Thursday, 17 May 2012

On Kazuo Hara and Japanese Documentary Film

Kazuo Hara and Japanese Film Studies
Videoed symposium (held on May 3, 2009) featuring three of the top film studies scholars from around the US discussing Kazuo Hara's body of work (including The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1987) and Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974) and the future of Japanese film studies at universities worldwide, followed by comments by Kazuo Hara. This event was a part of the UC Berkeley Center for Japanese Studies' 50th Anniversary program of events. Co-sponsored by: Center for Japanese Studies and Pacific Film Archive. With Markus Nornes, Aaron Gerow, Akira Mizuta Lippit, and Miryam Sas
Western documentary film theory focuses on the relationship of signified and signifier raked by the subjectivities of producer and spectators. Because these two groups approach the referent only through the signification system, the theory closes off discussion of the profilmic world. ... Japanese theoretical and popular discourses do not suffer from this linguistic confusion between subject and object. In post-1960 film theory and filmmaking, it is precisely the relationship between subject and referent that produces the sign. Where the American filmmaker creates a sign from a referent in the world, the Japanese filmmaker’s intimate interaction with the referent leaves a signifying trace we call a documentary film. It is a subtle but decisive difference one would have difficulty articulating with the critical tools of contemporary documentary theory outside of Japan. [Abé Mark Nornes, Forest of Pressure: Ogawa Shinsuke and Postwar Japanese Documentary. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007, cited by Charles Fairbanks, 2003, p. 11]

Film Studies For Free was so inspired by its discovery of the above video (with its wonderful sequences from Hara's films) that it concocted a short but high quality, accompanying list of links to some wonderful online resources about the Japanese documentarist's work, as well as related issues of Japanese cinema.

Please note, especially, the excellent monograph on Hara by Jeffrey and Kenneth Ruoff (one of the wonderful books by the now sadly defunct publishers Flicks Books), which has been added to FSFF's permanent listing of openly accessible ebooks.

That book's co-author Jeffrey Ruoff has an incredibly generous collection of some of his other film studies work online here. And Aaron Gerow, one of the speakers in the above symposium has an amazing collection of his own online work, much of it on Japanese cinema here.

Also see:


girish said...

Thanks for this post, Catherine.

Here's a link to a collection of posts on Kazuo Hara's THE EMPEROR'S NAKED ARMY MARCHES ON. A few years back, Chris Cagle had the terrific idea to start a group blog called FILM OF THE MONTH CLUB, on which many of us cinephiles and bloggers took turns picking a film that everyone would then write about. I chose the Hara film. It generated a thoughtful series of posts by the members of the club, many or most of whom had never seen it before.

Catherine Grant said...

Thanks Girish! That particular treasure trove didn't come up in my Hara search, so I'm really glad you stopped by. What a great early-ish intervention by you as well as the Film of the Month crew. Many thanks. Will add above.