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Representation of Culture and Society in Japanese Film

Historian of Japanese film Iwamoto describes, in general outline, the present state of Japanese cinematography and main trends in recent Japanese film, which reflect contemporary Japanese culture and society. In the past ten years or so Japanese film had a lot of problems, at least in what concerns the industry of profit and entertainment. There are numerous reasons for that: films haven’t’ been the only pastime of the whole nation for a long time; producers and audience have a very different taste and values system, so it is not possible to focus on just one type of film any more; the big production companies broke the tradition to train future filmmakers; young talents go into other areas (like pop music, contemporary dance, theatre, computer graphics, comic strips); there is no true need to preserve and stimulate film as an important part of national culture. Still, a great number of films (290 in 2003) is made, imported and shown in Japan each year, and due to various ways of viewing, more people actually watch films.
At present, the most popular type of film in Japan is animated film, closely connected with strong Japanese tradition of caricature, illustrated stories and comic strip, which captivated all generations. Recently, critics’ lists of best films include some animated films, like those made by Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata. A great number of films dealing with homosexuality, that treat same-sex relationships and differences between the genders radically, give evidence about new and diverse life styles. Post-homogeneous society is reflected in the films that deal with the position of women, immigrants, nationalism and national prejudice; post-competitive is reflected in films that deal with interpersonal relationships, intimacy and love in all generations. There is also a genre of psycho-horror or modern horror film, and films that combine old ghost stories with new media like video and computers are increasingly popular.

Kenji Iwamoto

On Contemporary Japanese Film
The Aesthetics of Japanese Film

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