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Is Genre a useful category for the understanding of films made in China and Japan - Essay Example

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Is Genre a useful category for the understanding of films made in China and Japan

A scholar that suggests that there is an American genre would be immediately attacked by his colleagues for oversimplifying an obviously complex, multifaceted gamut of movies. So the question of whether there is a Chinese or Japanese genre of film may be answered in the affirmative if one sees "genre" in merely the audience short-hand manner. If, that is, the audience is American or British. The definition of "genre" in this sense will be "having a preponderance of Chinese or Japanese actors, and in either Mandarin or the Japanese language". This is rather simplistic, and might be regarded as offensive or even racist, but it does reflect one of the most simple definitions of genre.
China can be divided between Hong Kong, the mainland controlled by the nominally Communist government and then Taiwan, which represents a whole other development both politically and artistically. So it can be said that a "Chinese genre" is redundant beyond the audience-expectation type of definition.
Turning to Japanese cinema, while more culturally homogenous, Japan also presents difficulties for the simple definition. Donald Richie, the leading Western scholar of Japanese cinema, states that many Japanese films indeed have a sense of what he calls "Japaneseness". He describes this as "the celebration of evanescence".4 This evanescence is shown by Japanese film-makers within a paradoxical desire to have their films be temporary rather than permanent. Thus Richie quotes the director Ozu, who stated, "the attractive thing about film is this transience, this mist-like vanishing quality."5 The director Naruse goes even further, suggesting that films should "always vanish a few weeks after release, perhaps this is what films should be, things that live on only in the audience's memory, or vanish into thin air."6
The wish to have their films vanish into thin air is rather ironic for two reasons. First, it counters the traditional advantage that film is said to have over theatre: its permanence as opposed to mutability. Second, in darkly humorous irony, this rather intellectual wish has been granted to the vast majority of Japanese film-makers, whether or not they desired the honor. Thus the majority of Japanese films (more than 90% of pre-WWII movies) have vanished because they did not survive the film chemistry or the war of the time. Even with film production since 1945, a majority of Japanese films now no longer exist and can only be referenced within the memories of actors, writers etc. ...Show more

Summary

The word genre is used by film scholars often, but an exact definition for the word is hard to come by. As Bordwell suggests, "audiences know the genres of their culture very well, and so do filmmakers . . . but what makes a group of films a genre"1 It is clear that some genres are quite easy to identify because of their subject-matter and setting: the Western is set in the American West and often has gunfighters, Gangster films are set in cities and deal with organized crime, and "science-fiction features a technology beyond the reach of contemporary science"2 Genre is important because it represents an easy short-hand for the audience to know what to expect when they go to a movie: the Acti…
Author : linwood53
Is Genre a useful category for the understanding of films made in China and Japan essay example
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