Past Event: Kinema Club IV - A Volume from One to Eleven

This event has passed.

All Day


Dates: Friday, October 8, 2004 to Saturday, October 9, 2004

Venue: McGill University

City and State: Montreal, Quebec CA

Organizers: Anne McKnight (McGill), Tom Looser (McGill), Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto (NYU) and Abé Mark Nornes (UM)

Jumping off from the symposium on Kurosawa Kiyoshi’s films held at NYU this April, this incarnation of Kinema Klub will be held in Montreal and will focus on the form, function and systems of excess in genre films—including, but not limited to, horror, melodrama and pornography.

The workshop will take place in an informal format, in which participants read & comment on other participants’ papers, and discussion is open (to include participants as well as the larger film/animé community in Montreal).  6 or 7 papers will be selected. Thematically, what we seek is papers that include Japanese moving-visual media and historicize, read, engage or otherwise anatomize what Linda Williams calls “cinemas of excess”–films that go beyond the plausible set of coordinates that classically realist films use to frame bodies, information, genres, spectatorship and fantasy. Film, TV, animé, other image-based media OK.

  • Friday, October 8: 3:00-5:00  
    Graphic Melodrama: How Film Indexes Historicity
    –  Michael Cronin, UC Irvine, “Sennen Joyuu:  Hurtling through History”
    –  Sarah Frederick, Boston University, “Redolent of Roses: Excess in Yoshiya Nobuko’s Fiction”
    5-6:30  reception
    7:00 +  dinner
  • Saturday, October 9: 11:00-1:00
    The Incredible Expanding Body of Empire
    –  Mark Driscoll, University of North Carolina, Another (Image) World Is Possible:  Animetic Excess and the Limits to Capital
    –  Chikako Nagayama, University of Toronto, “Excess of the Bilingual Body in Ri Koh-ran’s Cinema”

    1-2:30  lunch (not included in conference fee)

    Reality Plus and Reality Minus: Questioning Models of Identification and Detachment
    – Justin Armstrong, McMaster University, “Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic: Takashi Miike’s Audition and the Role of the Real and Imaginary in Japanese ‘Cinema of Excess’”
    –  Phil Kaffen, NYU, “On Hara Kazuo’s Sayonara CP & Excess”

    6:00+ dinner/party


Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magic: Miike Takashi’s Audition and the Role of the Real and Imaginary in Japanese “Cinema of Excess”

Justin Armstrong, McMaster University

In this paper I will be examining the relationships that exist between the roles of the Real and the Imaginary as portrayed in the films of Miike Takashi, with a specific focus on Audition (2000) - a film that presents the ideas of excess and body politics in Japanese cinema through its use of narratives of sex and violence, as well as sexualized violence and discourses of femininity.  The “cinema of excess” as seen in the works of directors like Miike offers a reaffirmation of the Real, an ideological counterpoint to the everyday technocratic, traditionalist lifestyle in modern Japan.  Through these films, the viewer is given the chance to regain a hold on the Real through a voyeuristic and detached exercise in the Baudrillardian simulation of hyper-violence and hyper-sex (the body becomes the ultimate stage for the manifestation of the Real).  In order to offer the Japanese viewer some form of escape from what is often viewed (both internally and externally) as the repressive Imaginary of the post-war ‘cult of technology’ and pre-war traditionalism, Miike presents a portal through which the Real can be addressed from a safe distance.  By offering the viewer a hyperbolized version of sex and violence, Miike attempts to present a dialectical opposition to the dominant ideology by seeking the essence of the Real in the basic human understandings of sex and violence, but the end result is not a portrayal of the ultimate Real, rather it is an alternate Imaginary:  vulnerable, fragile and ultimately unreal.

Sennen Joyuu:  Hurtling through History

Michael Cronin, UC Irvine

In Kon Satoshi’s 2001 animated feature Sennen Joyuu (Millennium Actress), the fictional screen legend Fujiwara Chiyoko is interviewed by her biggest fan, Tachibana Genya, a documentary film maker. She relates the story of how, as a girl, she met and fell in love with a mysterious antiwar activist and spent the rest of her life searching for him.  Her narration becomes not only the story of her own film career, but a history of Japanese film, and, in a way, a history of modern Japan, presented by Kon in a series of extended flashbacks and cinematic allusions.  In this paper, I consider how, through this use of flashback and allusion, Kon personalizes, sentimentalizes, and feminizes national history into star biography, turning Japan’s militarization,  defeat, and postwar recovery into mise-en-scene for Chiyoko’s melodrama.  As she chases her mystery man, she becomes an embodiment of national fatalism, consumed by an excess of pure love and duty, hurtling her star body through history toward a predetermined end.  I also consider the role of Genya as diegetic audience for Chiyoko’s narrative.  The questions of spectatorship raised by the fan-star relationship are made more intriguing by Kon’s encyclopedic knowledge of Japanese film history,  and by an over-the-top intertextuality that collapses the space of the film onto that of the audience.  Genya–his tears continually welling up as he witnesses Chiyoko’s travails,  so moved that he even invades her memories–models an obsessive, invasive, and perverse otaku spectatorship that matches its object in melodramatic excess.

Another (Image) World Is Possible: Animetic Excess and the Limits to Capital

Mark Driscoll, University of North Carolina

Actually, it is animation that gave birth to the greatest myth of the society of commodity fetishism: the dead can be re-animated.
–Imamura Taihei, 1948

My paper will be the last part of a forthcoming book called Reverse Postcoloniality which looks at the ways in which neo-liberal capital and its isomorphic articulations in “culture” and politics have rolled back and reversed gains achieved globally in postcolonial ethico-poetics and in global social movements during the 1960s and 70s.  Two sections on aesthetics attempt to show some of the ways in which this reversal had been encoded in and critiqued. My argument in this paper on “classic” Japanese animation of the 1980s and 90s will demonstrate some of the ways in which the “excess” beyond the cinematic verisimilitude grounding the animetic (Driscoll 1997; Looser 2002) encodes this critique as it points to a utopian beyond global capital. I will argue that pre-digital mass culture Japanese animation foregrounded what Deleuze called the “powers of the false” and what Giorgio Agemben called “gesture as artifice.”
More concretely, the essay will build on recent work by Norman Klein (2004) and my own work on Imamura Taihei to argue that anime like Ghost in the Shell (Kôkaku kidôtai, 1995) are powerful articulations of what Imamura identified in 1948 as the logics of animism, animating, and animation, and “infantile” (Agamben 1993) meditations on embodiment and the biopolitical within the horizon of neoliberal globalization and techno-science. More than the axioms governing the cinematic, the animetic axioms of animism and animating clearly show the operations of global capital. Nevertheless, a fundamental animetic axiom is the excess which points beyond the law of value grounding the cinematic. This excess, I will argue, must be read with the incipient critiques of global capital and the critique of the commodification of everything in neo-liberal capitalism.   

Redolent of Roses: Excess in Yoshiya Nobuko’s Fiction

Sarah Frederick, Boston University

Yoshiya Nobuko (1896-1973) was one of modern Japan’s most commercially successful writers. Beginning in the 1920s and continuing into the 1970s, a fan base of girls and women avidly read the serialized fiction of this prolific writer, while major periodicals competed to publish and film studios to adapt her novels.  Her romance melodramas make use of various forms of the extreme in the believability of their plot situations, over-the-top emotional expression, and ornate writing style. Her flowery sentences (often referred to as bibun), marked by onomatopoeia, use of English words in romanized script, exclamation points and other unusual diacritical marks is a visually oriented, decorative style, both criticized and loved for its excess.  Her writing style, use of imagery, and plot twists also suggest her interaction and competition with modern entertainment, while also being what marked her among literary critics as a decidedly low-brow and feminine writer.  

Yoshiya worked in a written mode but had major interactions with visual culture both direct and indirect. She wrote casual film criticism, consulted on the adaptation of her works, and created “photographic stories” (shashin shôsetsu) with posed studio actors.  Also, as Chika Kinoshita has shown, her novelization and Japanization of the earliest version of Stella Dallas into Haha no kyoku became the basis for the Japanese film by the same name and the quintessential work in the genre “mother film” (haha mono).  In a more indirect sense, her writing life coincided with the growth of cinema and was published in periodicals visually transformed by increased use of cinema and photography, and the relationship of audiences to her public persona (including the western architecture of her home, western dress, and same-sex relationship) were mediated by representational technologies of the era.  This paper analyzes forms of excess in Yoshiya’s writing itself and considers how we might apply to written language in a productive way theories of melodrama and visuality that come out of cinema studies.

On Hara Kazuo’s Sayonara CP & Excess

Phil Kaffen, NYU

The idea of excess as a form of bodily engagement is frequently associated with such obvious genres as horror, melodrama, and porn.  However, Sato Makoto has pointed to non-fiction film as possessing something “extra” in its image; perhaps it could be called reality plus.  In Japan, one of the major documentary filmmakers of the past several decades is undoubtedly Hara Kazuo. While his controversial and (relatively) widely known expose of Okuzaki Kenzo, Yuki yukite shingun (1987) certainly pushed buttons and engaged with the body in ways that many found shocking, his first feature, Sayonara CP (1972), not only anticipates but in many ways supercedes the later work.  A questioning of the then prevalent “radical” politics of Ogawa Shinsuke and his theory of participation (katan no ronri), Sayonara CP interrogates notions of healthy and unhealthy, trafficking in excess at multiple levels, and destabilizing either/or dualities of partisanship. Excesses crop up in the intense focus on language (without subtitles), physical movement, and use of time, as well as in the self-reflexive gestures of the camera-wielding protagonist.  The film engages the body of spectators as well, forcing them to contemplate their own relationships to the people on screen, though not through building easy bridges or by erecting insurmountable barriers.  Instead, the excess of the film pushes viewers into an uncomfortable in-between space, a deep chasm without rope or ladder in which they must wade through the muck of their own sensibilities, knowledge, perception of their own bodies, and understanding of film and documentary.

Excess of the Bilingual Body in Ri Koh-ran’s Cinema

Chikako Nagayama, U of Toronto

This paper examines action-melodrama films featuring an actress and singer Yamaguchi Yoshiko (aka Ri Koh-ran) produced in Manchuria and Japan during the Shino-Japan war. Among her existing works, I am going to focus on “Byakuran no uta [Song of the White Orchid]” (1939), “Shina no yoru [China Nights]” (1940), “Nessa no chikai [Vow in the Dessert]” (1940) and “Soshu no yoru [Soochow Nights]” (1941).  Produced under the Toa shin chitsujo [East Asia New Order] policy, the films exemplify collective forms of fantasy which provided setting-out of spaces and bodies in which the viewers in Japan and Japan’s colonies found out their places.

Through auditory and visual access to the languages used in films, viewers are differently positioned to be familiar or distant with cinematically displayed bodies, which entails the formation of us and the Other. Classically realist films employ film subjects who more or less display the distinction between their primary tongue and foreign tongue.  In that sense, Ri Koh-ran’s exceptional fluency in her bilingual (Japanese and Chinese) performance can be considered as bodily excess.

How does the excess function in her films’ melodramatic tension and resolution between Chinese woman and Japanese man?  And how does it work along with another pole of her bodily excess – singing? Through these questions, I intend to explore how imperialist cinematic fantasy at the same time utilizes and destabilizes the bodily integrity of national subjects.