Junko Yamazaki, “Reorienting Jidaigeki: Matsumoto Toshio’s Shura (1971)”
Junko Yamazaki, a PhD candidate in Cinema and Media Studies and East Asian Languages and Civilizations will present a work-in-progress version of one of her dissertation chapters. She summarizes the chapter as follows. The workshop will begin and end an hour earlier than normal to accommodate other talks later in the day.
Once hailed as one of the most important and beautiful films made in Japan since Kurosawa’s prime by film critic Noël Burch, experimental filmmaker, video artist Matusmoto Toshio’s “dark” film Shura (1971) has remained relatively unknown compared to its more playful and lively “white” counterpart, Funeral Parade of Roses (1969). Shot entirely in black-and-white—except for the opening shot—Shura casts its drama on the verge of pitch blackness and invisibility. By offering a genealogy of the relationship between jidaigeki and Japanese avant-garde practices of the 1960s, this chapter challenges the view of the film as Matsumoto’s “turn” from politically engaged avant-garde film to politically disengaged, if not reactionary, jidaigeki (period) film. I argue that Shura’s anachronism is better understood as a hermeneutic challenge than as a political or aesthetic compromise. I will highlight Shura’s engagement with the “modern present” through a discussion of Matsumoto’s conception of spectatorship, and of his interpretation of the kabuki play on which the film is based: Tsuruya Nanboku’s recently revived The Lover’s Pledge. On the formal register, I will highlight Matsumoto’s preference for destabilization over the rejection of narrative as an avant-garde filmmaking strategy, and analyze his deliberate play on spectatorship through the constant reconfiguration of the viewer’s assigned position and orientation within the spatial coordinates of the image. This will enable us to see that Shura is a sophisticated effort to confront the spectator to her hermeneutical situation rather than a reactionary recoil into the “premodern past.”
A draft of Junko’s chapter will be available soon. If you have not received the password for the post, or if you have concerns about accessibility, please feel free to contact David Krolikoski at davidkroli at uchicago.edu or Brian White at bmwhite at uchicago.edu.