Japn 340

Ronald Loftus


Office: Walton Hall 144

Voice Mail: 6275

The Japanese Cinema


Spring 2014


Student Learning Objectives:

1. To develop a broadly interdisciplinary approach to an understanding of film and its role in society

2. To be conversant with the history of international cinema and be able to use that history to provide context for other works they encounter

3. To be exposed to the theoretical and disciplinary tools necessary for the analysis and assessment of film and filmic images

4. Develop critical responses to cinematic work based upon aesthetic or cultural values other than the entertainment model that dominates the mainstream Hollywood distribution system

Broader Course Objectives:

This course will offer a survey of some of the major Japanese films and film directors from the "golden age" of Japanese cinema in the 1950s and 1960s to the present. Works by directors such as Ozu Yasujiro, Mizoguchi Kenji, Naruse Mikio, and Kurosawa Akira will be screened in order to give students an appreciation for some of the classic works of Japanese cinema. Contemporary films and anime will be examined as well. The work of the course consists of reading the two books on Ozu and Kurosawa respectively, viewing the films in the assigned time slots, coming to class prepared to discuss the films, and periodically submitting brief film critiques or "commentaries" on WISE as indicated. Film showings will be Tuesday evenings in the Film Studies Room, Ford Hall 122.

Credit Hour Policy:

Given the readings, the Posting of comments for each film on WISE Forum, the film watching itself and the essay writing, expect to spend 6-9 hours of week outside of class working on this course.


Course Requirements:

1. Regular Attendance (no more than 2-3 absences)

2. Participation in class discussions

3. Do the readings as assigned; many PDFs are available on WISE, Resources, sometimes in Folders by author name: Yoshimoto, Prince, Bock.

4. View the films as scheduled

5. Take leadership responsibilities for film discussions as assigned (small groups of students each week)

6. Complete the "Short Commentaries" or critiques on the "Forum" section WISE due regularly on most films

7. Complete four (4) main short papers for the class, and one more impressionistic one as assigned; Due Feb. 14, March 8, April 10, April 17 (Seven Samurai) and May 5.

For the most part, these papers will be evaluated on the basis of

1) their Organization and Clarity (i.e., strong Introduction with a claim/thesis statement, effective arguments in the Body of the paper, and a Conclusion that reinforces the thesis or claim spelled out in the Introduction);

2) their effective use/analysis of materials from the readings and the films--e.g., dialogue, key scenes, filmic techniques employed, etc; and

3) their general Flow and Coherence--good, crisp, clear, efficient prose.



David Desser, ed. Ozu's Tokyo Story

Selected Articles, Handouts and Online Materials

Numerous PDFs on WISE prviding analysis/discussion points for each film and/or director.



Good websites to know about:



http://pears.lib.ohio-state.edu/Markus/Welcome.html (Kinema Club)

Jan. 14

Introduction to Course and Materials



Read Burch-1 and Burch-2 PDF on WISE

(Students sign-up to present main ideas in s either Burch#1 or #2); or PDFby Harootunian

Jan. 16

Introduction to Japanese Film Studies, Discussion of Noel Burch Readings

See some useful Glossaries of Terms and Relevant Film Vocabulary

An Article about Noel Burch's Book PDF; available on WISE as well (filmburch.pdf)

Discuss Burch-1and 2 PDFs on WISE and Harootunian reflection on Burch's project

See capsule summaries Burch Pages 1 and 2


Jan. 21

Introduction to Classical Japanese Cinema: Mizoguchi Kenji's Ugetsu Monogatari (1953)




Summarize key facts about Mizoguchi from webpages

Read and Discuss Yoshimoto Intro I PDF on WISE


Film Showing Tuesday Evening Jan. 21

Film Showing: Ugetsu Monogatari





Read and Prepare "Bock.Mizoguchi.pdf" and "Lopate Ugetsu.pdf"on WISE

Jan. 23

Discussion of Ugetsu Mongatari: Film and PDFs







Discuss "Bock.Mizoguchi.pdf" and "Lopate Ugetsu.pdf"on WISE



Jan. 28

Finish Discussion of Mizoguchi as necessary

Brief Bio of Ozu;

Also, Introduction to Ozu Yasujiro; and this Ozu site

See his Grave Marker Mu in Kamakura

View exceprts from Wim Wender's Tokyoga

"If in our century something sacred still existed… if there were something like a sacred treasure of the cinema, then for me that would have to be the work of the Japanese director, Yasujiro Ozu." (See ozunotes2)





Jan. 28 Evening Film Showing Tokyo Story

Drunken Angel(1948)


Main Page for Ozu's Tokyo Story


More on Tokyo Story



Discuss Desser, Intro and Ch. 1 2

See Ian Buruma on Ozu


Jan. 30

Very interesting site on Tokyo Story


Discussion of Tokyo Story

Ozu-san website

Everydayness in Ozu's films; see also this Ozu site


Prompt for paper on Ozu'sTokyo Story


Post short commentary on WISE on Tokyo Story

Continue small groups of students presenting Summaries/Main Ideas of Ch. 3-5 in Desser

Plus "Bock Ozu on WISE "

Discuss ideas for the First paper on Ozu due Feb. 18

See Film Review





Feb. 4


Introduction to Kurosawa Akira

View Excerpts from Sanshiro Sugata?

Kurosawa's Drunken Angel (1948)






Three PDFs to Read:

1. Prince, "Viewing Kurosawa.pdf,:

2. "Angel.pdf" and

3. "Yoshimoto Drunken Angel.pdf"




Feb. 4 Evening Film Showing Kurosawa's Drunken Angel (1948)






1. Prince, "Viewing Kurosawa.pdf,:

2. "Angel.pdf" and

3. "Yoshimoto Drunken Angel.pdf"

Post Short Commentary for Drunken Angel on WISE, Forum

Feb. 6

Discussion: Drunken Angel






Feb. 11

From Kurosawa's Drunken Angel to Stray Dog (1949) Kurosawa's



Read PDF "Yoshimoto Stray Dog.pdf" on WISE

Also Read PDF "Prince Ch. 3 Willpower.pdf"up to p. 100 on WISE

Post Short Commentary on WISE, Forum for Stray Dog



Feb. 11 Evening Film Showing,Stray Dog (1949)



Post Short Commentary on WISE, Forum for Stray Dog

Feb. 13

Discussion,Stray Dog (1949) and Early Kurosawa Films



Discusss PDF "Yoshimoto Stray Dog.pdf" on WISE

Also Read PDF "Prince Ch. 3 Willpower.pdf"up to p. 100 on WISE



Feb. 18



Introduction Naruse Mikiso, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)

Hand in 3-4 page paper on Ozu'sTokyo Story


Feb. 18 Evening Film Showing: When a Woman Ascends the Stairs


Naruse Mikiso, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960)



Read 4 PDFs after viewing the film:

1. "Russell.Naruse.pdf,"

2."Bock Naruse,"

3."Mellen Naruse"

4. Lopate.Naruse.pdf"

Post Response to "When a Woman Ascends the Stairs" on WISE, Forum

Feb. 20



Discuss When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

Discuss the above PDFs:


"Bock Naruse.pdf,"

"Lopate.Naruse.pdf," and

"Mellen Naruse.pdf" on WISE

Feb. 25 Evening Film Showing: Harakiri (1962)

Finish Discussing When a Woman Ascends the Stairs

Introduction to Kobayashi Masaki and Harakiri (1962)



Short post on WISE for Harakiri

Two PDFs to read for Thursday:

1. "J340 Mellen.Harakiri.pdf" and

2. "Bock Kobayashi"

Nice Roger Ebert Review

More Reviews of Harakiri


Discuss/Assign 2nd paper on early Kurosawa films

Post short response to "Harakiri" on WISE, Forum


Feb. 27

Discuss Harakiri




Discuss the 2 PDFs from WISE:

"J340 Mellen.Harakiri.pdf" and

In the Audie Bock Readings folder, "Bock Kobayashi"

March 4

Final Comments Harakiri;

IntroduceKurosawa's Rashomon (1950)


Students sign up for Discussion of PDFs listed below

Kurosawa's Rashomon

March 4: Evening Film Showing: Rashomon (1950)






Read PDFs "Yoshimoto Rashomon.pdf"and

"Prince Experiments.pdf" on WISE, mainly pp. 127-135.

also, if interested, an essay on "Into the Woods"

Or, Review by Stanley Solomon Review

Short post on WISE, Forum, for Rashomon


March 6 Discussion of Rashomon

Discussion of Rashomon



Discuss PDFs "Yoshimoto Rashomon.pdf"and

"Prince Experiments.pdf" on WISE, mainly pp. 127-135.

also, if interested, an essay on "Into the Woods"

Or, see Review by Stanley Solomon Review


March 11 Introduction to Ikiru (To Live)

Match 11 Evening: Film Showing Ikiru (To Live) (1952)



Short Commentary on WISE for Ikiru

(Donald Richie on Ikiru)

Read PDF "Yoshimoto.Ikiru.pdf" and

"Prince Ch. 3 Willpower.pdf" pp. 100-113 on WISE



March 13

Discussion: Ikiru

3-4 page paper on early Kurosawa films due (Drunken Angel, Stray Dog, Rashomon, and/or Kobayashi's Harakiri)



March 18

Finish Ikiru discussion

Introduction to Japanese Anime


Nausicaa page on Miyazaki Web

March 18 Film Showing, Nauscicaa, Valley of the Wind

Film showing: Nauscicaa, Valley of the Wind

Related film by Dir. Miyazaki Hayao

My Neighbor Totoro

Totoro Review by Roger Ebert

More on Totoro

March 20



Discussion: Nausicaa


Yahoo's anime site

www resources


Spring Break March 26-30


No Classes


April 1

Watch Some Excerpts from Grave of the Fireflies?

Introduce Princess Mononoke

My Gateway Mononoke Page


April 1 Evening Film showing: Princess Mononoke


Some Review Excerpts


April 3

Discussion: Princess Mononoke

Download pdf version of Susan Napier (napier.pdf) article from the "Resourcess" section on WISE,


Read an Online version: "ConfrontingMaster Narratives" by Susan Napier

Click here for synopsis of article.

Prompt for Paper #3




April 8

THE SEVEN SAMURAI : Begin Film Showing in Class Sml B-17

Read PDFs on WISE:

"Yoshimoto Seven Samurai.pdf" and

Prince "Ch. 6 Jidaigeki.pdf"

April 8 Evening Film Showing

(note--the Seven Samurai is roughly 3.5 hours!)

View Seven Samurai (1954)


View Seven Samurai. See the characters.

See also some plot synopsis.

Review here.


Read "Yoshimoto Seven Samurai.pdf" and "Prince "Ch. 6 Jidaigeki.pdf" on WISE


April 10

Discuss The Seven Samurai;


More Reviews of Seven Samurai

Discuss "Yoshimoto Seven Samurai.pdf" and "Prince Ch.6 Jidaigeki.pdf" on WISE




April 15

Finish Discussion of Seven Samurai

Director Frank Capra wrote that only the morally courageous are worthy of speaking to their fellow human beings for two hours in the dark. Kurosawa possessed this courage. His cinema is deeply formalistic, yet those forms are simply his means to an end that he regarded as paramount. That end is the recognition of common humanity and of common suffering. Few filmmakers had the drive, the overpowering sense of responsibility, and the gifts necessary to take viewers on this journey. Kurosawa did and, in doing so, he showed what cinema might yet accomplish.

Stephen Prince, The Warrior's Camera, p. 358.


IntroduceAfter Life(1998)--a film by Kore-eda Hirokazu


One short reading, a Sidney Lumet tribute to the Seven Samurai:

"J340 Lumet7sam.pdf"


3-4 page paper on the two anime films and the Napier article

April 15 Film Showing After life

More After Life Reviews


April 17

Discussion, Afterlife

Short post on WISE on Afterlife



April 22


Film Showing,Departures by Yojiro Takita(2008)

Poetry, to paraphrase Wittgenstein, uses the language of prose yet offering no concrete or fixed meanings.

It is always floating. So it is with Departures, this extraordinary new film by Yojiro Takita that yields no simple message but rather offers, as the films of Ozu did fifty years before, a kind of quiet and transcendental yarn that you can decode in many ways. [From the Review linked on the right.}

See Review here.


Some of my thoughts on Departures.


Another Review of Okuribito
April 22 Film ShowingDepartures  



April 24 Discuss After life and Departures Short post on WISE for Departures


April 29

Last Class

























A final paper, 5-6 pages, See a short prompt here. Due Monday, May 5, on Afterlife/Departures or The Seven Samurai or some combination.