Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan
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Japanese film crews were shooting feature-length movies in China nearly three decades before Akira Kurosawa's "Rashomon" (1950) reputedly put Japan on the international film map. Although few would readily associate Japan's film industry with either imperialism or the domination of world markets, the country's film culture developed in lock step with its empire, which, at its peak in 1943, included territories from the Aleutians to Australia and from Midway Island to India. With each military victory, Japanese film culture's sphere of influence expanded deeper into Asia, first clashing with and ultimately replacing Hollywood as the main source of news, education, and entertainment for millions."The Attractive Empire" is the first comprehensive examination of the attitudes, ideals, and myths of Japanese imperialism as represented in its film culture. In this stimulating new study, Michael Baskett traces the development of Japanese film culture from its unapologetically colonial roots in Taiwan and Korea to less obvious manifestations of empire such as the semicolonial markets of Manchuria and Shanghai and occupied territories in Southeast Asia.Drawing on a wide range of previously untapped primary sources from public and private archives across Asia, Europe, and the United States, Baskett provides close readings of individual films and trenchant analyses of Japanese assumptions about Asian ethnic and cultural differences. Finally, he highlights the place of empire in the struggle at legislative, distribution, and exhibition levels to wrest the "hearts and minds" of Asian film audiences from Hollywood in the 1930s as well as in Japan's attempts to maintain that hegemony during its alliance with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
films set in Korea in a 1941 article for the film magazine Film (Eiga). He wrote that compared to the relatively large number of films set in Manchuria, Korea was almost never represented in mainstream Japanese feature films. Part of the blame, he suggested, lay with the media, which had pushed Korea into the “shadowy recesses of print journalism” after the China Incident (as they would again later after Pearl Harbor). Saito strongly urged politicians, scholars, businessmen, men of letters, and
elaborate musicals, and film studios countered by banking their fortunes on vehicles for stage performers who had star value. Photo Chemical Laboratories (P.C.L.), the forerunner of Toho, was one of the first film studios to invest heavily in the production of a series of films that adapted stage successes of headlining talents Enomoto Kenichi and Furukawa Roppa. Enoken (as Enomoto was affectionately known to his audience) and Roppa pictures were prestige pictures and required substantially
Jidaigeki musicals generally performed well at the box office throughout the late 1930s.51 They illustrate an attempt to de-Westernize the musical genre by integrating native musical styles with foreign ones in order to create a new national musical genre. The Yaji/Kita films were particularly successful (called dollar boxes) and inspired several sequels, two of which were set in China: Enoken Busts onto the Continent (Enoken tairiku tosshin, 1938) and Yaji and Kita on the Road to the Continent
close friend: “You [Koreans] all came here [to Indonesia] in a group to work for the Japanese military. But I on my own initiative persuaded the Korean Colonial Government to make You and I with the support of the Colonial Military Forces. Everyone knows about You and I. Everyone knows that Hae Young and Hinatsu Eitaro are one and the same. And in addition to that, my Korean isn’t even that good. I’m a Korean who knows almost nothing about Korean history other than what little I studied about in
Manchurian borderlands in Suicide Troops of the Watchtower. Colonial adventure stories set in exotic locales like The Lost Patrol (1934), Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), and Gunga Din (1939), as well as countless similar films turned on a fear of native revolt. They had tremendous box-office appeal both in Japan and the West. One striking difference between the two traditions is that the colonial heroes in the West often appeared introspective, filled with self-doubt, and they agonized over