Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Mise-en-scène of desire: The films of Mizoguchi Kenji
by Kinoshita, Chika, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, 2007, 511; 3252256
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation sheds new light on the Japanese director Mizoguchi Kenji's films made between 1925 and 1956, bringing them into conversation with Japanese modernity and transnational film history. It revises the concept of mise-en-scène that refers to how to orchestrate actors and things in a concrete setting within the frame. While, traditionally, it has been regarded as a vehicle for the auteur's worldview, I extend the meaning to map out a configuration of the subject and object of desire in power relations. The focus on power relations allows this dissertation to construct a coherent thematics out of Mizoguchi's changing stylistics and opportunistic politics.

Chapter 1 centers on Mizoguchi's films made within the context of Proletarian arts movements and the flourishing culture industry in 1929-1930. They dramatize power relations through lurid contrasts between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat by means of montage, unlike his later films. A close look at contemporary discourse suggests that Mizoguchi's films---together with other mass cultural artifacts such as serial novels and hit songs---appropriated the modernist principle of montage, i.e., juxtaposition of heterogeneous parts that generates a new significance, in vernacular forms, seeking to articulate the experience of industrial modernity and the class system. Chapter 2 highlights how a multi-dimensional crisis brought by the transition to sound in Japanese cinema, 1929-1935---a crisis of the concept of the text in film, of the film industry, of the cinematic time and space---provided Mizoguchi with a set of aesthetic and stylistic possibilities in playing out power relations. Fostered by a cinephilic film culture concerned with the medium specificity of the talkie, Mizoguchi established his signature long take-deep staging/focus style that takes advantage of the spatiotemporal continuum. Chapter 3 examines Mizoguchi's sexual politics through close analysis of his sound films. His mise-en-scène is built upon the woman's act of giving at the origin of reflexive masochism, i.e., introjection of aggression. I argue that this structure highlights workings of the woman's subjectivity and negotiation, rather than valorize her suffering, within a historically specific patriarchy in modern Japan that selectively appropriated the so-called feudal remnants.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Field, Norma, Gunning, Thomas
Commitee:
School: The University of Chicago
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-A 68/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Asian literature, Motion pictures
Keywords: Desire, Films, Japan, Mise-en-scene, Mizoguchi, Kenji
Publication Number: 3252256
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