Japanese Classical Theater in Films

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 1994-12-01
  • Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press
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Important connections between Japan's classical theater and its national cinema have been largely unexplored in the West. Japanese Classical Theater in Films breaks new ground by charting the influence that the three major dramatic genres - Noh, Kabuki, and Bunraku - have had on filmmaking. The first part provides historical and cultural background for understanding some of the distinctive features of the impact of the classical theater on the growth of film art. It also surveys how classical plays, such as Chushingura, have continued to enrich the cinema repertoire. The second part presents more detailed analyses with a focus on the director's use of formal properties of the classical theater and the director's adaptation of the play for the screen. Fourteen films chosen for close reading include The Iron Crown, Soshun Kochiyama, and Pandemonium - none of which has been substantially studied outside of Japan before.
Noh, Kabuki, and Bunraku are the three distinct genres of classical theater that have made Japan's dramatic art unique. The audience steeped in these traditional theatrical forms sees many aspects of stage conventions in Japanese cinema. This intimacy makes the aesthetic/intellectual experience of films more enriching.
Japanese Classical Theater in Films aims at heightening such awareness in the West, the awareness of the influence that these three major dramatic genres have had on Japan's cinematic tradition. Using an eclectic critical framework - a solid combination of historical and cultural approaches reinforced with formalist and auteurist perspectives - Keiko I. McDonald undertakes this much needed, ambitious task.
Four postwar Japanese films - Kinoshita's The Ballad of Narayama, Kurosawa's The Throne of Blood and Ran, and Kinugasa's An Actor's Revenge - are chosen to illustrate the stylistics of the traditional theater as an important source of artistic inspiration. The illustration is followed by comparative analyses of classical plays and their screen versions. McDonald examines how major film directors transform originals in ways that clarify new and individual social, ideological, and philosophical visions. For example, Tadashi Imai's Night Drum, Mizoguchi's The Crucified Lovers, and Shinoda's Gonza: the Spearman are used to highlight the filmmakers' modernist responses to the feudal society portrayed by the playwright Monzaemon Chikamatsu.
This first major study devoted to connections between Japan's classical theater and its national cinema answers the basic question about cultural specificity that has always concerned McDonald as a teacher and scholar of Japanese cinema: How does a person coming from the Japanese tradition help the Western audience see a Japanese film for what it is?

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. 7
Introductionp. 9
An Embarrassment of Riches: The Impact of the Classical Stage on Early Japanese Cinemap. 23
The Kabuki Repertoire in Early Japanese Cinemap. 38
From the Mid-1920s to World War II: Moving Away from Kabuki Conventionsp. 50
Postwar Revival: Rendezvous with a Golden Decadep. 71
The Kabuki/Bunraku Convention in The Ballad of Narayamap. 114
The Noh Convention in The Throne of Blood and Ranp. 125
Kabuki Stage and An Actor's Revengep. 145
Soshun Kochiyama: Parody-Caricaturep. 158
The Men Who Tread on the Tiger's Tail: Parody Rich in Ironyp. 170
The Crucified Lovers: Kabuki, Bunraku, and Issues of Female Freedomp. 181
Night Drum: Bunraku, Irony, and Antifeudalismp. 195
Double Suicide: Domestic Tragedies, Classical and Modernp. 208
Gonza: the Spearman: Bunraku and a New Mode of Interpretationp. 224
The Classical Spectacle Chushingura and Two Postwar Versionsp. 241
The Iron Crown: Noh into Filmp. 272
The Scandalous Adventures of Buraikan: A New Kabukip. 290
Pandemonium: Freudian Psychology and the Classical Theaterp. 302
Conclusionp. 320
Notesp. 322
Select Bibliographyp. 338
Indexp. 344
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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