Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Dawn of Cinematic Modernism: Iwanami Productions and Postwar Japanese Cinema
by Tsunoda, Takuya, Ph.D., Yale University, 2015, 319; 10013030
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the institutional history of Iwanami Productions (Iwanami Eiga Seisakusho), which evolved from a major provider of sponsored educational and PR films into a key player in the new cinemas of the 1960s in Japan. The studio that accepted state and corporate-affiliated projects also nurtured so-called "new wave" filmmakers and their works within its institutional frame. By exploring uncharted aspects of film education and the sponsored documentary in postwar Japan, this project challenges the dominant historical narrative of the cinematic new wave in Japan, often characterized by the oppositional politics of radical "rebellion" against conformist "collaboration," the binaries that still largely define the discourse on Japanese cinema of this period. Beyond the activist logic of political resistance, I argue that the root of cinematic modernism in Japan resided in institutionalized audio-visual education and the PR film industry. If the former regards cinema as a radicalized medium for revolution, the latter envisions it as a participatory medium for the process of maturation. And this study emphasizes the importance of the latter by highlighting the history of film education and its crucial relationship with the Japanese New Wave. On the broader level, I trace the complex relationship between the state/capitalist powers and cinema/image culture in the post-occupation period of high economic and industrial growth in Japan. By doing so, this project works towards new transnational parameters that relate the "cinematic new wave" to what constituted the cinemas of the 1960s.

Iwanami Productions, established in 1950 as the film division of a highly prestigious Japanese publishing house, Iwanami Shoten (est. 1913), collaborated with government organizations and private corporations eager to advertise business and political initiatives to the populace, becoming a means by which this recovery was displayed. Serving as a film service for hire, the studio quickly became one of the largest and most successful producers of educational and PR films in Japan. Forming a sustained relationship with the Ministry of Education and other governmental bodies as well as major corporations such as the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), Iwanami Productions made films about science, education, public works projects, chemical supplies, and steel manufacturing among other topics. However, the studio also employed, trained, and fostered individuals who would become some of the most "radical" postwar filmmakers, including Hani Susumu, Ogawa Shinsuke, Tsuchimoto Noriaki, Higashi Yōichi, and Kuroki Kazuo. These directors often called themselves "graduates of Iwanami" (Iwanami no sotsugyōsei) with reverence to the institution, even after they parted with the studio's projects. Iwanami Productions created a paradoxical locus in which "oppositional" filmmakers were nurtured.

The dominant historical narrative of postwar Japanese cinema, especially in the 1950s, has focused on studio directors such as Kurosawa Akira and Mizoguchi Kenji, some of whose works enjoyed international recognition at European film festivals. Literature on the history of Japanese cinema in the 1950s is thus centered on the notion of transcendental auteurs re-branding and reaffirming Japanese national cinema with universal appeals. As a corollary, subsequent studies of 1960s Japanese cinema have revolved around younger directors and their works as a defiant response to the 1950s generation. One common approach is tied to the generational sense of disillusionment after the failed protests against the renewal of the Japan-US Mutual Security Pact in 1960. New wave filmmakers – bshima Nagisa, Yoshida Yoshishige, Shinoda Masahiro, and others – are thus viewed as rebellious young directors who opposed their established mentors in the industry. The logic behind this polemic is a monolithic view that equates politics with resistance and action.

My study reconsiders the assumption that activist filmmakers only deserve scholarly attention because they are "political." It thus seeks to dislodge the premise of this action-oriented resistance from the concept of politics and analyze Iwanami's institutional commitment to society with fresh eyes. I argue that by producing educational and sponsored shorts in a crucial period of (geo-)political change, the studio documented the social, cultural, and political landscapes of the era and made them visible, legible, and – most importantly – reflexive. And I stress that Iwanami Productions institutionally fostered this reflexive vision in a particular historical phase of cinematic modernism.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Gerow, Aaron
School: Yale University
School Location: United States -- Connecticut
Source: DAI-A 77/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Asian literature, Asian Studies, Film studies
Keywords: 20th Century History, Education, Japan and Criticism, Motion Pictures, New Wave Films, Publishers and Publishing
Publication Number: 10013030
ISBN: 978-1-339-47833-3
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