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Aspects of National Cinema: Japanese Cinema

jclarke | Monday November 25, 2013

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS A2, FM4, Section A: World Cinema, Analysis, Film Analysis, Film History, Cinema in Context, Film Industry, Film Distribution, Production Companies, Films & Case Studies, World Cinema, Grave of the Fireflies, Seven Samurai, Genres & Case Studies, Japanese, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation

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WJEC A2 Film Studies FM4 Section A World Cinema: Aspects of National Cinema

Japanese cinema can be understood as a major presence in the international film style context, not only in terms of its own achievement but also for the influence it has exerted on cinema far beyond its borders.  It’s a national cinema with a very specific set of concerns and stylistic traits and with a number of particular contexts that allow the film texts to be understood in all the more interesting ways. In saying that there is such a thing as international cinema, then, we are indicating that, in part, by viewing films produced by specific nations we are able to develop some sense of (i) the ‘character’ of a nation: we come to understand something of the (ii) ideological position they might have and (iii) the way in which they ‘see’ the experience of the world around them.

Japanese cinema is well established and has, for many decades, stressed the importance of the three qualities noted above, such that they are inextricably connected as the ways in which meaning is encoded through style choices, subject matter and theme. Essential, too, of course, is the role of the audiences in decoding the film text.

In a way that we might argue was very much the opposite of how Hollywood film studios would talk about and promote its films (as a discourse generally about the idea of ‘entertainment’; with that term being used to suggest something disposable and diverting and nothing more) Japanese filmmakers were expected to connect with audiences in a sophisticated and meaningful way. As far back as the 1920s, a studio head named Kido Shiro commented that, ‘There are two ways to view humanity… cheerful and gloomy. But the latter will not do. We at Shochiku (studio) prefer to look at life in a warm and hopeful way. To inspire despair in our viewer would be unforgivable. The bottom line is that the basis for film must be...

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