Frost Lecture 2017

Some Historical Lessons from the Transpacific Western: Clint Eastwood and Lee Sang-il

Takashi Fujitani, Professor of History and Dr. David Chu Chair in Asia-Pacific Studies at the University of Toronto

Monday, October 2
7:00 PM
Ford 122 - Smullin Film Studies Theater
Free and open to the public

ABSTRACT: In this presentation Professor Fujitani reads Clint Eastwood’s critically acclaimed Unforgiven (1992) against Lee Sang-il’s “remake” of the original (Yurusarezaru mono, 2013). While the few Anglophone critics who have reviewed Lee’s version have generally treated it as a competent but fairly unremarkable copy of the original, Fujitani argues that the film, set in Hokkaidō, is in many ways a far more radical and challenging exploration of key themes taken up by Eastwood that are of interest for those who study the past and its effects in the present.  These include violence, law, the outlaw, sovereign power, the right to kill, and historical memory and accountability. At the same time, Lee takes up several issues that Eastwood simply leaves as background to his story -- in particular race, indigeneity, and settler colonialism. While the Western has been a staple genre in Eastwood’s long career leading up to Unforgiven, Yurusarezaru mono is the first and so far only Western made by the much younger Lee. Lee’s first film, Chong (1998, 2001), is in part based upon his own life growing up as an ethnic Korean in Japan. His more well-known films include Hula Girl (2006), The Villain (Akunin, 2010), and Rage (Ikari, 2016).  

BIO: Takashi Fujitani is Professor of History at the University of Toronto where he also holds the Dr. David Chu Chair in Asia-Pacific Studies. Much of his past and current research has centered on the intersections of nationalism, colonialism, war, memory, racism, ethnicity, and gender, as well as the disciplinary and area studies boundaries that have figured our ways of studying these issues. His major works include:  Splendid Monarchy (UC Press, 1996); Race for Empire: Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during WWII (UC Press, 2011) and Perilous Memories: The Asia Pacific War(s) (co-edited, Duke U. Press, 2001). He is also editor of the series Asia Pacific Modern (UC Press). He is currently working on several books: a postnationalist history of WWII in the Asia-Pacific; the question of sovereignty in twentieth century Japan; and Clint Eastwood and his entanglements with Asia.