Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Capturing "Authenticity": Digital Aesthetics in the Post-Studio Japanese Cinema

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Capturing "Authenticity": Digital Aesthetics in the Post-Studio Japanese Cinema

Article excerpt

Résumé: En diminuant les coûts de production et en ouvrant de nouvelles possibilités de tournage en lieux réels, les technologies numériques ont favorisé l'émergence d'un nouveau genre dans le cinéma japonais contemporain : le long métrage de fiction s'appropriant la technique et les ressources expressives du documentaire. Comme ce fut également le cas dans plusieurs autres cinémas nationaux évoluant dans des contextes industriels semblables, cette irruption du quotithen à l'écran entraîna une remise en question des frontières séparant film et vidéo, fiction et documentaire. Cet essai se penche sur une certaine esthétique de « l'authenticité » s'étant développée dans le cinéma de fiction et le documentaire japonais, et plus particulièrement dans le documentaire personnel. Trois films se retrouvent au centre de cette discussion : Dare mo shiranaij 'Personne ne sait (Kore'eda Hirokazu, 2004); Tarachime (Kawase Naomi, 2006), etAtarashii kamisama/Nouveau dieu (Tsuchiya Yutaka, 1999). Alliant tradition documentaire et fiction, ces oeuvres communiquent l'instabilité du réel par le biais de l'esthétique numérique et du concept « d'authenticité ».

In his recent overview of contemporary Japanese cinema, the Japanese film scholar Sato Tadao notes that "Japanese cinema has lost the strong support of investment capital, but it has gained more freedom in its production."1 The whole film industry has gradually become financially dysfunctional, and the major film companies have dramatically reduced production numbers since the 1960s. This industrial transformation has created a domino effect: the program pictures (or B-movies), which were once the studios' main source of revenue, are no longer being produced; gone as well is the system through which the industry nurtured the careers of "movie stars" with those program pictures. Due to the collapse of the studio production system, the management of film quality by the major studios has disappeared, and the mushrooming of smaller production companies has created a glut of films without any long-term business perspective. Finally, the lack of big movie stars and consistency within the film genres has caused many authences to lose interest in going to movie theaters and seeing Japanese films. The films that would entertain authences of all ages, classes, and genders have been disappearing, and both the genre system and the distinction between art and popular films have broken down. The recent nation-wide success of Yamada Yoji's jidaigeki (period film) trilogy, The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei, 2002), The Hidden Blade (Kakushi ken oni no tsume, 2004), and Love and Honor (Bushi no ichibun, 2006), can be seen as literally "the last samurai," an elegy for the good-old days of the Japanese film studio era, as Yamada's films hearken back to the golden age of genre filmmaking in the 1950s.

Within these industrial conditions, documentary filmmakers have been creating a number of outstanding works in both documentary and narrative film. Due to the disruption of the genre system, these filmmakers' works no longer stand as mere alternatives to the mainstream of feature narrative films. Working from the documentary tradition of a smaller scale of production with extensive use of locations and multimedia (not only film, but also video), documentary filmmakers have found ways to develop innovative filmmaking practices amidst the disrupted terrain of contemporary Japanese cinema.

Addressing the recent debates over documentary, David Hogarth frames its paradoxical predicament as follows: "the world is being swept by a wave of 'documania'- by an unprecedented volume and velocity of real-life images that inform viewers about world affairs as never before," but, he argues, we are "suffering from a glut of 'McDocumentaries' - standardized factual products offering few aesthetic surprises and no political punch."2 The contemporary Japanese documentary has emerged as a thriving area of filmmaking against the backdrop of industrial decline, but it is far from a "standardized" product. …

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