A Return From the Intellectual Grave
Considering I haven’t been writing at all in several months, anyone who casually reads this site might look back to a couple late Summer posts to remember why I’ve been absent. I hate not writing, but my time has been fully consumed by my scholastic endeavors. But thankfully that has come to a temporary end, and I’ll be back watching some more diverse fare and writing a ton more i the coming weeks.
For the few concerned parties who were helpful in my selection of study topic, I’d like to let you know what I’ve been up to. I was given the wonderful opportunity to study any particular subject of film I’d like under the supervision of a professor I fully respect. After some consideration, a broad study of Japanese cinema was selected (which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s read my blog before), which was then narrowed down to a study of the Shochiku Co film studio (namely because it wasn’t as well known as Toho or Nikkatsu). Preliminary research of the studio was then narrowed down to a few Japanese film directors who were employed at one time or another by Shochiku, namely Ozu, Oshima, and Mizoguchi. After debating the possibilities, I settled on Kenji Mizoguchi. This was mostly due to the relative familiarity with Ozu within the film culture and my own lack of knowledge concerning the mystique of Mizoguchi, especially since I’m a huge fan of Ugetsu and Sansho the Bailiff. In all honesty I would have loved to study Oshima and his radical films, but my professor steered me closer to a more familiar choice. No regrets, especially since those two Mizoguchi’s films appear very near the top of my Top 101 films list.
So I set about to watch as many of his films as possible and read as many books as were available in English. Up until now I’ve watched Osaka Elegy, Sisters of the Gion, Utamaro and His Five Women, Story of the Last Chrysanthemum, Ugetsu, Sansho the Bailiff, Street of Shame, Women of the Night, The Crucified Lovers,and Life of Oharu. My refined study concerned the aesthetic style and thematic consistencies in Mizoguchi’s films. But in order to properly formulate a theory or place myself in a critical conversation I had to engulf any writings concerning Japanese film and Mizoguchi by some of the world’s finest critics and theorists. The writings I assimilated into my research were the work of some great minds: Andre Bazin, Keiko McDonald, Donald Richie, David Bordwell, Dudley Andrew and Tadao Sato. If you’re going to research Japanese cinema for school or personal interest, these are the people you have to read (others would include Noel Burch and Donald Kirihara).
I won’t bore you with the details of my research but it was an experience I’ll never forget. I’d recommend to any fan of a particular cinema or director to delve fully into their oeuvre and see where the depth of focus takes you. You never know where a close examination will take you. It could actually lead to a re-imagining of critical thought concerning your subject, which is exactly where mine led. Now I’m charged with fleshing out my work and submitting it as an academic work. It’s really a dream come true to study film in a way that fully involves all thought and senses available to a human being. That’s what film is capable of. I encourage anyone with a serious interest in intellectual film thought to engage themselves in some deep research of a chosen subject. I’m sure you won’t regret it.