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Nippon Modern is the first intensive study of Japanese cinema in the 1920s and 1930s, a period in which the country's film industry was at its most prolific and a time when cinema played a singular role in shaping Japanese modernity. During the interwar period, the signs of modernity were ubiquitous in Japan's urban architecture, literature, fashion, advertising, popular music, and cinema. The reconstruction of Tokyo following the disastrous earthquake of 1923 highlighted the extent of this cultural transformation, and the film industry embraced the reconfigured space as an expression of the modern. Shochiku Kamata Film Studios (1920-1936), the focus of this study, was the only studio that continued filmmaking in Tokyo following the city's complete destruction. Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano points to the influence of the new urban culture in Shochiku's interwar films, acclaimed as modan na eiga, or modern films, by and for Japanese.
Wada-Marciano's examinations illustrate the reciprocal relationship between cinema and Japan's vernacular modernity - what Japanese modernity actually meant to Japanese. Neither a belated imitation of Western modernity nor an isolated cultural invention, Japanese modernity began as a series of negotiations of cultural influences constructed out of local needs. During the interwar period, Japan's film industry began to compete with Western cinemas, producing and distributing its own films and negotiating its place in the Japanese market. It managed to shift the locus of dominance away from Hollywood films by addressing the new classes of labor with self-reflexive subjects and narratives. Film images of salaried men, modern girls, college students, and nuclear families made possible the sudden arrival and rapid proliferation of the modern consumer subject in Japan.
By searching out connections between history and film texts, Wada-Marciano offers a new approach to understanding Japan's national cinema. Her thorough and thoughtful analyses of dozens of films within the cultural contexts of Japan contribute to the current inquiry into non-Western vernacular modernities. Nippon Modern will appeal to a wide range of readers in diverse disciplines, including intellectual history, gender studies, and literature, in addition to film/visual studies and Japanese cultural studies.
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"Devastated by the 1923 earthquake, Tokyo re-built itself in symbiosis with an image of modernity concocted by its own film studios. Nippon Modern renders that image, aspect after fascinating aspect, in sharp detail. Scores of films make up that image, a few resurrected in this volume for intense and delightful analysis. A sensitive viewer and an honest resourceful historian, Wada-Marciano lays out what she's found in relation to other studies of this precious period, and she does so without hyperbole and without a glaring agenda. She makes you understand how, after Tokyo would again be devastated in 1945, these `modern' films could become objects of nostalgia. Such is the care she gives her subject and such the fragility of that subject." --Dudley Andrew, Yale University
"Nippon Modern will be recognized as one of the core books of Japanese film studies, a must-read for anyone interested in Japanese cinema. Because it brings Japanese cinema study into dialogue with important debates in history, area studies, and post colonial studies, it should have a wide and heterogeneous readership that will be attracted to its compelling analysis of important films and straightforward narration of biographies and studio history." --Abé Mark Nornes, University of MichiganAbout the Author:
Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano is assistant professor of film studies at Carleton University, Canada.
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