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ITAMI Juzo, OZU Yasujiro, and the Japanese Cinema (FAQ)

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Maintained-by: TANAKA Tomoyuki <>
Archive-name: movies/Itami-Ozu-Japan-FAQ
Version: 0.2 (about 600 lines)
Posting-Frequency: at most once every two or three months
Last-modified: Nov 11, 1998

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
 Written/edited-by:  TANAKA Tomoyuki  <>

 this is Version 0.2
 when i've included more links and entries, i'll call that Version 1.

 <soc.culture.japan> FAQ files are at


-- 0. introduction ... links, books on Japanese cinema

-- 1. ITAMI Juzo,+Juzo
---- Itami as director / actor / author
---- allusions in "Tampopo"

-- 2. OZU Yasujiro,+Yasujiro

-- 3. other directors / films
---- KUROSAWA Akira,+akira
---- YAMADA Yoji,+Yoji
---- YAMADA Taichi,+taichi
---- KITANO "Beat" Takeshi,+takeshi
---- MIZOGUCHI Kenji,+kenji
---- OSHIMA Nagisa
---- ICHIKAWA Kon,+kon
---- KOREEDA Hirokazu,+hirokazu

-- 4. animation (anime) films
---- MIYAZAKI Hayao,+Hayao
---- TAKAHATA Isao,+Isao
---- FAQ: why do Jp characters in Jp anime look so Caucasian?

-- 5. monster (Godzilla) movies
---- TANAKA Tomoyuki

-- A. about the notation of Jp names 
-- B. motivation for writing/editing this FAQ
-- C. submissions to this FAQ

-- 0. introduction ... links, books on Japanese cinema

 this FAQ file will complement "intro to Japanese cinema" in
 other media (books, college courses, etc).
                (3000 titles.  alphabetical listing only.
                too bad it's not categorized, sorted by rating, etc)  

 there are many good books on Japanese cinema and films in general. 
 e.g., "Film Art: An Introduction" (by David Bordwell and
 Kristen Thompson) contains extended discussions on Ozu films.
 i liked the interesting comments on Hollywood's 180 degree
 angle vs Ozu's 360 degree angle, Ozu's visual continuity, etc.

 --- "shomin eiga"
        according to Donald Richie (see the list of books), the
        Japanese cinema's truly original genre is the
        "shomin eiga" (ordinaly people film).
        this is the tradition of Ozu and "Torasan" films.

 --- Jp cinema is faring well against Hollywood's cultural invasion.

        in his book "nihon eiga" (1992), SATO Tadao states that
        in European nations only 20% or less of box office sales
        are from domestic films.  in Japan the figure is 40%.

        (HK and other Asian nations are probably doing well
        in this regard.  send me info if you have any.)

 some books from <>

 --- Japanese Cinema : An Introduction (Images of Asia).
        Donald Richie / Hardcover / 1990.   Our Price: $16.95

 --- Japanese Cinema; Film Style and National Character.
        Donald, Richie / 1971

 --- Japanese Film Directors.   Audie Bock / 1978  (Kodansha)

 --- Japan in Film : A Comprehensive Annotated Catalogue of
        Documentary and Theatrical Films on Japan Available in
        the United States.    Peter Grilli / 1984

 --- Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo! : The Incredible World of
        Japanese Fantasy Films.    Stuart Galbraith, et al /
        Paperback / 1998.   Our Price: $13.56


 --- The Complete Anime Guide : Japanese Animation Film Directory
        & Resource Guide.    Trish Ledoux, et al / 1997

 --- Samurai from Outer Space : Understanding Japanese Animation.
          Antonia Levi / Paperback / 1996.   Our Price: $15.16 
                [an example of American compulsion to associate
                the Japanese and "Samurai"]

 --- The Anime! : Movie Guide.  Helen McCarthy / Paperback / 1997
        (Out Of Stock)

-- 1. ITAMI Juzo,+Juzo
                                Yakuza may have faked Itami suicide

---- Itami as director / actor / author
 --- Itami as director

        * Ososhiki ("The Funeral") (1985)
        * Tampopo (1986)

        * Marusa no Onna ("A Taxing Woman") (1987)
        * Marusa no onna II ("A Taxing Woman's Return") (1988)

        * Minbo no Onna ("The Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion") (1992)

        * Daibyonin (1993)

                [several more]

 --- Itami as actor

        * Kazoku Game ("The Family Game") (1984)
        * Setouchi Shonen Yakyu Dan ("MacArthur's Children") (1984)
        * Sasameyuki ("The Makioka Sisters") (1983)
        * Akuryo-To ("Akuryo Island") (1981)

                [many more]

        Lord Jim, etc

        starred with Peter O'Toole in ... .

 --- Itami as author

        Itami has written [more than 20?] books in Japanese.
        to my knowledge, nothing Itami has written has been
        translated into English.

        Itami's books contain lots of interesting trivia about
        the following topics:

        Itami lived in Paris and London.
        he had a British sports car (MG?).
        in London itami was a friend of Peter O'Toole.

        Itami likes cooking (surprise!).
        Itami's father was a famous film director.
        Itami was a womanizer.

        Itami talks about acting, films, making TV shows, and

        itami was into psychoanalysis, esp. Freud and Lacan.
        so he talks about those things alot in later books.

---- allusions in "Tampopo"

 Tampopo is funny, playful, allusive, and artsy (e.g. use of
 Mahler toward the end).

 i like allusive movies.  (allusive anything, really)

 --- the whole setup is from Shane.  and some other Westerns.
        (Kurosawa's Yojinbo was also mentioned.)

 --- i think there's a frame that's exactly like the one in High Noon.

 --- the gangster guy in white is prob. from some Chicago gangster movie.

 --- the scene with fast-moving train is from French Connection

 --- i'm told that the kid with a sign in front is from an
                early Ozu film.

 --- one more i can't remember now.

 all this creates a certain expectation.  e.g. the scene with
 the sea-girl (cf. Prufrock) has this legendary quality to it,
 like Ulysses.

 i found a New Yorker article that had several interesting
 things to say.

 among them, the notion that Yamazaki (Goro) in the bath tub
 wearing a cowboy hat was a "tip of the hat" to a scene where
 Dean Martin does the same.  actually that scene reminded me of
 a similar scene in Fellini's "La Vita Dolce" (or maybe "8 1/2")
 but i'm sure such scenes abound in Westerns.

        From: John Harkness <>
        > Dean Martin wore his hat in the bathtub in Some Came
        > Running, which was decidedly not a Western. Michel
        > Piccoli does the same thing in explicit homage to the
        > Minnelli film in Godard's Le Mepris.

 --- i remembered that when i watched the Cohen brothers' movie
 "Raising Arizona", the big chase scene in the supermarket
 reminded me of the similar scene in Tampopo.

 i've read many of Itami's books and perhaps in some future
 time, i'll write an article on Tampopo for publication, as a
 tribute to him.

    i've explained the following about "Tampopo" to non-Japanese
    people in the past:

 --- several old people die from mochi-choking every year,
    like in the film.
    two common things to do to rescue them:
    1.  pull on the ears.
    2.  use a vacuum cleaner, as in the film.

 --- the finishing school in the film is called Hanayome Gakkou
        (bride school).  i guess these are rare in the USA now.

-- 2. OZU Yasujiro,+Yasujiro

 when i first saw an Ozu film ("Akibiyori") some 20 years ago,
 what struck me first was how different it was from the films i
 was used to:  Hollywood films.

 in Ozu's films, nothing happens that you expect happens in
 Hollywood films:  there's no extravagant love story, nobody's
 killed, no other crime takes place, no ship sinks, nor is there
 any other disaster.

 in Ozu's later films (which i like), basically three kinds of
 things occur:
 1. a young daughter gets married.
 2. her windower father (Ryuu) is happy and sad about the marriage.
 3. (optional) an old person dies.

 Jungian psychologist KAWAI Hayao relates some Americans'
 reactions to an Ozu film:
 --- "I just can not think of it as one integrated film."
 --- "Why does the film end when the story hasn't ended?"


     * Record of a Tenement Gentleman 1947, Director, Screenwriter
     * Late Spring 1949, Director
     * Early Summer 1951, Director

     * Tokyo Story 1953, Director
     * Equinox Flower 1958, Director
     * The Floating Weeds 1959, Director

     * Good Morning 1959, Director
     * An Autumn Afternoon 1962, Director, Screenwriter

     [many more]

-- 3. other directors / films

---- KUROSAWA Akira,+akira

| TOKYO (AP) -- Akira Kurosawa, Japan's most famous film director,
| died at his home today [Sept 1998] at the age of 88, Kyodo news
| agency reported. [...]  Kurosawa's films included epics such as
| `The Seven Samurai' and `Rashomon.'    `Ran,' which Kurosawa
| called his `life's work,' was named best picture of the year
| by the National Society of Film Critics in 1985.  Kurosawa was
| one of the few Japanese directors to find fame on international
| screens.  Critics found his innovative style -- celebrated for
| its elaborate detail and sweeping camera movements --
| influencing films from George Lucas' `Star Wars' to Brian
| DePalma's `Scarface.'

 i thought the American film "The Magnificent Seven" (now a
 network TV series) was modeled after "The Seven Samurai".

 and "For a Fistful of Dollars" after "Jojinbo" (?).

---- YAMADA Yoji,+Yoji

        YAMADA Yoji (Yohji, Youji)'s "Torasan" series of films
        are is heavily influenced by Ozu.
        i think he was an apprentice (asst director) under Ozu. (?)

---- YAMADA Taichi,+taichi

        (mainly director/writer of TV dramas)

        his TV dramas are heavily influenced by Ozu.

---- KITANO "Beat" Takeshi,+takeshi

        [links to IMDB etc]

---- MIZOGUCHI Kenji,+kenji

        [links to IMDB etc]

---- OSHIMA Nagisa

        [links to IMDB etc]

---- ICHIKAWA Kon,+kon

        [links to IMDB etc]


---- KOREEDA Hirokazu,+hirokazu
        "maborosi no hikari"

 ---- others ...  "Shall We Dance?"  etc.

-- 4. animation (anime) films

        some Usenet newsgroups
                        (there are many more)

---- MIYAZAKI Hayao,+Hayao
        "Lupin the 3rd"

---- TAKAHATA Isao,+Isao
        "hotaru no haka"

 ---- others ...  "Akira"  etc

        [links to IMDB etc]

---- FAQ: why do Jp characters in Jp anime look so Caucasian?
 a question i've been asked by Americans many times:

 Question: characters in Japanese animations often have big round
        eyes and they don't look Japanese at all (to Americans).
        why do characters in Japanese animations look so Caucasian?

 three reasons:

 (1) lack of anti-Japanese prejudice.

        Japanese people see themselves only as humans.  the
        Japanese naturally don't think of themselves as ugly,
        short, yellow, buck-toothed, slant-eyed, etc.  ONLY
        racist Americans think this way, and draw cartoon
        characters accordingly.

        see the relevant section in "disparity in Asian/white
        interracial dating FAQ".  (i quote Malcolm X in that section.)

 (2) Japanese are brainwashed by racist American standards of beauty.

        during and after the US-occupation following WW2, the
        Japanese aesthetic sense was gravely affected.  many
        Japanese people were brainwashed by the same prejudiced
        standards of beauty that is prevalent in the USA:
        "white people are beautiful; Asian and black people are ugly."

 (3) naive internationalism.

        most Japanese people have no idea that they are a target
        of an intense racial prejudice, as in the USA.  they
        don't even really know what "anti-Semitism" is.

        so most Japanese people have a "naive internationalism",
        the belief that we can be simply human beings, without
        specifying the race, national origin, social status, etc.

        most of Tezuka's work for children (Astroboy, ribon no
        kisi, etc) are done in this spirit.

 see also section (2.1) "MYTH: Japanese (Asians) have slanted eyes"
 of "American misconceptions about Japan FAQ".

-- 5. monster (Godzilla) movies  Godzilla

---- TANAKA Tomoyuki

| From:    crs* (Donny CHAN)
| Newsgroups: soc.culture.japan.moderated,soc.culture.japan
| ["Spotlight," The Toronto Star (Thursday, 3 April 1997), p.D8.]
| "Godzilla Creator Dies"
| Tomoyuki Tanaka, the father of the Godzilla monster movie
| series, died of a stroke at 86 in Tokyo yesterday [Wednesday, 2
| April 1997], 16 months after his giant lizard-like creation was
| killed off in the final Japanese episode.
| Tanaka produced 22 Godzilla films before the much-loved lizard
| met his match at the claws of an equally bizarre creation in
| 1995's _Godzilla versus Destroyer._

 (the Jp Godzilla is much more Gorilla-like than the US
 lizard-like version.)

 ---- others

        [links to IMDB etc]

-- A. about the notation of Jp names 

 you may see Itami's name written as
        Juzo Itami, Juuzou Itami, ...

 you may see Ozu's name written as
        Yasujiro Ozu, Yasujirou Ozu, ...

 for more info, see Jp music FAQ:
        NAKAJIMA Miyuki, Sakamotos, and Japanese music abroad (FAQ)

 from "American misconceptions about Japan FAQ":
| (MISCONCEPTION 4) Japanese have first names followed by last names
|                 just like Americans do.
|  THE TRUTH: a Japanese name usually consists of a family name
|               followed by a given name.
|  most academic and serious treatment of Japanese culture
|  in English text (such as scholarly papers and serious
|  books) observe this original order, while popular and
|  cursory ones (such as newspaper and magazine articles)
|  reverse and "Anglicize" the order.
|  note that preserving the original name order in English text
|  is the default for people from mainland China (PRC) (Mao
|  Tse-tung, Chou En-lai, Li Peng), Vietnam (Ho Chi Minh, Nguen Van
|  Thieu, Pham Van Dong), and North Korea (Kim Il Sung).   it is
|  also common for people from Taiwan (ROC) (Chiang Kai-shek) and
|  South Korea (Rho Tae Woo, Chun Doo Hwan).
|  on a related note ...
|  many Japanese people (myself included) don't find it
|  particularly flattering or pleasant when non-Japanese do
|  the following "Japanese" things in an attempt to be
|  polite or show off their knowledge.
|  --- saying, "Ah, so".
|  --- bowing to us (instead of shaking hands).
|  --- calling us "XXX-san" in English speech or text, such as
|      "Good morning, Tanaka-san."
|               (when friends do it, it's perfectly fine.
|               use of "-san" in Japanese is always fine.)
|  --- using words "Nippon" and "Nipponese" instead of "Japan" and
|             "Japanese".  (we usually say NIHON anyway.)

-- B. motivation for writing/editing this FAQ


 1. Itami's books (and Ozu's films) have been my favorite for
        many years.
        and when i was reading two of Itami's "making-of" books
        (for "Ososiki" and "Marusa") at the library, i thought
        of this super-talented and complex man, and i wanted to
        do a tribute to him.

 2. many Americans know only of Kurosawa and have never heard of Ozu.

        this is unfortunate, because Kurosawa films tend to
        reinforce the American compulsion to associate Japan and
        "Samurai".  Itami's and Ozu's films provide an antidote
        to this fixation.

 3.  although i find Usenet twits and SCJ bigots annoying, i
        still think Usenet is an interesting medium.

        in this regard, i'm grateful to the few cultured persons
        in SCJ, etc --- including myaw and Richard Kaminski.

 my Usenet FAQ files:
       1. American misconceptions about Japan FAQ
       2. disparity in Asian/white interracial dating FAQ
       3. <> and "GEB" FAQ
       4. ITAMI Juzo, OZU Yasujiro, and the Japanese Cinema (FAQ)
       5. NAKAJIMA Miyuki, Sakamotos, and Japanese music abroad (FAQ)

 my FAQ files are stored in FAQ repositories around the world,
 including at:

-- C. submissions to this FAQ

 email submissions to <>.

 it'd be better if you could also post the submission to
 <soc.culture.japan> and <alt.tanaka-tomoyuki>.

 if you write a few lines (6,7 lines max) on a Jp film you
 love/like, i'll include it in this file.

 if i become unable to update/maintain the FAQ, i ask the future
 maintainer(s) to change the FAQ name and/or archive name so
 that the future versions will coexist with, not overwrite, my
 version.  repositories of FAQ files are capable of storing
 multiple files for a newsgroup's directory.  don't worry about
 waste of resources --- remember that today much of Internet
 traffic and computer resources are taken up by cyberporn.

;;; TANAKA Tomoyuki   ("Mr. Tanaka" or "Tomoyuki".)
;;; For <soc.culture.japan> and <soc.culture.asian.american> FAQ
;;;     files, see <>.
;;; e-mail:

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