Japanese Cinema Survey, Kurosawa Paper Assignment

Abé Mark Nornes
Author email address: 
University of Michigan

Reading assignment #1 for Japanese Cinema; Fall 1998

DUE: October 8.

IF LATE: One-third letter grade docked PER DAY….starting at the beginning of class. If you come to class late with paper in hand, it’s docked.

LENGTH: 4 pages.

We have devoted one class period to Kurosawa Akira and his legacy, and have brought him into other meetings in a variety of contexts. In this assignment you are to analyze a piece of critical writing about a Kurosawa film.

First, choose a film to watch. Most of his films are available on campus; many can be found at local video stores.

Second, find an article about this film to read. You will probably use a review, however, discussions of this film in books are also possibilities.

Your task is to analyze the article against your reading of the film, specifically for the issues listed below.

  • To what degree is Kurosawa’s nationality relevant for this writer?
  • Does s/he make a connection between the film’s value and Japanese culture?
  • If the author expresses an opinion on the film’s quality, what grounds is this position based on? Aesthetic? Political? Historical? Other?
  • Are the author’s arguments sound?

The best papers will take their own positions vis a vis the arguments presented and the positions taken in the article. To this end, examples culled from the film may be very useful, although the main object of analysis should be the writing.

Obviously, your success in this assignment is going to rely on a number of things. You will want to find an article “meaty” enough to engage, so you are more likely to find something useful in a film journal than in a newsletter, or in the New York Times as opposed to a local paper; a book chapter may be even more useful. To find articles, the best resource is the white Film/Literature Index. This can be found in both the Film and Video Studies Program office and the reference section of the Graduate Library. Here you will also find bound collections of movie reviews published year by year, as well as the New York Times film reviews which are also collected and bound. Don’t forget the indexes to the major newspapers we have on microfilm (Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, LA Times, etc.). Another possible source would be collections of writings by major film critics, such as John Simon and Pauline Kael. Do not hesitate to ask the reference desk for help. You may not use text you find on the internet, however, the Kinema Club website has a database that has many references to writing on Kurosawa (do not rely on the internet for your search, because the information is extremely limited). In any case, spend some time tracking down and choosing your article! The choice could potentially make or break the assignment!

Finally, you will most likely want to watch the film more than once, paying close attention to the writing against the film itself. It goes without saying that grammar, punctuation, style, and argumentation are extremely important, as are proper bibliographic citations.