Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts (2007) edited by Alastair Phillips and Julian Stringer is another essential collection of essays on Japanese films, 24 in total, listed in chronological order. There are essays from several of my favorite Japanese films critics (Joan Mellen, Donald Richie, Keiko McDonald, David Desser, etc.) and essays on some of my favorite Japanese films (Late Spring, The Life of Oharu, Seven Samurai, Woman in the Dunes, etc.). However, there were several new critics and films to experience as well.
It turns out that the essay I selected for use in my Japanese Cinema in English class, "The Imagination of the Transcendent: Kore-eda Hirokazu's Marbosi" from David Desser was included in this volume. It is a very engaging essay about an arresting film that I felt was essential for the second semester curriculum. After that I read Darrell William Davis' essay, "Therapy for Him and Her: Kitano Takeshi's HanaBi," since it was the last film watched in my Japanese Cinema class of late. Then I read Catherine Russell's essay, "Women's Stories in Post-War Japan Naruse Mikio's Late Chrysanthemums," first since I had just watched the film and now look forward to reading Russell's book, The Cinema of Naruse Mikio: Women and Japanese Modernity. I think she made some interesting observations about Naruse, women in Japan in the 50s, and the source material from Fumiko Hayashi (I'd like to read some of her original source material since Naruse adapted so much of it). Then it was onto to films and critics that I was familar with and like, starting with Joan Mellen's essay, "History Through Cinema: Mizoguchi Kenji's The Life of Oharu" (I just watched it a few months ago as it was given the Criterion treatment and released in 2013). I was also eager to read Abe Mark Nornes's essay, "The Riddle of the Vase: Ozu Yasujiro's Late Spring," since I have read Adam Mars-Jones single volume work on the same film, Noriko's Smiling. They both discuss interpretations from other critics like Richie, Paul Schrader, and others, while coming to different conclusions about Ozu's cinematic style. I have also seen Mizoguchi's (oneof my favorite Japanese directors) Osaka Elegy, so next in line was Toshie Mori's "All for Money: Mizoguchi Kenji's Osaka Elegy." The I got a rare chance to read an essay about one of my other favorite Japanese film makers, Shohei Imamaura, with Alastair Phillips' essay, "Unsettled Visions: Imamaura Shohei's Vengeance is Mine." I found D.P. Martinez's essay, "Seven Samurai and Six Women: Kurosawa Akira's Seven Samurai," fascinating in its analysis of women's roles in that mostly male ensemble film. I was equally disappointed in Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano's essay, "Ethnicizing the Body and Film: Teshigahara Hiroshi's Woman in the Dunes," which does little to illuminate the meaning of one of my favorite Japanese films. Daisuke Miyao in his essay, "Dark Visions of Japanese Film Noir: Suzuki Seijun's Branded To Kill," looked at the hard-boiled elements of Suzuki's film. Carole Cavanaugh's essay, "Eroticism in Two Dimensions: Shinoda Masahiro's Double Suicide," makes me want to watch the film again. Isolde Standish analyzes the controversy of Oshima's seminal film in "Transgression and the Politics of Porn: Oshima Nagisa's In The Realm of the Senses." In Linda Erlich's essay, "Community and Connection: Itami Junzo's Tampopo," she makes some interesting observations about one of the first non-monster Japanese films I ever saw. Julian Stringer's essay, "The Original and the Copy: Nakata Hideo's Ring," focuses on the films relationship to other media. "Global Markets for Anime: Mizayzaki Hayao's Spirited Away," looks at how this film became part of a global cinema. Maybe the first Japanese films I saw were monster movies as a child, Inuhiko Yomota's essay, "The Menace from the South Seas: Honda Ishiro's Godzilla," offers a critical perspective on the film and suggests that Honda is as worthy of study as Kurosawa.
There were several films that I hadn't seen and could access, so I watched them first and then read the following essays: "A Cinematic Creation: Ichikawa Kon's Conflagration" by Keiko McDonlad, "Moderation without Modernity: Masumura Yasuzo's Giants and Toys" by Michael Raine, "Questions of the New: Oshima Nagisa's Cruel Story of Youth" by Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto, "Playing with Postmodernism: Morita Yoshimitsu's The Family Game" by Aaron Gerow, and "The Salaryman's Panic Time: Ozu Yasujiro's I Was Born, But..." by Alstair Phillips. There were a few films that I wasn't able to track down but read the essays anyway: "Turning Serious: Yamanaka Sadao's Humanity and Paper Balloons" by Freda Feiberg, "Country Retreat: Shimizu Hiroshi's Ornamental Hairpin" by Alexander Jacoby, and Donald Richie's "Transgression and Retribution: Yanagimachi Mitsuo's Fire Festival."