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In Session: Lyric and Motion in the Age of Realism
2: "Understanding 'Lyricism' (Jojōsei) in Early Jidaigeki"
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
University of California, Los Angeles, United States
The shift from the classification according to the pre-existing dramatic forms, kyūha/shinpa (old vs. new), to the one characterized by historical periodization, jidaigeki/gendaigeki (past vs. present), is regarded as one of the turning points in the history of Japanese cinema. The new classification manifests in the words of film scholar Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto “the utmost importance of separating the present from the past.” Set prior to Meiji Restoration of 1868, early jidaigeki’s realism was nonetheless never solely based on its accurate representation of its supposed referent in the past. Rather, by drawing on the formal and stylistic conventions of its counterpart “gendaigeki” (contemporary play) as well as other forms of realism, jidaigeki rendered its pastness affectively present.
This presentation examines Inagaki Hiroshi’s 1931 film Mabuta no haha and its representation of nature and the everyday. Matatabi film emerged as a sub-genre of jidaigeki during the transition period, negotiating the boundary between jidaigeki and gendaigeki (Hatori, 2016). By focusing on a wandering gambler’s personal journey, matatabi film often evaded explicit markers of the historical past. In Mabuta no haha, the historical setting recedes into the background of the everyday landscape against which the protagonist’s search for his mother is narrated. My paper considers the significance of scenic shots of the landscape in the film’s production of the past as ordinary and as the basis of the affective bonds between the protagonist and the audience along with the aesthetic category of “lyricism” (jojōsei) in late 1920s and early 30s film criticism.