enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


1 Re-reading Post-war Japanese Cinema

  One of the joys of watching films is what could be referred to as the “pleasure of reading.” We arrive at various interpretations of a work by meticulously picking up on its audiovisual elements or responding to relevant comments on film directors and actors in newspapers and magazines using analysis in each particular context. Alternatively, knowledge of who wrote the underlying novel or play and of the context in which it was read, and by what kind of reader surely facilitates a deeper appreciation of the film. Thus, when we link elements that are internal and external to the film and reread the film from the perspective of gender/sexuality/eroticism, we are able to make a rich variety of interpretations, even for a work that does not directly depict homosexual desire or a queer protagonist.
  The first section of this exhibition, with reference to film criticism published at the time and previous literature on cinema, focuses on the type of gender/sexuality/eroticism it was possible/impossible to express in general commercial films from the end of the war in 1945 until the 1970s. The fact that “post-war Japanese cinema” refers to the period up to and including the 1970s may give the impression of covering too broad a range. However, it covers releases until the appearance of Maki Carrousel, who had undergone gender reassignment surgery as a transgender woman in Ore ha inaka no Puresuri (Presley in the Countryside) at the end of the 1970s.
  Immediately after the war, the Japanese film industry was censored by the occupying forces. It set an ethics code in 1949, with The Motion Picture Code of Ethics Committee (eiga rinri kitei kanri iinkai), responsible for what was later referred to as the “old” ethics code, starting off as an organization internal to the industry. At the end of 1956, a self-regulating body run by third parties came into being (the motion picture ethics supervision committee or ei rin kanri iinkai). Clauses relating to “sex and morals” in the “old” ethics code had already mentioned “sexual deviancy and perversion” with the intention of controlling depiction of “homosexuality and the so-called ‘gay-boy’ lifestyle.” How did directors and actors seek out methods of expressing gender/sexuality/eroticism under such self-regulatory rules? We aim to reinterpret Japanese films from the end of the war till around the 1970s, centering on the “pleasure of reading” method built up by critics and fans, specifically including a reconsideration of Keisuke Kinoshita’s films and an examination of the expression of queerness in Yasujirō Ozu’s "Noriko trilogy,” Kazuo Hasegawa’s An Actor’s Revenge, and Hibari Misora’s Hanagasa wakashuu (Twin Princess), and of representation of intimacy between men in the Toei Ninkyou yakuza films and of lesbian desire in films based on novels.

2 Rethinking Sexuality and Gender in Nikkatsu Roman Porno and Barazoku Films

  No review of the Japanese film industry would be complete without an examination of how gender and sexuality are depicted in pink films, the most notable of which are Nikkatsu Roman Porno (pornographic romances) and Barazoku films. In recent years, research relating to (the history of) the film industry has shown a greater focus on pink films, and in addition to analyzing the actual films, researchers have conducted interviews with those involved in filmmaking and analyzed non-film materials such as press sheets and production-related materials.
  At the Theatre Museum, we have also attempted to reconstruct a history of Japanese cinema focusing on pink films from two different approaches. First, for two years from 2018, a joint research team at our Collaborative Research Center for Theatre and Film surveyed and studied promotional materials for Nikkatsu Roman Porno in our archive (project name “Changes in the Studio System in Post-war Japanese Cinema, and the Actual situation”). For the Japanese film industry, which entered a period of decline from the early 1960s, the Nikkatsu Roman Porno films, produced by Nikkatsu from 1971 to 1988, were a survival strategy. While any history of the industry must properly respond to, and reflect on, criticism of the fact that pink films have exploited women sexually, at the same time, in this exhibition, based on the results of the Centre’s research, we would like to show both how Nikkatsu Roman Porno films talk about female sexuality and how women were involved in the production of these films, and not just as performers.
  Second, research at the Theatre Museum historically positioned the Barazoku films, which emerged at the beginning of the 1980s and were targeted mainly at gay men. In the same way that it has been suggested that Nikkatsu Roman Porno and other pink films aimed at heterosexual men exploit women sexually, Barazoku films have been accused of commoditizing homosexuals as a sexual fantasy. While it would be wrong to deny the validity of such criticism, we should remain aware that, by belittling the representation of homosexuality in the Barazoku films, such criticism risks obscuring it and minimizing its existence. Since the 2018 academic year, researchers at The Theatre Museum have been investigating the archive of the film director Satoru Kobayashi, who made Barazoku films, as well as many pink films aimed at heterosexuals. In Japan during the 1980s and 1990s, when there was deep prejudice against homosexuality, Barazoku films were a genre that allowed audiences to communally consider the desires and conflicts of homosexuals not depicted in commercial films—such as young homosexuals who wanted to have a family, interaction between generations, and HIV/AIDS. In this exhibition, we present some of Satoru Kobayashi’s archive materials to show the findings of this investigation.

3 The 1980s and 1990s: Before and After the AIDS panic and the “Gay Boom”

  The Japanese film industry in the 1980s faced the demise of the organized system of film production by major film companies. The Japanese film industry in the post-studio period experienced significant changes on various fronts including who was making films, who was watching or “consuming” them, and media fusion. After the collapse of the economic bubble in 1989, Japanese cinema appeared to enjoy a renaissance thanks to the global success of Takeshi Kitano, Naomi Kawase, and Hayao Miyazaki in 1997. However, harsh conditions in fact persist, and even in the new millennium, radical change is still required in terms of the shape of production, distribution, and screening.
  How were sexual minorities and deep intimate relationships between people of the same sex portrayed in films and television dramas during the film industry upheaval of the 1980s and 1990s? At the beginning of the 1980s, Barazoku films were screened at adult film cinemas (Section 2), and the period from the mid-1980s until the 1990s saw the rise of independent cinema culture showing mainly overseas queer films and the birth and development of LGBT film festivals (Section 4). Japanese filmmakers were not satisfied with a situation in which sexual minorities were only portrayed in adult films and overseas productions. New independent post-studio era filmmakers began to depict intimacy between girls and homosexuality.
  As filmmakers who emerged in the 1980s, this exhibition looks at Ryousuke Hashiguchi and Shiori Kazama, who came to light at the Pia Film Festival. The works of Kazama, who specializes in the—sometimes extreme—portrayal of girls, depict relationships that awaken the desire of gay men and lesbians. Meanwhile, Hashiguchi, who released A Touch of Fever in 1993, along with his contemporary Hiroyui Oki, is one of the few filmmakers who has been openly gay since the beginning of his career.
  Kazama and Hashiguchi were not the only filmmakers to depict homosexuality in their films in the 1990s. While the AIDS panic of the 1980s and the “Fuchu Youth House incident” of February 1990 were clear signs of prejudice against homosexuals in Japan, from 1991 to around 1995 a “gay boom” occurred, in which relevant issues had a high profile in the media and in the arts. This was sparked by the “Gay Renaissance 91” special feature in the February 1991 edition of the women’s magazine CREA. Currently, although there is some criticism of the commoditization of homosexuality, we are in an era in which a steady stream of Japanese-made narrative films, documentaries, and television dramas depicting homosexuality and HIV/AIDS are being released. As the “gay boom” offers visibility to homosexuality and intimacy between people of the same sex on the big or small screen, whose existence has it simultaneously been rendering invisible?

4 The Advent of New Queer Cinema and the Rise of the Film Festivals

  In 1992, the film critic B. Ruby Rich defined cinematic practice that resists positive righteous LGBT images, stories, and characters and thoroughly affirms desire in content and form as “New Queer Cinema” (Kanno 2015, 204). New Queer Cinema as the new wave, born in the US at the beginning of the 1990s, was triggered by a group of films depicting the stories and desire of sexual minorities in a style (sometimes excessive) that differed from lesbian and gay cinema of the past. They won a plethora of awards at international film festivals, including the Toronto Festival of Festivals (1991), Sundance (1991), and the New Directors/New Films Festival (1992). For the artists and audience within queer film culture, film festivals continue to fulfill a very significant role, as spaces of expression, market acquisition, and community formation.
  In addition to the group of films that gave rise to the term New Queer Cinema, other queer films made in various countries were imported into Japan, increasing opportunities for the Japanese people to appreciate them. Thus, film culture matured in a variety of ways in the Tokyo metropolitan area in the 1990s. Independent cinemas prospered during the bubble era thanks to corporate funding of consumer arts culture, and continued, after the bubble era, to facilitate the distribution and experimental screening of minor film works; queer films were included in this expanded film culture space (Kanno 2015, 203-5). Queer films that were also the subject of special features in subculture magazines of the 1990s were apparently widely appreciated by young female audiences, and Ikuko Ishihara, one of the most important critics in Japanese queer film criticism, left us a high volume of film criticism that conjures up the experience of appreciating these films at the time.
  The 1990s saw another turning point for Japanese film festival culture. From March 6th to 9th 1992, the first Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film & Video Festival was held in the sixth-floor training room of the Nakano Sunplaza; over the three-day period, an attendance of around 1,000 people was recorded. It has since been held every year at venues such as Kichijoji Baus Theater and Aoyama Spiral Hall. Since 2000, a string of film festivals on queer and LGBT themes have arisen all over Japan, and while due respect is given to those who are, as it were, “stakeholders” because of their sexuality, the festivals are also open to local communities. In this exhibition, we present film pamphlets from the Theatre Museum archive and programs obtained as a result of cooperation with the NPO Rainbow Reel Tokyo.
Reference cited
Yuka Kanno, ‘Kuia/LGTB eigasai shiron – eiga bunka to kuia no keifu (Essay on queer and LGTB film festivals – film culture and the queer lineage)’, Gendaishisou, October 2015 edition, pp.202-209