Cultural Engagement Project
This paper will be studying the Japanese film Kagemusha directed by a master of film Akira Kurosawa. But before, it’s necessary to have a small background about the Japanese Cinema industry which has its beginnings at the end of the nineteenth century. The first short ever made by the Japanese cinema industry was a short clip about some geishas playing instruments in 1899. Back then it was used the Edison kinescope and Lumières’ Cinematograph to play the short films. By 1903 the first Japanese theater fully dedicated to films was open; then in 1905 short films began to be made by local filmmakers. The Japanese cinema industry kept growing, and in 1908 the first film studio was opened in Japan. As a result of this rapid growth, the Japanese film industry ended up consolidated itself and thus became one of the oldest and most productive film industries in the world.
Japanese filmmakers faced some challenges finding a way to incorporate sound to the movies. But for the mean time in the silent era, they came up with a unique way to do films because they incorporated a narrator into the films which was known as benshi. The narrator’s or benshis’ role was to described the action in the film to the audiences as the film was being showed; in some cases, they even had to tell a short lecture about the contexts of the film being these contexts historic or narrative. This narrator (benshi) made the Japanese film industry unique and different from western film industry due to the featuring of long intertitles and long takes done in order to incorporate the benshi. As a result, the visual style was different from that of the western films. Unfortunately, only 10 % of all the works of the silent era survived the great earthquake and World War II. The loss of 90% of the film archives of the silent era is invaluable loss for humanity’s cultural and intellectual worlds.
Other striking differences between Japanese and western films was the acting of male actors in females roles and the concepts of realism and reality (A dictionary of films studies). These concepts were completely new for the Japanese audience because they were used to the exaggeration of the Japanese film industry ( 100 years p.25 ). All these differences made Japanese films very remarkable because of its uniqueness. However, the Japanese film industry would be westernized specially by the United States. These influences transformed the Japanese film industry, but that transformation was beneficial because master Japanese films were made after these were westernized. In addition to these master films, Japanese directors had different genres of films well established very early and were great contributors to the development of science fiction and monster films. The westernization of the Japanese film industry also changed the meaning of the films which at the beginnings of the industry were done with educational purposes and not to entertain. Thus the outsider influences made the new Japanese films fresh to watch and this was seen by the Japanese and the Asians in general as a way to educate and at the same time a great way to entertain (100 years p. 27).
There have been plenty of important contributors to the Japanese film industry, but only the main and most important characters will be mentioned. The first of these masters is Kenji Mizoguchi who was first an actor in the silent era to then become a director for a causality of life. He was the only person willing to work during a strike of the industry back in the 1910s. He presented around 50 movies about dramas, samurai films, kitchen-sink melodramas and love stories between 1920 and 1930. Moreover, he led others directors who altogether led the Japanese film industry to a golden era.