I was wondering, if you had to choose between Japanese, Hong Kong/Chinese and Korean cinemas, how would you rate these?
Artistically, Japan seems ahead of the game with their contributions and popularity dating back to the post-war US occupation. A few obvious examples being Godzilla, Kitano ‘Beat’ Takeshi, Akira Kurosawa and Yurojiro Ozu films, arthouse titles such In the Realm of the Senses and Kwaidon, science fiction, fantasy and horror films such as The Ring, and Manga titles like Akira, Perfect Blue, Paprika, Ghost in the Shell and Spirited Away, extreme cinema films like Ichi the Killer and Tetsuo:The Iron Man, cult films such as Sonny Chiba in The Streetfighter, and Shogun Assassin, and also Miike Takashi’s recent samurai films 13 Assassins and Hara-Kiri.
Athough popular since the seventies, but seemingly unable to achieve the quality of arthouse cinema because of either a lack of production funds, or distribution in the West, Hong Kong and Chinese cinema appears to export alot of its own talent. Obvious examples include Bruce Lee and martial arts films, fantasy films such as House of Flying Daggers and A Touch of Zen, slapstick comedies from superstar Jackie Chan, action thrillers from John Woo and Chow Yun Fat, the crime thriller trilogy Infernal Affairs (remade as The Departed), and genuine arthouse films from Wong Kai Wa like Chungking Express, and Farewell My Concubine (which I have yet to see).
But it seems that in the last twenty years Korea has also emerged to produce some interesting contemporary horror and arthouse films, such as OldBoy, Chaser, I Saw The Devil, and many more.
It’s quite difficult to separate Hollywood’s influence on postwar-Japan from its idiosyncratic, national style. From what I’ve heard it sounds as if there’s an entire history of cinema before the war and the US redevelopment.
If you were going to summarise what the main styles or themes would be for its cinema, what would you say these were ?
1930s Hollywood was all about genre, sound technology and editing and the Star System.
1940s the Hays Code, Film Noir and Communism.
1950s Musicals, Youth culture, television, melodrama, Colour film, Hitchcock, John Ford and the auteurs.
1960s Disintegration of the studio system and the counterculture revolution, sex and violence in cinema, B-movies.
1970s Blockbusters, New Wave cinema, Vietnam.
1980s you can probably guess the rest for yourselves.
I’d copied in a few of the responses discussing this article below:
Andrew Boone :
Ozu’s influences are very much American. There’s no question about that. Early in career, during his silent films, the style of his cinema was noticeably influenced by Hollywood. But from the mid-’30s onwards, his essence is entirely Japanese. He broke from every major Hollywood convention of filmmaking and ultimately created a vision of cinema that couldn’t have been more diametrically opposed to the Hollywood modus operandi. Between his style of direction and Kôgo Noda’s scripts, Ozu’s cinema — his sound era films, at least — are as purely Japanese as it comes. Some scholars have brought that into question when they watch some of his earlier work, and they note a strong influence of Hollywood cinema that you would have never expected to see from the director of films like “The Only Son”, “Late Spring”, “Early Summer”, “Floating Weeds”, “An Autumn Afternoon”, et cetera. But both the form and content of Ozu’s cinema (again, beginning in the mid-’30s) reflects entirely the values and the basic essence of Japanese culture and society. Naruse is another good example. The presence of American cinema in his films is huge, and yet he is undeniably a classically Japanese filmmaker. Ozu even more so. American cinema may have been a strong influence on him in his formative stages, but ultimately his vision of life and cinema was as fundamentally Japanese as any filmmaker’s.
Alex Peacock :
My top fav’s from Japan would be Ozu followed closely by Mizoguchi, followed by Kitano (I know his films aren’t polished high art like a lot of the Japanese New Wave filmmakers but they really move me and I admire his self destructive sense of humour), then i’d have to place a bunch of New Wave filmmakers roughly equally as they all bring such different things. Follow them up with Shimizu.
you know I love Masumura (although not seen A Wife Confesses yet and it’s killing me!), Giants and Toys is probably my favourite so far.
Yoshida (please can Arrow release more of his work, the best is yet to come!),
Oshima (amazing guy, especially because of Death by Hanging, Japanese Summer Double Suicide, Diary of a Shinjuku Thief etc – you have the best of his films still to see!)
Wakamatsu… I own a lot of his films but have still only seen Sex Jack, with pretty poor subtitles but he is clearly from that film alone a major director! I can’t wait to watch more… although I’m mainly waiting for an english subbed release of Go Go Second Time Virgin and Violated Angels…
Terayama… I’ve still only seen his contribution to Private Lessons or whatever that stupid soft core omnibus movie that came out in the 80s was. His section is overdubbed in French with random narration.. not the director’s intention. Very wild and interesting section and probably means a lot to Terayama fans but I’m more interested in seeing Grass Labyrinth, Emperor Tomato Ketchup and his other supposed masterpieces first!
Suzuki is great… – he’s a good one for you to check out as you start to watch more of the crazy arthouse films – Branded to Kill is one of the most free and amazing films ever made. Tokyo Drifter is beautiful. Youth of the Beast is more plot reliant but very smart.