Film Studies and Japanese Cinema


Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society

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Book Pages: 496 Illustrations: 7 b&w photographs Published: March 2000

Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies, Media Studies > Film

The films of Akira Kurosawa have had an immense effect on the way the Japanese have viewed themselves as a nation and on the way the West has viewed Japan. In this comprehensive and theoretically informed study of the influential director’s cinema, Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto definitively analyzes Kurosawa’s entire body of work, from 1943’s Sanshiro Sugata to 1993’s Madadayo. In scrutinizing this oeuvre, Yoshimoto shifts the ground upon which the scholarship on Japanese cinema has been built and questions its dominant interpretive frameworks and critical assumptions.
Arguing that Kurosawa’s films arouse anxiety in Japanese and Western critics because the films problematize Japan’s self-image and the West’s image of Japan, Yoshimoto challenges widely circulating clichés about the films and shows how these works constitute narrative answers to sociocultural contradictions and institutional dilemmas. While fully acknowledging the achievement of Kurosawa as a filmmaker, Yoshimoto uses the director’s work to reflect on and rethink a variety of larger issues, from Japanese film history, modern Japanese history, and cultural production to national identity and the global circulation of cultural capital. He examines how Japanese cinema has been “invented” in the discipline of film studies for specific ideological purposes and analyzes Kurosawa’s role in that process of invention. Demonstrating the richness of both this director’s work and Japanese cinema in general, Yoshimoto’s nuanced study illuminates an array of thematic and stylistic aspects of the films in addition to their social and historical contexts.
Beyond aficionados of Kurosawa and Japanese film, this book will interest those engaged with cultural studies, postcolonial studies, cultural globalization, film studies, Asian studies, and the formation of academic disciplines.


Kurosawa offers a valuable framework for an extended critical analysis of a single director—an analysis that moves beyond the confines of an auteurial study or of an examination of a director’s role in a single cultural tradition. Yoshimoto’s detailed film-by-film analysis reminds us of the resonance of this director’s massive body of work. Throughout this thought-provoking study, Yoshimoto invites us to ‘rethink Japanese cinema, modern Japanese history, and film as the art of the twentieth century’ through the films of Kurosawa.” — Linda C. Ehrlich , Journal of Asian Studies

“[An] erudite and near-comprehensive book. . . . [T]he best part of Yoshimoto’s book is his fascinating account of the effects of the occupation.” — Mamoun Hassan , Times Higher Education

“Fresh in its approach, streaked with veins of insight, bent under the sheer weight of the information it contains, Yoshimoto’s book is unquestionably successful as a study of Kurosawa’s films. . . . [S]omething more than deconstruction emerges from his study. Insisting (often polemically) on culturally informed critique, Yoshimoto fashions an alternative to the broadly humanistic approach common in film classes.” — Jack Granath , Rain Taxi

“Shed[s] remarkable new light and often [goes] against the critical current. Full of extraordinary knowledge.” — M. Yacowar , Choice

This is a rich and thought-provoking text that should generate considerable and productive debate in Japanese film studies, cinema studies, and Japanese studies.” — Joanne Izbicki , Journal of Japanese Studies

“A tour-de-force reading of Kurosawa’s films. Yoshimoto adds greatly to current Kurasawa scholarship and to situating the construct ‘Japanese Cinema’ in a way that it has not been situated before.” — E. Ann Kaplan, author of Looking for the Other: Feminism, Film, and the Imperial Gaze

“Yoshimoto’s Kurosawa is destined to take its place along with the most important achievements of cinema studies, which is to say that it is a book about something more than cinema itself. Yet it offers a stimulating, running commentary on the films that makes one want to see them all over again, while also offering a new theory of auteurship as collective negotiation. This is a grand performance sustained by a voice of rare authority.” — Fredric Jameson


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto is Associate Professor of Japanese, Cinema, and Comparative Literature at the University of Iowa.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgements ix

Introduction 1

I Japanese Cinema in Search of a Discipline 7

II The Films of Kurosawa Akira 51

Kurosawa Criticism and the Name of the Author 53

Sanshiro Sugata 69

The Most Beautiful 81

Sanshiro Sagata, Part 2 89

The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail 93

No Regrets for Our Youth 114

One Wonderful Sunday 135

Drunken Angel 138

The Quiet Duel 140

Stray Dog 147

Scandal 179

Rashomon 182

The Idiot 190

Ikiru 194

Seven Samurai 205

Record of a Living Being 246

Throne of Blood 250

The Lower Depths 270

The Hidden Fortress 272

The Bad Sleep Well 274

Yojimbo 289

Sanjuro 293

High and Low 303

Red Beard 332

Dodeskaden 334

Dersu Uzala 344

Kagemusha 348

Ran 355

Dreams 359

Rhapsody in August 364

Madadayo 372

Epilogue 375

Notes 379

Filmography 433

Bibliography 451

Index 471

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2519-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2483-6
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