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Tokyo 1958 and Bad Boys: Post-war Narratives through Avant-garde Documentary

Centeno, Marcos (2017) 'Tokyo 1958 and Bad Boys: Post-war Narratives through Avant-garde Documentary.' In: Martínez, Dolores and Guarné, Blai and Lozano, Artur, (eds.), Media and the Politics of Memory in Japan. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books. (Forthcoming)

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Abstract

Susumu Hani had a leading role in adapting the post-war avant-garde documentary movement in cinematographic terms. His films Tokyo 1958 (Hani et al., 1958) and Furyō Shōnen (Hani, Bad Boys, 1960) materialised the demands for a new kind of documentary film after the crisis of realism and the ideological rupture of the left from the second half of the fifties. The films reclaimed the political sense that the term avant-garde had had before the war and drew on subjectivity to attack the old objectivism and to cast critical gazes on their present time. Previous cinematic conventions were challenged in three different ways: -First, the documentary was liberated from its own constrictions. Through sōgō geijutsu (synthetic art), Tokyo 1958 advanced the cross-genre dimension which culture circles had demanded for a decade. Hani, who had been a journalist and director of television documentaries, proposed a new ‘synthesis of media’ in Furyō Shōnen, giving cinema the heightened a heightened sense of immediacy in the present. -Second, the notion of authorship was put into crisis. Tokyo 1958 shows aesthetic diversity as a result of the collective work of the members of the multidisciplinary group Shinema 58. Hani further developed authorial self-negation in Furyō Shōnen, a film based on a number of personal memories. -Third, through negotiation with postwar narratives, both films paradoxically draw on the available imaginary of the Japanese modernity only to dismantle the contradictory discourses of the new era. Hani added those sequences humanising the imperial family that served to legitimise their continuity in the post-war democracy. However, the satirical Tokyo 1958 portrays the crown as an anachronistic feudal institution and Furyō Shōnen opens with the imperial household embodying the values of the new consumer society. Subjectivity was key for the revitalisation of documentary and the study of it reveals how images are ultimately autonomous from any referent they are supposed to represent. The relationship between the world and its cinematographic representation is found in issues of ideological codification, which explain why these images show that the promises of the ‘new democracy’ fail rather than succeed.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: Susumu Hani, Bad Boys, Tokyo 1958, documentary film, Japanese cinema, avant-garde
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Centre for Film Studies
Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General)
P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania
Depositing User: Marcos Centeno
Date Deposited: 21 May 2017 16:33
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/24105

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