Please join us on Friday, October 21st at 10:30AM in Cobb 311 as we welcome Will Caroll, Ph.D. Candidate in Cinema and Media Studies. Will will be discussing his dissertation chapter-in-progress, “Meta-cinematic Space in Suzuki’s Nikkatsu Films; or, Can Cinefication Emancipate the Frame?”
Will’s paper is available for download here.
Please email either Katerina Korola [firstname.lastname@example.org] or Dave Burnham [email@example.com] for the password.
Meta-cinematic Space in Suzuki’s Nikkatsu Films; or, Can Cinefication Emancipate the Frame? [Excerpt]
Man Fall Down. Funny.
In one of the most fascinating sequences in Suzuki’s career, Tetsu the Phoenix pursues a rival yakuza boss and his underlings just after they have stolen a land deal and killed the realtor. The yakuza boss and his underlings are framed in the back and Tetsu is in the front, but he races to the back as some elevator-style doors close in front of him. Within the same shot, he pries them open and enters the newly reopened space in the background. He then seemingly inexplicably falls out of the frame. In the following shot, an overhead, we see Tetsu on the floor while the yakuza boss drops a wooden plank over him that he and his underlings then walk across.
Narratively, this scene fulfills a fairly straightforward purpose—it shows the villains putting the protagonist out of commission to allow them to fulfill their plan, but in a way that will allow the protagonist to surprise them by escaping and complicating their plans at the last minute. Since this type of development is common to the point of being a cliché in action movies, we may look at Suzuki’s decision to film the scene in this way as merely a comic way of making the cliché interesting again, because man fall down=funny.
However, upon closer examination, Suzuki’s method of executing the simple visual joke of showing a man falling down is a self-reflexive play on the visual construction of three- dimensional space onto a two-dimensional image. The joke works because of our conditioned optical assumption that the floor in the foreground carries into the background. Indeed, more than it is a joke on a character in the film’s diegesis, who would realistically be more likely to notice the absence of the floor in front of him, the joke is on us, and it rattles our faith in the assumptions of how cinematic space works, even after Suzuki provides us with a diegetic explanation of what has happened in the following shot.
Will Carroll is a PhD candidate in Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago. His dissertation, Suzuki Seijun and the Redemption of Cinephilia, deals with the filmmaker Suzuki Seijun and the fallout from his firing by Nikkatsu Studios in 1968, focusing particularly on the ways in which his films were subsequently championed, or perhaps commandeered, by various groups of film theorists. His further research interests include popular cinema (especially Hollywood 1920s-1960, Japan 1930s-1968, and Hong Kong 1980s-present), formalist film theory, cinephilia, auteur studies, phenomenologies of film experience, and cinemas of East Asia.