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Abstract

This dissertation looks at the films of director Suzuki Seijun in relation to trends in Japanese film theory in the 1960s. It places his work between two factions that claimed him as one of their own after 1968: the politicized theoretical practice of the New Left on the one hand and the apparently apolitical formalist cinephile criticism on the other. After Suzuki was fired by Nikkatsu Studio in 1968, a group of activists formed in protest. Though filmmakers and writers of the New Left had previously overlooked Suzuki’s work, they came to regard him as a fellow radical filmmaker after the Incident. Meanwhile, an emerging group of cinephiles at the journal Cinema 69 celebrated Suzuki’s films for their articulation of the material properties of the cinematic image—like the tension between the apparent depth of the image and its inherent flatness—while eschewing interpretive readings of narrative. The first chapter discusses Suzuki’s relationship with filmmakers and theorists of the New Left in the wake of the Suzuki Seijun Incident, and the terms in which they came to see his films as radical in that context. The second chapter demonstrates that the Cinema 69 cinephile critics developed the key concepts for their broader theory of cinema in their earliest writings on Suzuki’s films. The third chapter offers an evolution of Suzuki’s filmmaking practice within his pre-1968 filmography in the context of contemporaneous Japanese popular cinema. The fourth chapter considers Suzuki’s style as a filmmaker through a thorough formal analysis of films from across his career. Finally, the fifth chapter examines narration in Suzuki’s films, contrary to the tendency of the New Left to look past the apparently superficial subject matter of his films or the tendency of the cinephiles to dispense with narrative entirely. In sum, this dissertation uses Suzuki’s films to elucidate the writings of these groups, and uses their writings to elucidate Suzuki’s films.

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