Japonisme and the Birth of Cinema

Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: 71 illustrations Published: August 2020

Author: Daisuke Miyao

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, Asian Studies > East Asia, Media Studies > Film

In Japonisme and the Birth of Cinema, Daisuke Miyao explores the influence of Japanese art on the development of early cinematic visual style, particularly the actualité films made by the Lumière brothers between 1895 and 1905. Examining nearly 1,500 Lumière films, Miyao contends that more than being documents of everyday life, they provided a medium for experimenting with aesthetic and cinematic styles imported from Japan. Miyao further analyzes the Lumière films produced in Japan as a negotiation between French Orientalism and Japanese aesthetics. The Lumière films, Miyao shows, are best understood within a media ecology of photography, painting, and cinema, all indebted to the compositional principles of Japonisme and the new ideas of kinetic realism it inspired. The Lumière brothers and their cinematographers shared the contemporaneous obsession among Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists about how to instantly and physically capture the movements of living things in the world. Their engagement with Japonisme, he concludes, constituted a rich and productive two-way conversation between East and West.


“A major scholar of the cinema of Japan, Daisuke Miyao is especially adept at discerning the connections between Japanese and other film cultures. His new book, which explores the cultural relationship between Japan and France, brings many aspects of cinema's earliest years to light. He uncovers a tremendous amount of new material in Japanese and French that specialists in Japanese cinema and the invention of cinema will find fascinating.” — Tom Gunning, coauthor of Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema

“In this remarkably ambitious study Daisuke Miyao complicates our understanding of Orientalism in early cinema: instead of being something that the West does to a passive East, Orientalism becomes a multipronged adaptation of artistic techniques that originated in Japan and were exported to France. Along the way we learn a great deal about the emergence of female film actors in Japan and the interrelationship between image composition in painting and cinema. An excellent and important book.” — Michael Bourdaghs, author of Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon: A Geopolitical Prehistory of J-Pop


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Daisuke Miyao is Professor and Hajime Mori Chair in Japanese Language and Literature at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of The Aesthetics of Shadow: Lightingand Japanese Cinema and Sessue Hayakawa: Silent Cinema and Transnational Stardom, both also published by Duke University Press, and Cinema Is a Cat: A Cat Lover's Introduction to Film Studies.

Table of Contents Back to Top
1. The À Travers Cinema: Japonisme and the Lumière Brothers' Films
2. Japonisme and Nativized Orientalism: The Lumière Brothers' "Japanese Films"
3. Japonisme and Internalized Orientalism: Cinematographer Shibata Tsunekichi and the Birth of Cinema in Japan
Epilogue. Japonisme and the Birth of a Female Star in Hollywood and Japan
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0942-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0853-8