To the Distant Observer: Form and Meaning in Japanese Cinema
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The cinema of Japan, at least until I945, was the only national cinema to derive fundamentally from a non-European culture. Its films thus diverged in important respects from the standard 'Hollywood style' of shooting and editing adopted by the industries of Europe and the US, as well as by colonized nations. In this unprecedented study, Noel Burch confronts the major modes of discourse of Japanese culture with the stylistic development of Japanese cinema, and contrasts the resulting modes of representation with those of the West. Contrary to previous opinion, Burch shows how the period I 896-I 930 was not one of stagnation and 'underdevelopment' but instead constituted a preparatory stage for the I93o-I945 'golden age' of Japanese cinema, during which Ozu, Mizoguchi, and other less well-known masters produced their most distinguished films. Burch also concludes that prewar militarism was.relatively uninfluential on the work of the 'thirties and he views the post-1945 period of 'democratization' as one of regression in cinema, particularly in the works of Ozu and Mizoguchi. Treating many examples with the aid of frame enlargements, Burch illuminates previously unknown aspects of Japanese film history. And his dialectical analysis produces a new understanding of the elements of film structure.