Reclaiming the Orient: Japanese Cinema and the Politics of Transnationality, 1952-1964
Hiroshi Kitamura - Associate Professor of History, William & Mary
This lecture will scrutinize the transnationality of Japanese cinema after World War II. Challenging the rigidities that shape the discourses of “national” cinema, I look at the ways in which Japanese studios and filmmakers actively engaged China between the 1950s and the early 1960s–an era of robust cinematic output. Focusing on the films by one studio (Toho), I examine two types of representational efforts: (1) the construction of an imagined “China” by Japanese actors and in Japanese location sites, as in the Desperado Outpost (Dokuritsu gurentai) films directed by Okamoto Kihachi, and (2) the recreation of the Asian Other through co-production, as in A Night in Hong Kong (Honkon no yoru) and Star of Hong Kong (Honkon no hoshi), which involved the cooperation of the Motion Picture and General Investment Company (later renamed the Cathay Organization) in Hong Kong. By analyzing the construction of these “Orientalist” narratives, I seek to demonstrate the ways in which the “othering” of the Chinese developed in conjunction with the Japanese film industry’s neocolonial market politics, the processes through which Hollywood’s stylistic conventions influenced Japan’s imagination of the “Chinese,” and the paradoxical ways in which transnational cinematic creations facilitated the formation of Japanese “national” cultures after war and occupation. Hiroshi Kitamura is Associate Professor of History at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of Screening Enlightenment: Hollywood and the Cultural Reconstruction of Defeated Japan (Cornell, 2010), which won the Shimizu Hiroshi Award from the Japanese Association for American Studies and the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies Book Prize. Professor Kitamura is currently at work on two book-length projects: a transnational history of Japanese cinema during the 1950s an 1960s and a relational study of Orientalist formations in Hollywood, Japanese, and Hong Kong cinemas. Recent publications are included in Philippa Gates and Lisa Funnell, eds., Transnational Asian Identities in Pan-Pacific Cinemas: the Reel Asian Experience (Routledge, 2012), Daisuke Miyao, ed., Oxford Handbook of Japanese Cinema (Oxford, forthcoming), and Daniel Margolies, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Harry S. Truman (Blackwell, forthcoming).