Japanese Cinema Japn 340

Prompt for First Paper:

Ozu’s Tokyo Story is considered by many critics to be one of the greatest films ever made and even a masterpiece by some.  At the very least, Ozu is a distinctive filmmaker.  What do you think makes him distinctive?  How do you think this film can be best interpreted?  Drawing on, possibly, your own post-viewing post on WISE, or on one or more of the essays in Desser’s book, write a paper that takes your reader into Tokyo Story and discusses the possible things that the viewer may experience there.  You could, if you wish, contrast Ozu's style with Mizoguchi's. Remember, though, you need to argue for your claim about Tokyo Story or make a case for your point of view.

Due Feb. 18.



General Instructions for Papers

"Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style."
— Matthew Arnold



  1. Film Titles should either be in italics, such as Tokyo Story or in quotes “Tokyo Story.” Yoshimoto uses italics throughout his book as does Desser.  I think that is the best convention to follow.
  2. When we use quotation marks for any purpose, commas and periods go inside the quote “marks,” while colons and semicolons would fall outside like this”:


  1. Tense.  Often in lit papers or film studies papers, because the experience of reading the novel or watching the film is a recurring experience for readers/viewers, we talk about how the films “makes” us feel a certain way rather than “made” use feel even though both are possible.
  2. Intros. 
  3. We only get one chance to hook the reader into reading our papers.  So a paper that opens with:

Great filmmakers have the ability to draw the attention of the viewer regardless of the subject matter.  Filmmakers may have differing ways of doing this, but Ozu Yasujirô, a world renown filmmaker from Japan, relies heavily on unconventional techniques—at least by Western standards—of keeping the viewer’s attention…..

Is going to do a better job of hooking the reader in than:
       Yasujirô Ozu’s films portray the change in lifestyles and social structure in Japan as a result of the Occupation.

So try and be dynamic in your opening paragraph.  You should probably consider writing or rewriting your Intro after you have completed your paper so you can have in mind the main points that your paper is making before you write the Intro.

In the case of your first paper on Ozu's Tokyo Story, you are in a unique position because you have a whole book of essays devoted to the topic. So you could open your paper with something like:

Ozu's films are considered masterpieces by many, and Tokyo Story "is generally acknowledged to be one of the greastst films ever made." (Desser, p. 2). Critics usually point to XXXX znd YYYY in Ozu's film. In this essay, I will consider Tokyo Story from the point of veiw of ZZZZZ and AAAAA; or I will draw upon the work of scholars like SoAndSo and SoAndSo in order to argue that this film is best seen as a QQQQQQQQQQQ.



This is not a Writing Centered course but rare is the student or scholar who can write a perfect--or even above average paper--in a single draft. It is not unusual to find a great introductory sentence or paragraph near the end of a paper's first draft.  Joan Didion once wrote something to the effect that “we write in order to discover what it is that we think or feel about something.”  Writing is a process of discovery so a better paper is going to be one that gets written, and then revised, and rewritten.  You should plan your time to allow for this.

Quotes.  Use some! Quote dialogue from a scene if you wish. Quote from the wide variety of secondary sources available to you. When you are working with an entire book devoted to Ozu’s Tokyo Story, or Yoshimoto’s book on Kurosawa with all the detailed discussions/analyses of his style and the films we are watching at your disposal, as well as extensive film reviews and discussions linked to the syllabus or in PDF form on WISE, and not a single quote appears anywhere in your paper, I would have to wonderwhy you are not taking advantage of these valuable resources.

As indicated on the syllabus, papers will be evaluated primarily on the basis of their Organization and Clarity.

1. Does the introduction make a clear "claim" or have a strong thesis statement? Does the body provide adequate supporting evidence for the paper's argumetns?  

2. Is the body of the essay is well organized, with a clear focus, and does it advances a coherent argument? Does it flow well, feature crisp, clean prose and is generally clean, i.e., free of errors in grammar, syntax, and spelling? 

3.  Does the essay demonstrate close engagement with the films under review and does it effectively integrate arguments from the assigned or collateral readings?

4. Does the conclusion echo the claims or questions that you have raised in your introduction and does it poins out how you have successfully addressed them as you indicated that you would?