Naoki Yamamoto - 2012-2013 Postdoctoral Associate, Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University and Lecturer, Department of East Asian Languages & Literatures, Film Studies Program, Yale University
This lecture examines the work of Imamura Taihei (1911-1986) in an attempt to illuminate the complex nature of mass culture in wartime Japan. One of the most acclaimed critics in the history of Japanese cinema, Imamura and his writings are marked by his dual interests in animation and documentary, the two marginalized genres that garnered greater popularity in the period following Japan’s full-fledged participation in the war against China. In contrast to the commonplace assumption that treats these genres as the opposite poles of film practice at large, Imamura shrewdly redefined them as sharing the same mission of offering animated documentations of the world in motion, and, by extension, of making documentations of the history-in-the-making. Equally at stake in his theorization was the increasingly significant role that cinema, especially those made as non-fiction, began to play at the time in mediating the masses and their everyday life. By providing a close reading of his seminal books like Kiroku eigaron (On Documentary Film, 1940) and Manga eigaron (On Animation, 1941), this lecture seeks to elucidate the continuing relevance of Imamura’s film theory to our current mediascape. At the same time, it also specifies the perplexing discursive context of wartime Japan wherein his seemingly liberal call for the socialization of the mass medium was seamlessly integrated into the official discourse of Japanese fascism.