Junko Yamazaki - Assistant Professor, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, UCLA
Jidaigeki (Japanese period films set prior to 1868) presented a unique challenge for envisioning postwar modernity and democracy in Japan. US Occupation censors and progressive Japanese critics alike regarded jidaigeki with suspicion, calling into question its relationship to the past as a potential threat to the (re)construction process of postwar Japan. Reflecting on the aftermath of WWII in the emerging Cold War context of Japan’s compromised sovereignty, postwar Japanese intellectual Tsurumi Shunsuke, however, defended jidaigeki as political thought based in the lived experience of “the people.” By tracing the emergence of jidaigeki as people’s political thought in early postwar Japan and its subsequent transformation, I will interrogate the utility of jidaigeki as an analytical lens through which to understand the dynamic historicity of postwar Japanese cinema. Part of its utility, I would argue, is negative: it is a bad object for the task of film criticism and poses a challenge to standard hermeneutic approaches.
Junko Yamazaki is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at UCLA. Her scholarship and teaching model an approach to historical research informed by theoretical debates that traverse film & media studies and area studies and introduce interdisciplinary perspectives to the history of Japanese cinema and media. She is currently completing a book manuscript, Out of the Past: Jidaigeki, Modern Historicity, and the Aesthetics of the Present in Postwar Japan, which explores the postwar revival of jidaigeki, a category of film that emerged in the early 1920s and that gradually came to refer to period films set prior to Japan’s Meiji Restoration of 1868.