Like newspapers, magazines, novels and other written materials, films offer scholars an interpretation of the society they depict, through the eyes of the writers and directors who create them. Feature films can be used to study both the subjects they narrate, and the societies in which they were created and enjoyed. And while movies cannot be as “true” representations of reality—just like books, articles, diaries, documents or any other source they are interpretations and, as such, must be subject to critical scrutiny—when examined carefully, and in conjunction with other information on the subject, films provide us an invaluable source of information about the societies they portray, and the societies that produce them.
The purpose of this course is, therefore, twofold: It seeks first to deepen understanding of Japan’s society, culture, and people, through analysis of various films, produced by Japanese masters of cinematography, particularly from the post-World War II period to the present. And second, it seeks to give students practical experience in critical analysis, and to deepen their analytical skills and their ability to evaluate evidence, through the use of film as one form of evidence. Students will view films in class, and then analyze, critique, and discuss the story and its social background. In addition, we will touch on the history of Japanese cinema and the motion picture industry itself.