allegiance to the emperor, and national glory. Contrasting the emotional (and philosophical) rigidity of the… read more »

Every Night’s Dreams, 1933

Mikio Naruse’s elegantly distilled early silent film Every Night’s Dreams provides an archetype for the filmmaker’s recurring themes: pragmatic, determined women who tenaciously hold onto their failing relationships, weak men who lead a life of increasing dependence on the women they mistreat, life stations that grow baser as characters paradoxically strive to improve their situation…. read more »

The Lights of Asakusa, 1937

A well-crafted riff on Yasujiro Shimazu’s familiar shomin-geki films, this time transplanted to a group of Western opera stage actors working in the bustling theater and entertainment district of Asakusa in old downtown Tokyo, The Lights of Asakusa is a charming and elegantly realized ensemble slice-of-life serio-comedy. Centering on the acting troupe’s attempts to harbor… read more »

Our Neighbor Miss Yae, 1934

From the seemingly effortless opening tracking shot through a middle-class neighborhood that terminates to a shot of two young men practicing baseball pitches in the backyard of their suburban home (and accidentally breaking the window of a neighbor’s home), Yasujiro Shimazu illustrates his remarkable agility with the medium in the sublime shomin-geki (home drama), Our… read more »

Ornamental Hairpin, 1941

One of my favorite sequences in any film is the remarkably fluid lateral dolly shot through the financially ruined Furusawa household that opens Kenji Mizoguchi’s Sisters of the Gion, so it is particularly satisfying to see Hiroshi Shimizu further refining this technique in the seemingly effortless, long take, outdoor tracking shot of a pair of… read more »

A Star Athlete, 1937

Hiroshi Shimizu’s government-pressured, militarism-era film A Star Athlete is a breezy, refreshingly lighthearted, and subtly subversive slice-of-life comedy that centers on an all-day student march in formation and armed combat drills through the rural countryside for military training exercises. Shimizu demonstrates his deceptively facile adeptness and virtuoso camerawork through a series of extraordinarily choreographed plan… read more »

The Ball at Anjo House, 1947

Filmed during American postwar occupation, The Ball at Anjo House is a curiously atypical Japanese film that hews eerily closer to the privileged, dysfunctional families and moral abandon of The Magnificent Ambersons or a Douglas Sirk melodrama than a Shochiku middle-class shomin-geki: the proud family patriarch, Tadahiko (Osamu Takizawa) who continues to harbor the illusion… read more »

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