Second Paper: The Early Kurosawa Films
The argument is often made that Kurosawa's early films were engaged in a project to explore Japan's social and political conditions in the early postwar years. What kinds of questions do you think Kurosawa was posing (or exploring) in the two films we saw: Drunken Angel, and Stray Dog? Yoshimoto, for example, argues that Drunken Angel seems to take on the old feudal codes of the yakuza and portray them as anarchronistic in the face of the democratic ideals and scientific logic on which the new Japan is to be based. Stray Dog, a visually restless film, probes how memory and the past play a role in shaping postwar society and the identity of members of that society. How do people become the way they are; how do they choose their path in life? How are Murakami and Yusa the same or different? Prince points out that "Capitalism, affluence, and murder are all linked in the dress [that Harumi saw], displayed in a store window where people too poor to buy it would be forced to see it." (98) What is criminality, what is madness, how might people from different generations answer these questions differently? The language and imagery of Stray Dog and Drunken Angel suggest that a new kind of individual is necessary for postwar Japan, an individual with agency and subjectivity (shutaisei), while both films also depict a postwar Japan that is a mess and needs to be cleaned up and rid of the social and bodily diseases that confront it. As we discussed in class, there are even things about Rashomon, as symbolized by the gate itself, that suggest breakdown and ruin, on going crisis in faith along with all the challenges involved with being honest about hourselves and about the human condition or postwar situation. So, it is possible to see Rashomon as being a part of this conversation.
Pick an idea or a theme that you can find in early Kurosawa and explore it in your paper with examples from both the film and the interpretive readings. You need to triangulate between yourself as viewer, the films, and the interpretive and critical reception that the films have. You could refer to When a Woman Ascends the Stairs or Harakiri in passing to highlight your arguments but the focus should be on the two Kurosawa films.