This September the Permanent Seminar on Histories of Film Theories held the first-ever conference devoted to the histories of film theory in East Asia. Download the program here: Permanent Seminar 2012 Conference Program.

September 27-30, 2012
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Organized by Abé Mark Nornes

Sponsored by The University of Michigan Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, the UM Center for Japanese Studies, the UM Center for Chinese Studies, the Nam Center for Korean Studies, and the International Institute.

Program highlights

Thursday, September 27th
Opening keynote, 5:30-7:00pm: Aaron Gerow (Yale University) “Theorizing the Theory Complex.” (bldg, Rackham) Opening Reception, 7:00-9:00pm: following keynote, held at Image Cafe

Friday, September 28th
Screening, 7:00pm: Silent Ozu: Inn at Tokyo (Tokyo no Yado, Yasujiro Ozu, 1935). This presentation of a 35mm print will feature live narration by benshi Kataoka Ichiro and musical accompaniment by “toy orchestra” Little Bang Theory.

Saturday, September 29th
5:00pm: Final Reception (Dominick’s, 812 Monroe Street)

Sunday, September 30th
9:30am: Q&A/Discussion with benshi Kataoka Ichiro

Abstracts and Panel Schedule

Download here

Friday (Michigan League)

9:00 – 11:00am First Frame

Panel 1: Continuing Technologies

The Transcriptive Apparatus: Imamura Taihei on Animation and Documentary

Thomas Lamarre, McGill University

The film theory of Imamura Taihei presents a number of concerns that make it worth careful reconsideration today. Although he tends to separate animation and documentary separately in his writings, he made both central to his film theory. As such, animation is not relegated in advance to the realm of fantasy in contrast to the reality of cinema, nor conversely is documentary seen entirely in terms of objectivity in contrast to the subjectivity of fiction. Imamura’s interest in both animation and documentary leads him to ground his film theory in a variation on apparatus theory. Instead of an emphasis on the monocular lens of the camera and regimes of one-point perspective, however, Imamura stresses the descriptive, explanatory, and even narrative force of the camera and photography both in cartoons and documentaries. His is a theory of the ‘transcriptive apparatus.’ While the prescriptive implications and cultural nationalism of Imamura’s approach merit criticism, it was via the apparatus that Imamura tried to make good on his third concern, a Marxist concern to highlight the relation between cinema and capitalism. Imamura thus highlights something that concerns us today: what does it mean to seize an ‘apparatus of transcription’?


Film as fukusei geijutsu: social psychology at the movies in 1950s Japan

Michael Raine, University of Western Ontario

This presentation excavates the importance of social psychology to the turn to popular cinema by Japanese intellectuals in 1950s Japan. Prewar film theory in Japan was dominated by German art theory (eg. Konrad Lange’s book Eiga, which declared that film could not be an art because it was a technology of reproduction [fukusei gijutsu]) and by political critiques of the capitalist structure of the film industry (eg. Iwasaki Akira’s Eiga to shihonshugi). After World War 2, journals such as Shiso no kagaku became centers for a different kind of argument: writers with experience in the US academy such as Tsurumi Shunsuke, drawing on pragmatism, and Minami Hiroshi, drawing on social psychology, agreed with the Marxist critique of media concentration but insisted also on the importance of reception and cultural practice to cinema as a “total social fact.” Social psychology then became to ground on which a new generation paid new attention to Japanese popular cinema, in public study groups that were even employed by studios to advise on new youth problem films, and in journals such as Shin Nihon Bungaku, Kiroku eiga, Eiga geijutsu, and Eiga hihyo, as well as Shiso no kagaku itself. At its limit, writers such as Nakai Masakazu and Abe Kobo argued that film’s “reproduction” of the social world was precisely the source of its “art,” anticipating 1960s manifesto’s in declaring film a new “fukusei geijutsu.”


Written Through an Anamorphic Lens: Japanese Critical Discourse of Widescreen Cinema

Namhee Han, University of Chicago

Widescreen cinema opens up a critical space in which postwar Japanese theoretical-historical ideas of cinema can be traced. Since the first release in Japan at the end of 1953, widescreen cinema, as a hub where technological, material, and critical practices of Japanese film intersect, actively participated in rebuilding postwar film culture until the mid-1970s. This paper argues for the significance of widescreen cinema in examining the scope of Japanese film theories. Widescreen cinema, as a new postwar medium, prompted Japanese critics or filmmakers to contemplate the medium of cinema from a fresh perspective and further explore its historical and aesthetic implications. The paper first maps out the range of Japanese widescreen film discourse, attempting an imaginative but feasible dialogue with Sergei Eisenstein and André Bazin in relation to their understandings of the cinematic screen and widescreen cinema. It then explores how Japanese discussions move in a unique direction that emphasizes the political meanings of the emergence of widescreen cinema in the postwar period. The paper finds that widescreen cinema is a lens through which Japanese ideas of cinema and Japanese critical discourse were practiced, enriching our understanding of cinema as an evolving medium.


Maeda Ai’s Cinematic Narratology

Takushi Odagiri, Duke University

I examine Maeda Ai’s narrative theories, in particular, his analysis of cinematic narrative. I begin with Maeda’s last work, Bungaku Tekusuto Nyûmon (Introduction to Literary Texts, 1988), which clarifies his narratological “predicativism.” In “Structures of Stories” and “Language and Body,” Maeda discusses cinema and novel as different forms of mediality, leading to distinct conceptions of social reality. Maeda characterizes modern literary texts as subject to two kinds of narrative linearity: temporal and “chrono-logical.” He considers chrono-logic linearity as related to modern readers’ habit of introspection. I propose that what Maeda called “predicatively-unified” narratives are not linear in either of these senses, and are thus free from the modern habit of introspection. I then investigate Maeda’s discussion of synecdoche as an example of his predicate-theory, and propose that his theory resembles one of montage. I argue that Maeda’s predicativism, if modified appropriately, can more accurately represent certain aspects of cinematic narrative than most subject-theories can. Underlying Maeda’s wide-ranging scholarship is his continuing interest in visuality cultures since Edo period. Thus, I examine his earlier writings on modern readers and printing technology, situating his narratology in a larger historical context, the one in which cinema is merely the latest component.


Panel 2: Laughing/Crying

The State of “Displacement”: History of Geopolitical States in North East Asian Film Studies

Misono Ryoko, Waseda University

Since the 1970s, the history of film theory has followed the same track as the history of critical theory of humanities in general. Whether it was literature, art history, or architecture, film theory has been greatly influenced by and has influenced other areas in such a way that it became the catalyst that engendered significant outcomes. Since around 2000, however, a backrush of the flourishing of critical theories is evident, as film studies were gradually and narrowly categorized as Asian film history, South East Asian film history, North East Asian film history, and so forth. But its impact on film theory is not necessarily a bad one, especially from the post-colonial critical studies viewpoint. For “provincializing Europe,” it could lead to broader thinking about political geography. To cultivate this geopolitical interest in the history of East Asian film theory, I reexamine the concepts of “hybridization” (Bhabha) and “colonial modernity” (Barlow) in the background of Asian film histories. In particular, I focus on Japanese melodrama films in the 1930s, when the political situation in Asia was tense in the midst of upheaval, to reconsider the state of “displacement,” which can be found anywhere in Asian film history.


The Wound and the Knife : The Affective-Performative and the Queer Body in Matsumoto Toshio’s Funeral Parade of Roses

Livia Monnet, University of Montreal

Bara no sôretsu (Funeral Parade of Roses, 1969) is Matsumoto Toshio’s début feature film. Like his second feature, Shura (Pandemonium, 1971), it was co-produced by Matsumoto Production and the Art Theatre Guild of Japan (ATG). It is one of the most radical, challenging, and innovative films in Japanese independent and avant-garde cinema. Building on Deleuze, Guattari, Brian Massumi, and on Matsumoto’s own film theory, this presentation argues that Bara no sôretsu may be regarded as an affective-performative event that forces spectators to think the unthought or unthinkable, and which is expressed as a powerful aesthetics of the false. The film’s affective performance also radically undermines established conventions and understandings of genre. The second part of the presentation moves into the terrain of schizoanalytic film theory, and 1960s Japanese debates on political cinema. I contend that Funeral Parade of Roses envisions the queer body as a heterogenetic abstract machine; as an allegorical time-image of “the fundamental fictionality” (kongenteki kyokôsei) of art and existence alike (Matsumoto); and as a new paradigm for the construction of subjectivity in avant-garde and experimental cinema. Thus Matsumoto’s film (like his installations from the late 1960s and early 1970s) embodies his conviction that the aesthetico-political is immanent in the moving image, and that identity is queer by definition. The killing of Oedipus envisioned in the film announces the emergence of what Guattari would call a new aesthetic paradigm.


Disciplining Laughter: The North Korean Theory of the Comic and the Emergence of Film Comedy in the 1960s

Dima David Mironenko-Hubbs, Harvard University

Few scholars who work on North Korea have drawn a connection between the object of their study and humor. Yet, since the late 1950s, North Korean filmmakers, film critics, and film officials had been preoccupied with developing a new theory of the comic. The project was closely related to a monumental effort on part of the North Korean film industry to create a new film genre of what later came to be known as “light comedy” (kyŏng hŭigŭk). Experiments with creating comedy films and articulating the principles of the new genre were concurrent with a budding curiosity in Western cinematic legacy and, in particular, in Hollywood slapstick comedies and musicals, which we start seeing in the early 1960s. My paper takes a close look at the debates among these three influential groups, as they unfolded on the pages of the country’s leading film journal, Chosŏn yŏnghwa. The new emerging discourse of the 1960s on film comedy is especially interesting in light of North Korea’s momentous departure from critical modes of jocularity, such as satire, parody, and farce, which were prevalent during the preceding decade. My paper starts this examination with a question of why North Koreans turn away from satire and begin to formulate new theories of the comic at this particular historical juncture.


Light Touches that Can Be Heavy: Sang Hu, Lubitsch and Remaking of Melodramatic Realism

Adrian Song Xiang, University of Chicago

Ernst Lubitsch’s (1892-1947) directorial style helped usher in a new era of Chinese cinema by helping Chinese directors veer away from the dominance of D.W. Griffith’s (1875-1948) melodramatic mode in the mid-1920s and had a hand in the resurgence of comedy during the post-WWII era. Although quite a few Chinese directors referred to him as a source of inspiration, few discussed their uses of it in more than a passing way. The exception is Sang Hu (1916-2004), who in numerous essays contemporaneous to his filmmaking in the 1940s synthesized irreverence and indirection–his interpretation of the “Lubitsch touch” as well as the techniques of other Hollywood directors he appreciated–with narrative and affective techniques he found in traditional Chinese theater and novel. In Sang Hu’s view, his “Lubitsch touch” would not only inject jazzy freedom into the earnestness of melodramatic realism but would also, ironically, be a more effective way of delivering tragic affect than straightforward melodrama. Sang’s aesthetic musings are an attempt at reorienting the established and powerful tradition of melodramatic realism in Chinese cinema for a postwar market. They also give us a precious instance of practice-anchored theorizing concerning the influences of Hollywood on Chinese cinema.


11:00am – 1:00pm Second Frame


Panel 1: Politicizing Theory/Theorizing Politics

A Condition of Theory: Im Hwa [임화, 林和] and (Im)Possibility of Film Theory in Colonial Korea

Irhe Sohn, University of Michigan

This presentation concerns the condition under which theoretical works on film and literature by Im Hwa, one of the leading communist critics in KAPF (Korea Artista Proletaria Federatio), could be produced during the late colonial period. Im Hwa described the dialectical mode of production of artworks in his writings of the history of literature and film in Korea which are labeled as “the theory of transplanted literature [ishik munhak-ron, 移植文學論]” by postwar literary critics. For him, cultural products as literature and film, once totally foreign to Korean people, could take root in the national culture through negotiation and contestation with the traditional artistic practices. While his critical engagement with film and literary practices was very influential throughout the colonial period, his thoughts on culture came to be fully formulated only after, or facing with, the dissolution of KAPF in 1935. This presentation will examine the issue of (im)possibility of theorizing film medium in colonial Korea, articulating what he tried to narrate with what he had encountered. It is also to rethink the condition of the presumed lack/lag of cultural theory in colonial Korea within the asymmetry of knowledge production between the center and the peripheries.


Enlightenment Modality and/as Film Theory: The Politics of Aesthetics in Colonial and Cold War Koreas

Steven Chung, Princeton University

This paper makes a claim for “enlightenment” as a fundamental mode of 20th century Korean filmmaking and aims thereby to rethink the relationship between art and politics as it has been mediated in the study of Korea and film. Starting with the earliest pictures produced on the peninsula in the 1920s and looking most closely at film cultures under Japanese colonial and postwar authoritarian rule, the paper traces a genealogy of the codes and practices that constitute the enlightenment modality. It also casts a wide net over the shaping of enlightenment discourses in literary practice and scholarship and attempts to differentiate those from the production of enlightenment rhetoric in film criticism, policy and institutions. The core texts here will be a series of roundtable discussions focused on the question of “Choson cinema” published in newspapers and film journals in the late colonial period, debates about mass culture and national culture waged in print in the liberation and early division years, and the ideologically hardened positions taken up in policy and opinion statements on both sides of the peninsula through the 1950s and early 1960s. These discourses and debates are consistently polemic and often advance an instrumentalist politics of film at the same time as they attempt to theorize complex problems of realism, visuality, locality, and language. My readings yield a view of the enlightenment modality as eminently modern, easily translatable across formal and political boundaries, and durably forceful in signifying the politicity of cinema.


The Aesthetic Education of the Masses: Chinese Film Criticism from Schiller to Socialist Realism

Hongwei Chen, University of Minnesota

“The Aesthetic Education of the Masses” investigates the formation of the aesthetic regime of film criticism within the “seventeen years” period of Chinese cinema. In it, I argue that the struggles within the 1950s within film criticism cannot be separated from the debates in previous decades as to whether and how film could be identified as an art. Two histories inform this discussion: the film theory and criticism of Shanghai ciné-periodicals and lessons of the vernacular experiments that culminated in the Yan’an conference. These two discussions arrived at divergent conceptions of the proper relationship between art and life; but they did so with the terms that May Fourth intellectuals inherited from European romanticism. My paper suggests that the Schillerian question of aesthetic education, which left deep imprint on the likes of Cai Yuanpei and Xu Zhimo, is significant in thinking socialist film theory’s attempt apply the inheritance of Soviet debates on socialist art as well as the lessons from Yan’an to a cinema of national proportions. Furthermore, I suggest that the aesthetic and political dispositifs used in socialist film criticism to separate a film’s medium from its message makes visible the political crisis of the early years of socialism.


Panel 2: Translating Theory

A Theory on the Desk? or A Theory of Yearning?

Kim Soyoung, Korean National University of the Arts

In 1930 just a year away from the reign of “the imperial screen,” Choson (Korean) daily newspaper ran an article, actually a review on the book called Film and Capitalism written by a Japanese author Iwasaki Akira which has become a canonical work in Japan. The book received rave reviews as it interrogated both complicit and antagonistic relations between the film and the capitalist system. In a bewildering move, however, the reviewer invokes a demon of comparison; while the theoretical elaboration of Iwasaki Akira is praised as an outcome of the praxis or the real activities since he works not only as a soldier of Japanese Proletarian film movement camp but as a critic, it is condemned that the theorizing effort of “Choson Cineastes” remains on the “desk,” an idle utopian and disinterested theory developed almost only on the desk. A disinterested theory developed on the desk” sits still on the desk. Here we hear a lamentation that calls for the proletarian film movement in Choson equivalent to the one in Japan.  A sense of immobility and a distance between theory and practice in the colonial Choson is condensed in this expression. The surface of the desk is indicated where the geography of film theory in Choson dwells on. It offers no space for topography. It contains, however, a complex set of topology. The demon of the comparison is in fact a yearning in disguise for a locally empowered theory that bridges a gap between theory and practice, a yearning to theorize film, to theorize film that was never produced. This in turn alarms contemporary film theorists and historians when they want to look back at the period in a search for the local classical film theory which is in resonance with Walter Benjamin’s “To read what was never written.” The film theory of the colonial times has existed in “potentialities” not in “actualities.” Savaged by colonial epistemic violence that wrecks the previous reference system, the theory reaching out for the practice was based on yearning.


A Layman’s Movie Review: Lu Xun as a Translator, Cultural Critic, and Semicolonial Reader

Jessica Ka Yee Chan, Macalester College

The circulation and dissemination of film theories is contingent upon the invisible work of translators. Lu Xun’s 1931 selective translation of Iwasaki Akira’s Film and Capitalism appears to be predicated on a double invisibility—Lu Xun’s invisibility as a translator and his invisibility as a self-professed layman. Interestingly, it is in the guise of a translator’s afterword and a layman’s movie review, where Lu Xun asserts his visibility as a cultural critic and a semicolonial reader. Lu Xun stages his afterword, titled “Film as a Tool of Propaganda and Provocation,” as a mouthpiece through which he ventriloquizes and dramatizes Douglas Fairbank’s 1929 visit to Shanghai as a cinematic encounter between the Chinese and the foreign (imperial) guest. In the form of a translator’s afterword and a layman’s movie review, Lu Xun problematizes domestic reactions to orientalist depictions in The Thief of Bagdad (1924) and, in a self-reflexive manner, highlights the crisis of visual representation that is emblematic of semi-colonial modernity. In the hands of Lu Xun, the translation of film theories becomes an organic part of film and cultural criticism.


Film Theory in Translation: The Pure Film Movement and Japanese Film Style

Laura Lee, University of Chicago

This paper explores the significance of western theoretical texts (Sargent, Lindsay, Freeburg, Lescarboura) to the Pure Film Movement. The translation of western “film theory” was critical to film reformers’ conceptions of a modern, pure Japanese cinema: namely one whose visual and narrative registers worked together in synergistic fashion. These foreign writers conceived of cinematic magic, and the effects that made it possible, as key to the medium’s artistic beauty and therefore responsible for elevating its status to make it compatible with bourgeois taste, to make a popular but poetic cinema. Although this cinematic philosophy of uplift was not actually put into practice in Hollywood cinema, dependence on the ideas in these primarily American texts contextualizes Pure Film reformers’ engagement with film language, which combined the Hollywood drive toward classical narrative style with European cinema’s more poetic, avant-garde disposition. In this way, the importation of foreign ideas about cinema conditioned local views about the medium, generating a dual impulse toward a transparent, illusory film world and toward a mediated onscreen spectacle, thereby embodying the tensions between the pleasures of cinematic narration and the pleasures of the visible apparatus that characterize Japanese cinema into the 1920s and 1930s.


The Neglected Tradition of Phenomenology in Japanese Film Theory

Naoki Yamamoto, Yale University

This paper examines the rise of a phenomenological approach to the film experience in the context of Japanese film theory. Having said that, my focus does not revolve around the work of postwar film critics such as Asanuma Keiji and Hara Masataka, who developed their writings under the influence of French phenomenologists such as Gilbert Cohen-Seat, André Bazin, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Rather, I aim to provide a comparative reading of the long-neglected two Japanese theorists—Sugiyama Heiichi and Nagae Michitarō—who, in the early 1940s, tried to answer the question “What is cinema?,” by prioritizing the significance of their own act of viewing, their own experiences with the world as it is lived on and through the screen. By closely looking at the cultural conditions surrounding wartime Japanese film discourse, this paper clarifies how Sugiyama and Nagae elaborated on their theories through their extensive knowledge about Bergsonian philosophy and German phenomenology, as in the case of their French counterparts. But it also highlights the substantial differences between Japanese and French phenomenologists, focusing on the former’s strategic use of phenomenology as a practical means to shy away from ideological charges of the nationalist discourse of wartime Japan.


3:00-5:00pm Third Frame

Panel 1: Claiming Realism

Hani Susumu’s Theory of Performance and the Place for Staged Liberation

Justin Jesty, University of Washington

I would like to introduce the film theory and practice of Hani Susumu, a pioneer of non-scripted, observational filmmaking. I will attend to the development of his theory, including the influence of pragmatic psychology and progressive pedagogy, paying special attention to his theory of performance. Hani saw performance as an ongoing experimental process of generating “hypothetical forms” that formed the basis of all human and animal being in the world. Contrasted to habitual action, performance was a mode of full engagement with the present as an “already living moment.” This idea was central to Hani’s belief in the ever-present possibility of individual and social change, and his idea that film was unique in its ability to capture the instability of the unfolding performance in its full dynamism and density. Hani’s documentaries about children and young adults show how he put these ideas into practice. Looking at his semi-documentary Bad Boys (Furyō shōnen, 1960), I consider the seeming paradox of needing to create a fictional space for acting to return to its full potential as a force for change. Finally I consider the connections between Hani’s theory and other reformist performance projects such as Shakespeare Behind Bars.


Kim Jong Il’s On the Art of the Cinema and the “Cinematic State”

Travis Workman, University of Minnesota

This paper is an analysis of Kim Jong Il’s On the Art of the Cinema (1973) as a significant text in East Asian film theory, one that should not be disregarded as simply a manual for the production of propaganda. The text is an important one for both the history of socialist realist theories of film and as a document in the history of the formation of the DPRK into a “cinematic state.” The text reflects on the relations between realist film aesthetics, the maintenance of party power, and historical narrative. It is based in part on Soviet theories of socialist realism, but it also translated these theories into the context of the Korean peninsula and the adapted them to the particularities of North Korean history. I argue that the type of realism that the text advocates is not propaganda, but rather the depiction of an ideal socialist society, a kind of alienated, spectacular version of everyday life under dictatorship. Following Boris Groys’s reading of Stalinism, I discuss how the text imagines the unity of art and life, taking up the avant-garde dream that the (film) aesthetic can transform life itself, creating a “new art of living.” It is in this idea of film art as a creative force that can transform human life that has undergirded the “cinematic state” of the DPRK.


An Alternative Mode of Realism?: Theoretical Debates on Hong Kong Cantonese Cinema, 1960-82

Victor Fan, McGill University

In the 1960s, film producers in Hong Kong saw the increasing dominance of Hollywood-styled Mandarin cinema in the local and Southeast Asian markets, a phenomenon that took the Cantonese industry almost two decades to recover. Yet, between the early 1960s and the 80s, film theorists and critics regarded Cantonese cinema as a site where new models of cinematic realism could emerge. In my presentation, I argue that these theoretical discourses inspired the New Wave filmmakers in the 1980s to reboot Hong Kong Cantonese cinema as a mode of realism dialogically related to its European and American counterparts, one that would continue (from the 50s) to reflect upon and cultivate a “Hong Kong” identity as an alternative to the national discourse. In my discussion, I trace through how Hong Kong film theorists re-historicize Hong Kong Cantonese cinema in the 1950s as a form of realism that responded to the historical conditions and political desires of the post-war colonial society. In addition, they tried to understand narrational codes that are specific to its mode of realism, offer a critique of the ideological confines of Italian neorealism and the French New Wave, and propose contesting visions of a new Cantonese cinema. This discussion culminated in a heated debate on the film Lonely Fifteen (Jingmeizai, prod. Johnny Mak, dir. David Lai, 1982), a documentary/fiction film about a group of young women confronting sexual violence and social “exploitation.” The film seems to realize many visions proposed in the theoretical debate in the past decades; nonetheless, by representing realistically the sexual exploitation experienced by these young women and selling such image as a blockbuster, the film ironically exemplifies how readily the film industry and market commodify and exploit these realistic images for profit and entertainment.


The Importance of Realism in the Development of Cinematic Modernization: The Example of Taiwanese New Cinema

Chang-Min Yu, Tainan National University of the Arts, and Duncan McColl Chesney, National Taiwan University

In various trends of modernization of the cinema (Italian New Cinema, French New Wave, Czechoslovakia New Wave, etc), we can observe that a certain kind of cinematic realism precedes these waves, as if the cinema has to pass through “the test of reality” to be able to explore its full potential. Likewise discourses on cinematic modernism always trace the emergence of cinematic modernity back to Italian Neo-Realism. Therefore, it seems to us that it is impossible to understand the complicated intricacies of cinematic modernism without really delving into the importance of the “realist” phase in the development of cinematic modernization. When we approach this problematic in the context of Taiwanese New Cinema, the question becomes even more intriguing, because Taiwanese New Cinema, as an exemplary “Asian Cinematic Modernism,” is often described by scholars as itself “realistic.” In this paper, we’ll be dealing with 1) how “realism”(寫實主義) was used in describing Taiwanese New Cinema and what does “realism” really mean in this context and 2) how did critics conceive Taiwanese New Cinema as a distinct film movement and how did they tie so-called realist aesthetics to cinematic modernity.


Panel 2: Grounding Theory: Space, Landscapes, and the State

Trans-media Criticism and the Revolt Against “Landscape” in 1970s Japanese Visual Media

Franz Prichard, Harvard University

In this paper I explore a crucial moment in the transforming stakes of media criticism engaged with diverse forms of citizen and student protest that engulfed the Japanese archipelago in late 1960s and early 1970s. My paper charts photographer and critic Nakahira Takuma’s (b.1938) role in an emergent discourse of “landscape” (fukei-ron) to disclose a vital nexus of exchange between media theory and practice which arose in response to the rapidly urbanizing terrain. Film critic Matsuda Masao’s (b.1933) notion of “landscape” not only impelled Nakahira to reshape his photography, but also fostered a rich dialogue across diverse forms of media. This paper will explore both Matsuda and Nakahira’s turn against the “landscape” and trace the trans-media concerns these provoked through a 1970 panel discussion with Nakahira, artist Akasegawa Genpei, filmmaker and critic Adachi Masao, “Black Tent” theatre director Sato Makoto, and sound artist Tone Yasunao. Thus, traversing and translating these dynamic forms of exchange, this paper demonstrates the ways criticism itself became the site of a shared struggle to put a crack in the “homogenous, sealed up landscape” articulated by nation-state and capital across the rapidly urbanizing social spaces of 1970s Japan.


Theorizing Urban/Rural Representations and Practices in Chinese-Language National Cinema Studies

Dennis Lo, UCLA

This study will trace and interrogate discourses of space and place in contemporary Chinese-language national cinema studies, where the urban and rural serve either as spatial representations, or are material sites of film production and spectatorship. To historically and geographically situate the New Chinese Cinemas within the post-Reform era sociopolitical landscape while revising the urban-centricity of Chinese film theories on nativist cinema and neorealist aesthetics, numerous theorists have adopted cultural studies paradigms that take into account how urban/rural representations are blurred by urbanization and regional cultural flows. Concurrently, oral narratives of rural spectatorship and on-location film production illustrate how personal and collective memories of place structure the urban and rural not as a spatial binary, but position them along a spatial continuum. Yet, the absence of theories that mediate studies of place as spaces of representation, or as social settings of film production/spectatorship hampers understanding Chinese “film ecologies” on a truly micro-historical scale. Significantly, these discussions throw into sharp relief a disciplinary divide between film studies and practice that has emerged in the wake of an overarching crisis in Chinese cultural criticism, a “fallout” of the neoliberalized political economy in post-Reform China that Robin Visser maps in her history of the disciplinary formation of Chinese cultural studies. To bridge this divide, I build upon Yomi Braester’s notion of the urban contract and John Caldwell’s investigation of practitioner theorizing in Hollywood film and TV production cultures to examine how on-location film pre-production practices may themselves be considered a mode of “native” and interdisciplinary theorizing. Specifically, case studies will be presented to illustrate how Chinese filmmakers engage in “grounded theorizing” during pre-production in real urban and rural communities, where lay sociological methods are mobilized both to address the cultural politics of reimagining spaces as places, as well as to reaffirm concepts of nativism and neorealism shared by Chinese film theorists.

Making the Cinema-State through On the Art of the Cinema (a.k.a. Yongwhayesulron) by Kim Jong Il

Kim Sunah, Dankook University

A foundation of North Korean cinema was established during the period of the 1960s to 1970s and On the Art of the Cinema by Kim Jong-il was placed in its core. Re-mediating the revolutionary operas written by Kim Il-sung, The Great Leader, into the national cinema as a modern technology, Kim Jong-il reformed North Korea as the Cinema-state through his own film theory and practice. In doing so, the heredity of the dictatorial power was naturalized and necessitated just as a transmission to new modern media did. As accelerating the centralization and unification of economy, politics and culture under The Great Leader, North Korean cinema has been distorted with a drastic development. Kim Jong-il deleted the existing film history with emphasizing the tradition of revolutionary cinema and wrote On the Art of the Cinema that became the origin of the other art theories. Since then, Kim created the films of The Great Leader’s figure and established the Juche ideology (self-reliance/subjecthood). On the Art of the Cinema provided the foundation for the aestheticization of politics and melodramatization of a history in the Cinema-state. On the Art of the Cinema where Kim reckoned cinema as the representative art of socialist realism for the age of independent and creative Juche ideology was the only art theory written by Kim Jong-il in the 1970s, emphasizing a human being’s consciousness-raising, that is, the organization of feelings and contents while it inherited the problems of romanticism, organicism and passive human being.


Panel 3: The Soviet Connection

Making a National Film by Stateless People: the Discourses of KAPF’s Cinema Movement in Colonial Korea

Kim Chung-kang, Hanyang University

Koreans began to make Korea’s own feature films in the 1920s. Various cinematic experiments and adaptations were made and many people proposed what were the proper ways of making “Korean film.” Due to Korea’s colonial experience (1910-1945) and its trauma, however, regardless its actual diverse representations, cinema under Japanese occupation often received as an emblem of national identity and expression of nation’s subjectivity, or reversely, mere subjugating media and cultural apparatus which produces only propaganda. There were controversies among the film critics and filmmakers over the issue how to define the boundary of “national” film in colonial context and what are the film aesthetics of a proper national culture. Among these people, KAPF, Korea Artista Proleta Federatio (Korean Artists Proletarian Federation) had a tremendous impact on making discourses of national film based on the aesthetics of social-realism. In this presentation, I will introduce the theories of making “Korean film” by leftist filmmakers (KAPF) and the controversies revolving around the issue of “Korean Film” with so-called nationalist filmmakers. This discussion will provide a way of understanding the cinema theories of colonial Korea, and also explain the post-colonial film critics’ obsession on the theory of “realism” and the notions of political participation of cinema in post-colonial Korea.


Liu Na’ou, City Symphony, and Transcultural/Transmedial Film Aesthetics in 1930s Shanghai

Ling Zhang, University of Chicago

This paper will situate notions of city symphony and montage, and their diverse trajectories, within the multimedial complex of 1930s Chinese film aesthetics. Specifically, my study will center upon writer/translator/critic/filmmaker, Liu Na’ou (1905-1940), born in Taiwan and educated in Japan, and a pivotal figure in the early twentieth century Shanghai mediascape. The expressive capabilities of vertical montage and “city symphony” films to convey and evoke speed, rhythm, and omnipotent views of the city through attention to the mechanization and routinization of experiences of urban space, have not only been deployed in cinema, but also in Japanese and Chinese “Neo Perceptionist” literature (for instance, Japanese writer Yokomitsu Riichi (1898-1947)’s novel Shanghai (1928-1931)). These writings reveal an affinity with distinctly modernist desires to adumbrate new sensory and audiovisual experiences of the city, and are shaped by larger developments in modern media culture. Liu’s work is steeped in this interplay between forms of literary experimentation and the innovative aesthetic potential afforded by new media such as film: he not only interlaces Japanese and Chinese literature, and foreign and Chinese film theory, but also translated and penned film criticism (including Eisenstein’s works), and made an experimental film The Man with The Movie Camera (1933), paying explicit homage to Dziga Vertov’s Man with A Movie Camera (1929). All of these efforts reflect the dynamic way in which the cinematic medium came to stretch the possible limits for modernist representations of the Shanghai cityscape and experiences of urban life.


Haiku and Montage 2.0: Terada Torahiko’s Writings on Linked Poetry and Cinematic Montage”

William O. Gardner, Swarthmore College

In “The Cinematic Principle and the Ideogram” (1929), Sergei Eisenstein (1898 – 1948) cited two staples of Orientalist inquiry, the Chinese character or “ideogram” and the Japanese haiku, as illustrations of the principles of montage. My paper will examine Japanese authors who responded to Eisenstein and offered their own views of the relationship between cinematic montage and Japanese poetic language, beginning with physicist, essayist, and haiku poet Terada Torahiko (1878 – 1935) and his essay “Eiga geijutsu” (“Film art,”1932). While expressing reservations about Eisenstein’s application of “ideogram” and “haiku,” Terada redirected his inquiry towards the form of renku or linked poetry, from which the haiku form derived. I will examine Terada’s views on the relationship between montage and the techniques and aesthetics of linked poetry as developed in the circle of Matsuo Bashô (1644 – 1694), showing how, even as they extended Eisenstein’s theoretical inquiry into a productive new area, they also contributed to a new, modern construction of the literary category of renku. Finally, I will compare this aspect of Terada’s film theory with other contemporary explorations of the relationship between montage and poetry, include those of poet and film critic Kitagawa Fuyuhiko (1900-1990) and documentary filmmaker Kamei Fumio (1908-1987).


Saturday (Michigan Union)


9:00 – 11:00am Fourth Frame


Panel 1: Boundaries of the National

Film Theory on the Ground: Tsurumi Shunsuke and the Postwar Discourse on Mass Culture in Japan

Junko Yamazaki, University of Chicago

While there has been increasing interest among film scholars in the important role the journal Shiso no kagaku kenkyukai played in shaping the postwar discourse on mass culture in general, and popular cinema in particular, little reflection has been given to the issue raised by the group regarding the question of what counts as film theory. I will argue that ‘the everyday life philosophy’ of Tsurumi Shunsuke and his colleagues offers a conception of theory that is produced and presented in horizontal networks of circulation and lateral movement of resources and information rather than theory that is imagined as a vertical perspective from which theorists contemplate the world in a totalizing way. In his critique of idealism which he identifies as a philosophical model for, as well as a symptom of, Japan’s rapid modernization, Tsurumi turned to popular cinema in general, jidaigeki in particular, what Hanada Kiyoteru called “the films that speak of reality according to a totally different system of terminology.” Tsurumi regards these films as ‘embedded’ knowledge of the world to which his ‘embodied’ knowledge of the idioms and reading habits he acquired from kodan and manga in his childhood past, once thought to be displaced by academic idioms he acquired in the later periods of his life, provide a route. Furthermore, it was this type of ‘theory’ that fueled aesthetic experiments of the postwar Japanese avant-garde artists and their advocates who turn to cinema, as much as, if not more than, philosophical approaches to film aesthetics.


Cinema of the Oppressed:  Minjung Film Theory and Filmmaking in the 1980s South Korea

Nam Lee, Chapman University

The 1980s marks a unique period in South Korean film history in which a new generation of film critics emerged and engaged in an intense theoretical discussion for a new national cinema and identity. It reflected the major transformation in the political, social and cultural environment in South Korea with the rise of minjung (people/oppressed and marginalized) movement to overthrow the brutal military dictatorship. The Gwangju Massacre in May 1980 instigated the leftist critique of bourgeois nationalist movement and the focus of the movement shifted from minjok (nation) to minjung. The aim of the minjung cultural movement was to raise political consciousness among the laborers, peasants and urban poor who would then become the agent for the democratic revolution. In this context, young film critics sought the ways in which cinema can contribute to this revolution and debated over the goals and strategies of the new minjung cinema. This paper examines the discourse surrounding the notion of minjung cinema and its major aesthetic tenets by analyzing film journals Minjok Yonghwa (National Cinema) and Ready Go published between 1983 and 1990. These journals show that the minjung film theory was influenced by leftist politics, literary debates, the notion of “Third Cinema” as well as Korea’s own socialist KAPF film movement of the 1930s. Minjung cinema sought to represent the oppressed and to incorporate folk art, especially traditional mask dance and music, as subversive elements in creating a new national cinema. It gave rise to a strong underground documentary movement and the Korean New Wave of the late 1980s and early 1990s.


Vernacular Queer Aesthetics in Taiwan Cinema

Kai-man Chang, Tulane University

Historically, the boundaries of film studies have been redrawn by various cultural, technological and socio-political forces: from psychoanalysis to postmodernism, from the invention of sound cinema to digital technology, from two world wars to neoliberal globalization. Considering how film theory continuously incorporates methodologies and ideas from a variety of interdisciplinary sources, this paper attempts to investigate how local film scholars theorize the vernacular queer discourses/images/aesthetics. Despite the influence of the Euro-North American theories, Taiwanese film scholars have developed their own film theories in regard to the issue of gender and sexuality since the early 1990s. In the past twenty years, Taiwan has witnessed an unprecedented increase of gay-themed films, such as Tsai Ming-liang’s The River (1997), Yee Chih-yen’s Blue Gate Crossing (2002), Chen Yin-jung’s Formula 17 (2004), Leste Chen’s Eternal Summer (2006) and Zero Chou’s Spider Lilies (2007). Though influenced by the globally-oriented rhetoric of Western feminism and gay rights movement, I argue that the queer aesthetics in Taiwan cinema does not fit easily into the Western models of identity politics. This paper attempts to excavate a multitude of vernacular queer aesthetics and film theories that derive from the tensions between the individual and the collective, between visibility and invisibility, between fiction and reality, between the artistic and the commercial, and between the local and the global.


Panel 2: Intermedia Theory: Lost & Found

Cinema and Mechanization: Staging R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) in Japan

Diane Wei Lewis, Meiji Gakuin University

From genre classifications and narrative structures, to the many actors and directors who came from the kabuki and shingeki worlds, the close relationship between prewar Japanese film and theater is usually conceived in terms of the influence of theater on film. Less attention has been paid to the impact of cinema on stage practices, even though the famous European and Soviet experiments with film projection in avant-garde scenography were also enthusiastically received, and attempted, in Japan. At Tsukiji Shogekijo, film projection was used as a scenographic attraction on the model of productions by Meyerhold and Piscator, discussed in their coterie journal as one component in a new, synthetic, mechanical arts. The Tsukiji Shogekijo production of R.U.R. by Karel Čapek, a sci-fi play in which a robot underclass rises up against human masters, incorporated film projection and generated comparisons between theater and film according to its thematics of man versus machine. Using this production as a departure point, this presentation will examine how film was theorized and applied by stage practitioners as one element of an intermedial machine aesthetics that reflected an increasingly mechanized society. It also examines the thematic of machine-like bodies across 1920s film acting theory, avant-garde theater, and sci-fi.


Expanded Film Theory: Cinema, Graphic Design, and Architecture

Yuriko Furuhata, McGill University

The late 1960s was the time of intermedia (intaa media), expanded cinema (kakuchô eiga), and environmental art (kankyô geijutsu) in Japan. The boundaries between cinema and other media were blurred and redrawn as providing a definition of the image (eizô) became more urgent than providing a definition of film or cinema (eiga). Arguably, the discursive attempt to theorize cinema – the presumed activity of “film theory” – became inseparable from an attempt to articulate and define what the image was and how to understand this notion in relation to various forms and platforms of visual media. By focusing on the work of Awazu Kiyoshi, this paper will explore the nexus between discourses on film, graphic design, and architecture. Awazu is a graphic designer and visual artist who was a founding member of Metabolism (an important architecture movement that got its start in 1960). He worked with filmmakers such as Teshigahara Hiroshi and Matsumoto Toshio, organized a legendary five-day intermedia event “EXPOSE 1968” at the Sôgetsu Art Center, edited the design journal Dezain Hihyô (1967-1970), and participated in Expo 70 by designing several multiple-screen projection works. The aim of this paper is to use Awazu’s visual work as well as his writings as an entry point to rethink how the very contours of film theory was expanded during the late 1960s.


Intāmedia: Early Developments in the Theorization of Intermediality in Japan

Julian Ross University of Leeds

Intermediality as a theoretical framework has experienced a resurgence of interest in art historical research in the past few years. Cinema, despite its commonly recognized trait for being a meeting point between the arts, has only very recently seen publications devoted entirely to its relationship with intermedia (Pethő: 2011). Furthermore, we are also in danger of positioning intermedia as a Euro-American privilege in spite of the wide spectrum of global artistic activity that can be canonized as intermedial practice. It seems pertinent now to position case studies from East Asian cinemas, both in their approach and theorizations, within the discourse of intermedial studies. Not only has Japan contributed an array of films relevant to the discussion on intermedia, Japan had also participated in the theorization of intermedia early on in its conception. By 1967, only a year after Dick Higgins coined the term, intermedia was discussed in Japanese art journals. Moreover, the understanding of intermedia in Japan (intāmedia) was deeply embedded in cinema and possibilities regarding technology. This paper will analyze the early developments of intermedia in Japan as a theoretical concept and artistic approach with reference to related theories of sōgō geijutsu in existence prior to the arrival of intermedia.


Media Theory in Japan: the Ensenzberger Moment

Miryam Sas, University of California, Berkeley

This paper examines the transcultural media critical discourses circulating in Japan across multiple art forms. The presentation approaches question of media theory in Japan through the lens of the “Ensenzberger moment” when, on the occasion of German writer and media theorist Hans Magnus Ensenzberger’s visit to Japan in 1973 (he had written  “Constituents of a Theory of Media” in 1970) a symposium was held that brought together many of the major art critics, artists, and writers of media theory of the time: Tōno Yoshiaki, Haryū Ichirō, Taki Kōji, Matsuda Masao, Nakahira Takuma, Terayama Shūji, Tsuda Takashi and others. Currents of media theory—Benjamin, McLuhan, Ensenzberger—had been running through media discourses in Japan with varying stakes (and some confusion). This moment provides an opportunity for a close-up of a network of media and theorists and a unique chance to understand the stakes in these discourses at a moment of profound media transformation.


11:00am – 1:00pm Fifth Frame


Panel 1: Essences of Cinema

What Was Cinema In China: Medium Specificity and Early Chinese Film Theory

Weihong Bao, University of California, Berkeley

In the past two decades of Chinese film studies, much attention has been given to what is “Chinese” cinema(s) concerning nationalism, translationism, and geopolitics that constitute the field and our critical inquiry. What remains to be tackled, however, is what was cinema in China? Was cinema itself a fixed entity in film discourses and audience reception? Did it undergo any permutations, and how was it related to other media, the world, and society at large? This paper looks at early Chinese film theory from the 1920s to the mid 1930s on the question of medium specificity. I will start with the variety of terms for “cinema” in China at its inception and then take a closer look at 1920s’ film discourse, when the cinematic medium was conceived and discussed at great length with diverse understandings. Inquiring the material-technological, semiotic, and sociocultural definitions of cinema in relation to other media as well as politics, I provide a new perspective to understand the “hard” vs. “soft” film debate in the mid 1930s and point out the limit of previous studies which had taken medium specificity for granted. By historicizing cultural discourses and theories on cinema in China, I propose to reassess the question of medium specificity as an enduring problematic in film studies from the perspective of Chinese film theory.


Imamura Taihei’s Theory of Japanese Cinema

Rea Amit, Yale University

Imamura Taihei’s writings on film, which are considered among the most pivotal in the establishment of film theory in Japan, are surprisingly yet understudied. This is mainly in terms of Imamura’s thesis of “Cinema and Japanese Art.” While many studies, in Japan and the West, had given much attention to Imamura’s theories of documentary film and animation, and while issues with regard to the nation in world cinema in general, and in Japan in particular, continue to interest scholars, Imamura’s work on Japanese cinematic medium-specificity demands wider recognition. In my paper I intend to, first, introduce Imamura’s thesis, the many different examples he gives for cinematic-like aspects of pre-modern Japanese arts, and the context in which it was written and rewritten between the late 1930s and the mid-1940s. Secondly, I would like to suggest an interpretation of Imamura’s aesthetic essentialism, and to highlight the qualities that separate the thesis from other theories of Japanese cinema. Finally, I will conclude my paper by arguing for the role Imamura’s thesis can have in problematizing the national borders of Japanese cinema on the one hand, and medium-specificity on the other.


Beyond Sovereignty: Cinematic Responsibility

Phil Kaffen, University of Chicago

My presentation aims to take up the question of film theory as it engages the relationship between cinema and responsibility in Japan. The question of responsibility has once more become prominent in the last year since the triple catastrophe of 3/11. I want to ask how film theory might help frame the seemingly irresolvable problem of responsibility. My starting point is Itami Mansaku’s postwar essay “The Problem of Who is Responsible for the War,” (Senso sekininsha no mondai). While published in a film journal and collected in anthologies of film theory in Japan, what is striking is that its relationship to film is arguably quite tenuous. Hence, the essay raises the question of what the task of film theory might be and what legitimates it as “film theory.” At stake is the issue of specificity, and whether cinema might contribute to a discussion of the most pressing issue of postwar Japan in ways that are occluded in the more commonly explored realms of literature, high arts, and intellectual history. I will then pursue these questions further by focusing on Nakai Masakazu’s writings on subjectivity, as a key term in relation to responsibility in the postwar. In particular, I am interested in the ways that “cinema” speaks to the possibility of responsibility in the absence of a sovereign subject. I will conclude by drawing from the above inquiries questions with regard to the limits of film (as analog, indexical, material, broadcast-oriented, collectively organized, and capital intensive) in the present moment. Within what many might describe as a radically altered mediascape, can theory still inform and engage practices of responsibility?


Apologia for Film—When Theory Meets Fei Mu

Yiman Wang, UC Santa Cruz

Many people know Fei Mu, the “poet director,” from his now canonized postwar film, Spring in a Small Town.  Few people know that his Song of China – a silent film with a home-made music score — was the first Chinese film theatrically released in the U.S. — after drastic re-editing and abridgement.  Indeed, although Fei Mu directed sixteen films (including shorts) from 1933 to 1951, only Spring in a Small Town has received sustained attention.  Even there, the discourse is overwhelmingly revisionist, i.e. simply celebrating the reversal of Fei’s fortune – that his once marginalized film is now finally recognized as a masterpiece thanks to our liberal politics. In this essay, I work against the discourse of triumphant liberalism in order to fathom the difficulty Fei encountered in experimenting with the film language in dialog with forms of “old opera” and “civilized play,” even while engaging with the political and commercial interpellations in the politically tumultuous China.  Fei’s innovative practice went hand in hand with his theorization of the film form and its audience address.  Specifically, his conceptualization of the film structure and the ambience enabled him to build a film language that rebelled against the dramatic arc.  In terms of film structure, he transposed “narratage” (narration + montage) (as exemplified by Hollywood talkies such as The Power and The Glory and The Sin of Nora Moran) to a silent film, A Spray of Fragrance.  He simultaneously stressed the notion of “air” or ambience (kongqi) in making an effective film. The experimental quality of his work was registered in the audience’s frequent befuddlement and his constant apology for his “failure” and apologia for his persistent pursuit.  It is precisely in between apology and apologia that Fei Mu offered us not simply a theory, but more importantly, a method of theorization that emerged from his trans-media knowledge and border-crossing borrowing, and that defied the commercial formulae and political sloganism all at once.


Panel 2: Sound and Screen

Early Japanese Filmmusic: Theoretical Musings about Putting Music to Film

Johan Nordstrom, Waseda University

During the early 1930s, Japanese cinema was in the process of a gradual transition from silent to sound film. In parallel with the emergence of sound into the cinematic landscape, new theories of how best to utilize this innovative technology gave birth to a new genre of light entertainment, infused with music and song, and often sharing traits of musical style, staging, and pacing with that of the urban variety stage. These new kind of films where spearheaded by Japan’s first all-talkie film studio, the Tokyo-based P.C.L. (Photo Chemical Laboratory). This paper will examine the contemporary discourses conducted in trade journals and newspapers between filmmakers, such as for instance Heinosuke Gosho, producers and film writers such as Mori Iwao, and the composers actually responsible for creating the music. By closely examining the ideas and approaches that were advanced by these different agents within the industry, this presentation aims to shed light on the attitudes and reasoning that shaped early decisions about ways to marry music to the moving pictures in Japan during the first half of the 1930s.


Early Film Music Theory in Japan:  Nakane Hiroshi’s Tōkī ongakuron

Kerim Yasar, Notre Dame University

Early theories of sound film had to address not only the presence of the spoken word but also the possibilities and perils of diegetic and extra-diegetic music. In this paper I explore the work of Nakane Hiroshi (? – 1951), whose 1932 Tōkī ongakuron (Theory of Music for the Talkies, a book-length collection of essays and analyses) was one of the first extended engagements with film music theory in Japanese. Highly regarded by Tōhō co-founder Mori Iwao (who wrote the preface to the book and was an important sound-film theorist in his own right), Nakane had previously been a musician and member of the Ongaku to bungaku (Music and Literature) coterie magazine. Although writing from a musician’s perspective, Nakane had an acute sense of the need for music especially composed to accompany the moving image, and analyzed concrete examples in thirteen films, including Sternberg’s Morocco, Clair’s Under the Roofs of Paris, and Pabst’s The 3 Penny Opera. I situate Nakane’s approach in two contexts: Japanese and Western debates during the period about film music, and earlier theories of the role of music in radio drama. I also assess Nakane’s influence on subsequent theorists as well as on scoring practices.


The sound-making of Japanese silent movies

Shuhei Hosokawa, International Research Center for Japanese Studies

In the very early years of film projection in Japan, the brass band, a sonic symbol for Western civilization, played in front of the theater uninterruptedly (“ballyhoo”). With the development of the art of explainer (benshi) accompanying the film projection, the synchronized (in diverse senses) sound-making was regarded as an efficient  device for the perception of the audience. Around the turn of the century, in some cases films with live musical performance were accompanied by a phonograph recorded simultaneously, while in other cases live musical performance was used for the moving images recorded simultaneously. However, later in the 1910s sound practice became gradually fixed with the formalization and industrialization of spectacle. The majority of Japanese film produced were jidaigeki and a band mixing Western instruments and shamisen and taiko was usually employed to play a mixed repertory. However, intellectuals and other Western-oriented fans preferred the imported films, which were usually accompanied by a Western orchestra and repertory. Some large theaters in the centers of cities were proud of producing intermission music by a relatively large orchestra, giving the information of conductor and title of pieces in the publicity. It functioned as a rare concert for Western music lovers in the time when no regular orchestras were active. The division of spectatorship was evident as for such  uses of music.


The Master-slave Dialectic in Chinese Opera Film, 1954-1965: From “Filming Opera” to “Filmic Opera”

Zhang Yeqi, Nanjing University

During the golden era from 1954-1965, Chinese opera films gradually established its own formula and system, reflecting the development of “Yingxi theory” (Shadow play theory) from the documentary of theatre performance to the notion of cinematic consciousness. After absorbing the ideas of Stanislavsky, Brecht and Meyerhold’s modern theatre theories, Hollywood musical genre, and Eisenstein’s montage dictum, Mei Lanfang and other leading opera stars claimed: 1) the material selections for opera-adapted films must place the stress on their characteristics of cinema, rather than the artistic achievement on the stage; 2) acting in front of a camera, which is essentially different from acting to a live audience, should more focus on details and mental states of characters, and can get rid of the instantaneous and synchronic presentation on the theatrical stage as well as the “show-off of artistry”. Cui Wei and other filmmakers of New China, accepted many Soviet thoughts of cinema, and then began to overrule the established theory of recording stage performance in opera film. Cui advocated a “filmic opera” that requires film to “serve” the opera art. By using the word “serve”, Cui argued that the essences of opera can be preserved in its filmic version, specifically, his guidelines are set as follows: 1) rewriting the loosely-organized opera script in a tight manner of screenplay; 2) embracing a more realistic performance style to accommodate to the camera lens, giving prominence to character over scene; 3) using mise-en-scène to break the limit of proscenium stage tradition, proposing a new time-space notion that combines traditional formulated action with realistic setting. Further, Cui suggested that opera film theory was an important branch of Chinese film theories, and, by means of traditional opera, the most popular art form in China over hundreds of years, Chinese film could better represent the national character and reach a much more mass audience.


From Shadowplay to Montage: The Introduction of Soviet Film Theory to Early Chinese Cinema

Jinying Li, Oregon State University

In 1928, Tian Han, a Chinese leftist poet and playwright, hosted a semi-underground screening of Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin (1925) in Shanghai.  Four years later, Vsevolod Pudovkin’s Storm Over Asia (1928) entered Chinese theaters and marked the first public screening of Soviet cinema in China. In the following years, numerous theoretical writings by the Soviet school were translated and introduced to China by leftist intellectuals, and it had a profound impact on the development of Chinese cinema. The introduction of soviet film theory not only challenged the “shadowplay” tradition that has dominated Chinese filmmaking and film studies since the 1920s, but it also paved a new theoretical foundation that gave rise to the left-wing filmmaking in Shanghai and Yan’an in the 1930s. This paper will trace such a significant transformation in the early history of Chinese cinema, by closely examining the theoretical writings of several leftist filmmakers and critics, including Hong Shen, Xia Yan, Zheng Boqi, and Chen Liting. In particular, this study examines the contemporary Chinese theoretical debates in the 1930s that centered on the tension between the Soviet montage theory and the “shadowplay” discourse that drew on Chinese theater traditions and classical Hollywood.


2:30 – 4:30pm Sixth Frame


Panel 1 (Preconstituted Panel):

Genealogies of Japanese Media Theory: From the 1960’s to Zeronendai

Moderator: Marc Steinberg, Concordia University

What is media theory in post-1960s Japan? What are the conceptual genealogies of the so-called “zeronendai” (2000s) media theory? How have these genealogical precursors laid the ground for the recent effervescence of Japanese media theory in the 2000s? These are the fundamental questions this panel aims to ask. Conceived of as one part of a larger project aiming to translate and generate critical reflection on Japanese media theory of the 2000s, often known as “zeronendai no shisô” – or thought of the aughts – this panel aims to be an exploratory invitation to rethink the contours and lineages of current Japanese media theory. The larger project seeks to deal with questions of delimitation (where is media theory in Japan?), questions of purview (who makes it into the media theory of the 2000s canon?), questions of the institutional and cultural space of media theory in Japan (how to conceptualize theory that is fundamentally consumed as a commodity?), as well as questions of history (what are the historical antecedents of 2000s theory?). Propelled by questions of demarcation and problems of translation, this panel proposes to focus on an interrogation of the historical conditions and antecedents of contemporary media theory, focusing on the period of 1960 to 2000 in particular.


Tadao Umesao’s Theory of Information Industry and 1960s Japanese Media Theory

Kadobayashi Takeshi, Kansai University

Starting his academic career as a biologist and then as an anthropologist, Tadao Umesao (1920-2010) developed a unique theory of “information industry” through 1960s. This work culminated in his classic text Chiteki seisan no gijutsu (The Art of Intellectual Production) in 1969 on one hand, and the foundation of the National Museum of Ethnology with its pioneering media library in 1977, in which he held a position of director until his retirement, on the other. Reminiscent of contemporaneous Western discourses on technology and civilization such as the work of Marshall McLuhan and Alvin Toffler, Umesao’s theory of information industry took its place within the fluid intellectual atmosphere in the 1960s Japan, in which interests toward popular culture also emerged. Reconsidering Umesao’s work within the context of the discourses on media, technology and culture in the 1960s Japan, this paper attempts to clarify the social and cultural background of the media theory of 1960s Japan, which at a first glance appears only to be an epigone of its Western counterparts, and put into relief what is particularly envisioned in its culturally situated thread of thoughts.


McLuhan in Japan: Media Theory and Advertising Practice

Marc Steinberg, Concordia University

Discussions of the introduction and popularization of critical theory in Japan often focus on the introduction of structuralism and post-structuralism over the 1970s and the into the 1980s, leading to the rise of “New Academism,” and post-structuralist film writing such as that of Hasumi Shigehiko. This paper will look at another genealogy of theory in Japan, and media theory in particular: the introduction of the work of Marshall McLuhan over the years 1966-8. McLuhan’s work was particularly influential on the advertising industry, and the application of his media theory to advertising practice was explored in advertising magazines and broadcasting journals such as Brain and Hôsô Asahi. In this paper I will look at the context of interest in McLuhan’s work, focusing on debates around information society, and the take-up of McLuhan by the advertising industry. Of particular interest here is the way that the consumption of theory is already involved in circuits of advertising practice and (perceived) economic profitability that foreshadow the take-up of post-structuralism as marketing theory by ad agencies in the 1980s.


Girlscape: Consumer Demographics and Lifestyle Environment in Early 1970s Japanese Media

Tomiko Yoda, Harvard University

In the early 1970s Japan, market segmentation emerged as a significant media discourse, identifying young, single women as vanguard consumers.  How and why did this demographic profile become a target of intensive speculative investment by advertisers, marketers, and publishers?  Not only did medias actively constituted this demographics through gender- and age-calibrated addresses but also designed individuated lifestyle environments in relation to it. The “girlscape” was articulated as the environment of young women’s self-fashioning, unburdened by the tension between city and country or Japan and the West, unmoored from the disciplinary sites of economic production as well as socio-biological reproduction.  It was evoked through a number of visual/textual strategies, including non-perspectival visual field, concatenation of fragmented images, non-linear distribution of information, and whimsical cartography. This paper considers the historical status of girlscape by examining it against the “landscape” (fûkei), a term hotly debated among Japanese leftist filmmakers and photographers in the late 1960s to early 1970s.  The rapid proliferation of girlscape suggests the prescience with which landscape theorists raised questions over power and media at the transitional moments between the two decades, while also drawing our attention to their underdeveloped engagement with gender politics.


Enter the Media: Ironical Theory as Commodity/Resistance in 1980s Japan

Alexander Zahlten, Dongguk University / Harvard University

In the early 1980s a shift takes place in the economy of theory in Japan. Books on poststructuralist theory become massive bestsellers and a public intellectual like Yoshimoto Takaaki models for the Commes des Garcons label. Not a completely new phenomenon in itself, this is however the point where theory and its practice begin to converge. The writings of young intellectual stars such as Asada Akira and Karatani Kojin place a new emphasis on concepts such as irony and humor, and thus align their writings with their own commodification as an ambivalent form of resistance that lacks a distinction between interior and exterior. The rediscovery of the term “media” in late 1980s Japan is less frivolous yet heavily marked by these developments, and eventually leads to a new practice of media theorization in the 2000s. This paper will trace the interplay between the content and form of media theory in Japan since the 1980s, in which theory itself becomes a medium.


Panel 2: Philias, Phobias and the Contexts of Theories

 “Poisonous Weeds” and Cinephobia: Film Criticism as Political Campaign in the Mao Era

Jie Li, Princeton University

Chinese political authorities in the Mao era (1949-1976) were both fatally attracted to and deeply suspicious of the cinematic medium.  They might first promulgate a film to instill revolutionary subjectivity in the masses, only to attack the same film later for its hidden bourgeois seductions.  They might first invite a sympathetic Western director to make a documentary to improve China’s international image, only to later denounce the resulting film for its “vicious motives and despicable tricks.”  Suggesting that verbal denunciations of cinematic “poisonous weeds” had as much ideological impact than films celebrated as “fragrant flowers,” this paper traces a genealogy of film criticism as political campaign from Mao Zedong’s 1951 editorial on the film Life of Wu Xun to the 1974 campaign against Michelangelo Antonioni’s documentary Chung Kuo.  It highlights the role played by Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, a former actress in the 1930s Shanghai film industry, as the nation’s greatest cinephiliac and cinephobiac, whose idiosyncratic tastes and personal paranoia loomed over cinematic production and censorship from the mid-1960s to the end of the Cultural Revolution.  While rarely penning her film criticisms as formal treatises, Jiang Qing left a record of speeches, directives, interviews, and conversations with film studio personnel.  Her entourage of writers expounded her offhand comments into polemical newspaper editorials, echoed by more critics in published anthologies and lists of censored films.  Through an examination of the critical discourse surrounding major cinematic “poisonous weeds,” this paper will also draw comparisons—by way of the mass criticism of Antonioni’s documentary—to ideological critiques in 1970s Western film theories.


The Janus-face of Critical Cinephilia: The Impacts of Western Contemporary Film Theories on the 1990s’ Korean Film Sphere

Kim Jihoon, Nanyang Technological University, and Lee Sun Joo, Chung-ang University

This paper historicizes the compressed reception of Western contemporary film theories in what we call the ‘Korean film sphere” of the 1990s, a conceptual field in which particular aesthetic, ontological, and cultural notions of cinemas, ranging from the cinema in general to the ideal of Korean cinema, are imagined and articulated through the intersection of broader cinematic practices going beyond film production. After its national political liberation, South Korean film culture in the 1990s witnessed the burgeoning of dedicated film viewing ignited by the foundation of new film magazines (Cine21 for weekly, and KINO for monthly), private cinemathèques, university cine-clubs, and non-university institutions dedicated to the education of humanities. The practices formed the intellectual and discursive layers of the passion for film as they explicitly referred to and disseminated the major lines of the Western contemporary film theories since the 1960s—Althusserian Marxism, cultural studies, Lacanian psychoanalysis, and Deleuzian philosophy. By examining the ways in which the theories’ concepts and ideas were translated and refracted within the context of “Korean film sphere,” this paper argues for both the contribution and the limitation of critical cinephilia: the theories promoted a renewed recognition of cinema in the Korean society of the time as they offered the devoted spectators the repertoire of the broader questions on cinema—film’s essence, cinema and society, and cinema as a cultural practice—than film as entertainment; but the theories were in some respects fossilized (that is, unable to extend into a broader political intervention into Korean film culture and society) when they were transformed into the recondite, fetishized ideas that canonized arthouse cinema and cult films, and when the spectatorial and critical practices were turned into the age of the Internet that threatened to dissolve the specificities of traditional cinephilia.


A Psychoanalytical Undercurrent in Japanese Film Theory

Maureen Turim, University of Florida

In light of much new research on the history of psychoanalysis in Japan, I propose to look at the intersections between Japanese film theory and Japanese psychoanalytic theory.  Three major figures in psychoanalytic theory receiving renewed attention are Kosawa Heisaku, Kitayama Osamu,  and Okonogi Keigo, in addition to Doi Takeo, whose influence on film theory has been the strongest, especially in terms of theories of Japanese melodrama and war films.  That many specifically Japanese psychoanalytic concepts such as the amae complex and the ajase complex concern motherhood and are derived from Japanese folklore, Noh and Kabuki, invites application by Western and Japanese theorists alike, but cautionary notes have been raised by those deconstructing the assumptions inherent in these theories, and I will look at this debate.  The theories have resonance with anime, porn, and the thriller in particular, and may speak to the extreme depictions of sex and violence that permeate Japanese film, while images of innocence and attachment to childlike objects flourish alongside these representations. I will speak to the use of these theories historically, and their presence in Japanese literary and film theory today.


Chinese Cinephilia in the Internet Age

Yomi Braester, University of Washington

The paper surveys the growth of a middlebrow film criticism in Chinese internet forums and argues that the online writings continue a trend rooted in theoretical debates initiated in the 1950s. The journal Chinese Cinema (Zhongguo Dianying, established 1956 and later renamed Film Art/Dianying Yishu) played a role similar to the Cahiers du cinéma in bridging popular reception and theoretically informed criticism. I have addressed the developments in the 1950s elsewhere; in this essay I show how concerns about introducing film theory to a wide public have carried over to the contents and practices of online forums as well as related publications and curatorial activities.


Panel 3: Starts and Fits

Nation, Juche Film Theory, and Filmmaking in North Korea

Dong Hoon Kim, University of Oregon

This paper examines the development of Juche (Self-Reliance) philosophy and its influence on film theory and production in North Korea. The primary mission of North Korean cinema has been to write a national history and construct a national identity, and in writing a national history, Juche has been the sole grammar which nobody can disobey. When Kim Il-Sung first proclaimed the ideals of Juche to the public in 1955, it was the principle that aimed to inspire every effort to strengthen the state. Yet as Juche idea became closely intertwined with factional fighting in the party, it eventually transformed into Kimism. In the Juche era, therefore, the history of Kim Il-Sung is identified with that of nation; that is, writing a national history is nothing but writing a personal history of Kim. In the 1990s, however, North Korea had to remold its nationhood and revise Juche as a way to cope with a series of crises–the death of Kim Il-Sung, the collapse of the socialist block, most notably–that significantly threatened the nation’s security and even existence. Through the analysis of the two books, On the Art of the Cinema (1973) and Juche Aesthetic Theory (1992), that initiated the artistic revolutions in the 1970s and 1990s respecitivley by film-theorizing Juche, this paper looks into the ways in which cinema embodies the processes of shaping and reshaping the nation-ness in North Korea.


Im Hwa’s Thesis of “Transplantation through Appreciation[鑑賞]”: the Origin of Korean Cinema

Baek Moonim, Yonsei University

Im Hwa [林和:1908-1953], one of the most prolific and influential critics and poets of the colonial period, wrote the earliest Korean film history, The Development of Choson Cinema, in 1941. In these and other works, Im laid out his “transplantation through appreciation” thesis, which foregrounded the heterogeneity of Korean cinema in its origins and in the first 20 years of its history – a period that was without native film production (which would wait until as late as 1919). The notion of “transplantation through appreciation” took clear account of the nearly simultaneous advent of the new Western moving picture [hwaldongsajin] technologies and the fact of Japanese colonization, and how those forces worked to shape the new experiences of colonial spectatorship. Im therein furnished a mold for the creation of a Korean cinema that was conceived through the appreciation of alien cultures and developed alongside contiguous cultural forms like modern literature and theatrical drama, which had earlier been transplanted to domestic soil. I seek in this paper to demonstrate how Im Hwa’s thesis casts the vernacularization of cinema in East Asia in a way that erases its Western origins and further highlights place-bound ethnic identity in Korean film production. I also reframe his argument as an attempt to advance a raison d’être for Korean cinema, which was being fully absorbed into Japanese national cinema in the form of propaganda after the Sino-Japanese War and the establishment of the Korean Film Regulation in 1940.


Early Development of Film and Media Studies in Japan

Kukhee Choo, Tulane University

Film and media studies in many Asian countries have often been analyzed through the framework of Western scholarship onto Asian media texts and productions. However, in the case of Japan, which already saw an emergence of domestic scholarship on popular media during the early 20th century, the history of media studies took a unique turn. Starting with research on the grassroots media industries of the late 19th and early 20th century, led by scholars involved in the Meiji Bunka Kenkyūkai (Meiji Culture Research Group established by Yoshino Sakuzō), and later economists and sociologists such as Takano Iwasaburo and Gonda Yasunosuke, Japan’s media studies firmly established itself, almost simultaneously with German’s Frankfurt School, to further the understanding of indigenous film and media culture. This presentation will map out the trajectory of how early media studies developed in modern Japan and how the postwar condition progressed into a bifurcated twist between the European theoretical frameworks and the bureaucratic academic institutionalization introduced by the North American system. Japan’s case study provides an alternative to the dominant Western media discourses which has often ignored the local developments.


The Last Film Movement in Korea: Seoul Film Collective and Korean Film Theory

Seung-hoon Jeong, New York University Abu Dhabi

The Seoul Film Collective founded in 1982 by Seoul National University’s film community members published two related anthologies: For a New Cinema (1983) and On Film Movements (1985). This double volume exposed the Collective’s serious struggle to theorize an indigenous film aesthetics that can reflect South Korea’s authentic reality and reform its film culture. The concept was clear, typically rooted in the then student movement for anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism: liberation from Hollywood toward cultural nationalism. Retrospectively, however, its uniqueness seems found within the spatiotemporal gap even in theory between production and consumption. The Collective introduced Western alternative movements including Third Cinema, which all had their heyday decades ago, whereas the neighbors’ New Waves in the 1960s Japan and 1980s pan-Chinese countries were completely missing. This cinematic décalage, especially caused under the totalitarian regime, indicates the long “jet lag” of Korean film culture that went on until around 1990, just after the Collective’s peak. Such Collective members as Jang Seon-woo and Park Kwang-soo led the Korean new wave with socially committed films, but they did not survive the late 1990s real boom of Korean cinema in the wake of globalization that drastically changed cultural environment and sensibility. The collective attempt at an autogenous film theory was then replaced by individual critics’ quick distribution and journalistic application of Western theories to films on the one hand, and by the academic trend of East Asian film studies with much focus on colonialism on the other – which however is not a film movement. Meanwhile, the Seoul Film Collective changed into the Seoul Visual Collective, now the central force of independent documentary production in Korea, but its theoretical activity stopped. In this history, the Collective’s 1980s theorization seems the last movement in Korean film theory, whose origin traces back to socialist nationalism in the colonial period. And this shows the long genealogy of the realist paradigm in which the primary criterion is reference to sociopolitical reality and the persistent task is the subjective reception and creative transformation of all theories from outside into “our” territory. This territorialization mostly remained amateuristic as shown in the Colletive’s naïve understanding of Soviet Montage, French impressionism, Italian Neorealism, etc. Their idea of “open cinema” blurring the boundary between theater and screen space, drawn from traditional Korean performance, sounds all the more utopian as it never came true and then was forgotten after the demise of the movement. But conversely, this utopian nationalism resonates with various forms of international modernism that aimed at a new revolutionary community of art becoming life through artistic autonomy outside the market. The last Korean film theory may matter in terms of this political aesthetics and its worldwide dissolution into the postmodern global paradigm. In other words, the long jet-lagged Korean film theory joined the global wave only upon its death, only as an unrealized dream. This paradox will deserve more attention.


Michelle Cho, Brown University
Aaron Gerow, Yale University
Guo-Juin Hong, Duke University
Jason McGrath, University of Minnesota
Robert Burgoyne, University of St. Andrews,
Jean Ma, Stanford University

Scientific Board

Francesco Casetti, Yale University
Jane Gaines, Columbia University
Dudley Andrew, Yale University
Chris Berry, University of London-Goldsmiths
Christa Blümlinger, Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3
André Gaudreault, University of Montréal
Vinzenz Hediger, University of Bochum
John McKay, Yale University
Markus Nornes, University of Michigan
David Rodowick, Harvard University
Philip Rosen, Brown University
Leonardo Quaresima, University of Udine
Masha Salazkina, Concordia University, Montréal
Petr Szczepanik, University of Brno