Japanese New Wave
Years activeLate 1950s – 1970s
CountryJapan
Major figuresShōhei Imamura, Nagisa Ōshima, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Masahiro Shinoda, Seijun Suzuki, Susumu Hani, Koreyoshi Kurahara, Yasuzo Masumura, Yoshishige Yoshida, Shūji Terayama, Kaneto Shindo, Masaki Kobayashi, Toshio Matsumoto, Koji Wakamatsu, Yuzo Kawashima, Akio Jissoji

The Japanese New Wave (ヌーベルバーグ, Nūberu bāgu, Japanese transliteration of the French term "nouvelle vague") is a term for a group of loosely-connected Japanese films and filmmakers between the late 1950s and the early 1970s.[1][2] The most prominent representatives include directors Nagisa Ōshima, Yoshishige Yoshida, Masahiro Shinoda[1][3] and Shōhei Imamura.[4]

History

The term New Wave was coined after the French Nouvelle vague, a movement which had challenged the traditions of their national cinema in style and content, countering established narratives and genres with "the ambiguous complexities of human relationships" and polished techniques with deliberately rough ones,[5] and introducing the theory that directors should be the auteurs of their films.[6]

Unlike the French counterpart, the Japanese New Wave originated within the film studio establishment,[1] especially Shochiku, whose head Shirō Kido hoped that "cheaply made, innovative pictures could emulate the success of the Nouvelle Vague in Europe".[7] This policy saw the emergence of filmmakers like Nagisa Ōshima, Yoshishige Yoshida, and Masahiro Shinoda (all three Shochiku employees).[1][7][8] Important early examples of the Shochiku New Wave were Cruel Story of Youth and Night and Fog in Japan (both 1960, dir. Ōshima), Blood Is Dry (1960, dir. Yoshida) and Dry Lake (1960, dir. Shinoda).[9] Pigs and Battleships, released by Nikkatsu the following year, exemplified Shōhei Imamura's status as a director of the New Wave.[10] The (possible) influences on these filmmakers are diverse: While Ōshima's antecedents have been seen in the theories of Vsevolod Meyerhold and Bertolt Brecht, and in the Japanese Leftist theatre[11] (an influence of Jean-Luc Godard on Ōshima has been alleged,[12] but also questioned),[11] Yoshida was an outspoken admirer of Michelangelo Antonioni and Ingmar Bergman.[2]

Kido soon withdrew his support for these films (due to commercial failure according to film scholar Alexander Jacoby,[7] due to the uncompromising political content of Ōshima's films according to historian Donald Richie).[9] By the mid-1960s, Ōshima, Yoshida and Shinoda had all left Shochiku and produced their films independently,[1][8] as did Imamura.[13] At the same time, Ōshima and Yoshida were the representatives of the New Wave who rejected both the term and the notion of a "movement" the most rigorously.[2]

Other directors associated with the New Wave included Hiroshi Teshigahara, Toshio Matsumoto and former documentary filmmaker Susumu Hani.[1][14] Hani directed his works almost entirely outside of the major studios, and favored non-actors and improvisation when possible. The documentaries Hani had made during the 1950s (Children in the Classroom and Children Who Draw) had introduced a style of cinéma vérité documentary to Japan, and were of great interest to other filmmakers.[15] Kon Ichikawa, Yasuzō Masumura and Seijun Suzuki have also been encompassed with the term.[1][14] Masumura's debut film Kisses (1957) has often been cited as a precursor of the New Wave[16][17][18] and had been received enthusiastically by Ōshima upon its release.[19] In addition, Film scholar David Desser placed director Kaneto Shindō next to Masumura as a "crucial" (Desser) predecessor and contemporary of the New Wave.[14]

Themes addressed by the New Wave included radical politics,[20] juvenile delinquency, uninhibited sexuality,[21] changing roles of women in society, racism and the position of ethnic minorities in Japan.[22] The Art Theatre Guild, originally co-initiated and co-financed by Toho to distribute foreign art films, became an important factor in the distribution of these films, sometimes also acting as producer.[8]

As funding outside of the studio system became increasingly difficult in the 1970s, with the big studios finding themselves in a decline (largely owed to television), the Japanese New Wave began to come apart.[7] While Ōshima had to look for investors outside of Japan,[7] Imamura and Hani switched to documentary filmmaking for television,[7][23] and Shinoda retreated to "academic" (Jacoby) adaptations of classic literature.[7]

Films associated with the Japanese New Wave

1950s
1960s
1970s

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Sharp, Jasper. "Where to begin with the Japanese New Wave". British Film Institute. Retrieved 7 July 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Jacoby, Alexander; Amit, Rea (13 December 2010). "Yoshishige Yoshida". MidnightEye. Retrieved 9 July 2023.
  3. ^ Svensson, Arne (1971). Japan (Screen Series. New York: Barnes. p. 117.
  4. ^ Russo, James (2021). Understanding Film: A Viewer's Guide. Liverpool University Press. p. 205. ISBN 9781789761184.
  5. ^ "Overview: Nouvelle Vague". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 8 July 2023.
  6. ^ "New Wave". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 8 July 2023.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Jacoby, Alexander (2008). Critical Handbook of Japanese Film Directors: From the Silent Era to the Present Day. Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press. ISBN 978-1-933330-53-2.
  8. ^ a b c Domenig, Roland (28 June 2004). "The Anticipation of Freedom: Art Theatre Guild and Japanese Independent Cinema". Midnight Eye. Retrieved 8 July 2023.
  9. ^ a b Richie, Donald (2001). "Tokyo rising: how Japan's new wave rose – and broke". British Film Institute. Retrieved 8 July 2023.
  10. ^ Berra, John (2010). Directory of World Cinema: Japan. Intellect. p. 229. ISBN 9781841503356.
  11. ^ a b Turim, Maureen (1998). The Films of Oshima Nagisa: Images of a Japanese Iconoclast. University of California Press. pp. 13, 43–44. ISBN 9780520206663.
  12. ^ Bergan, Ronald (15 January 2013). "Nagisa Oshima obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 July 2023.
  13. ^ Schilling, Mark (8 June 2006). "A lifetime in search of Japan's true self". The Japan Times. Retrieved 8 July 2023.
  14. ^ a b c Desser, David (1988). Eros Plus Massacre: An Introduction to The Japanese New Wave Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 42, 62, 118.
  15. ^ Richie, Donald (2005). A Hundred Years of Japanese Film: A Concise History, with a Selective Guide to DVDs and Videos. New York and Tokyo: Kodansha America. p. 249.
  16. ^ "Kuchizuke". Japanisches Kulturinstitut (in German). Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  17. ^ "Masumura Yasuzô". Österreichisches Filmmuseum (in German). 2008. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  18. ^ Jackson, Earl (2020). "Fellini in Japan". In Burke, Frank; Waller, Marguerite; Gubareva, Marita (eds.). A Companion to Federico Fellini. John Wiley and Sons. p. 441. ISBN 9781119431534.
  19. ^ "Kisses". Independent Cinema Offices. Retrieved 2 July 2023.
  20. ^ White, John; Haenni, Sabine; Barrow, Sarah, eds. (2015). The Routledge Encyclopedia of Films. The Routledge Encyclopedia of Films. ISBN 9780415688932.
  21. ^ Sato, Tadao (1982). Currents In Japanese Cinema. New York and Tokyo: Kodansha America. pp. 231–234.
  22. ^ Mellen, Joan (1976). The Waves At Genji's Door: Japan Through Its Cinema. New York: Pantheon. pp. 419–426.
  23. ^ "Vanishing Points: The Films of Shohei Imamura". Harvard Film Archive. Retrieved 9 July 2023.

Further reading