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optional film assignment 

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HIS 372 / 572,


The Japanese burst onto the international film scene in the early 1950s when the works of movie directors Mizoguchi Kenji (1898 - 1956), Ozu Yasujiro (1903 - 1963) and Kurosawa Akira (1910 - 1998) first came to the world's attention. The widespread acceptance of Japanese directors as film masters has continued up to the present day with the work of Itami Juzo (1933 - 1997) being especially well received in the West over the last two decades. (For a brief overview film history, click here.)

A number of the films by these four directors particularly (as well as others mentioned in the list below) are worth viewing as historical resources valuable for the insights they provide into the Japanese view of themselves, their present and their past. For this assignment, you are to choose to view one or more of the films listed (All are available at the Cleveland Public Library -- many may also be available at your local video rental store.) and to write a three to four page analytical essay detailing how the film illuminates your understanding of themes (for example, the role of modernization in Early Modern Japan) we have been discussing in the course during the semester.

Do NOT merely summarize the film's plot and comment on how "good" or "bad" the movie was as a film viewing experience; instead treat it as an historical source and concentrate on ways in which it illuminated aspects of traditional and / or modern Japanese history encountered in the course lectures, in the assigned texts or in the research projects you have conducted.

You might find it helpful to consult Internet resources or the bibliographic listings found in the Kinema Club Database on Japanese films for additional information. Feel free to view and to include an analysis of more than one film in your essay. Many of these films are now available on DVD as well, some in very nicely restored versions with rewritten and reformatted subtitles.

Only one such film essay will be accepted for course credit, so make your movie choice(s) with care! A "satisfactory" essay (one earning a "check" or higher evaluation) will add to your accumulated point total for the semester, replacing the equivalent of one missed (ungraded) assignment.

Click on the link below for specific title suggestions and brief plot summaries; clear any additions to these possibilities with the instructor BEFORE viewing the film and writing your essay.


This site has been prepared by Lee A. Makela (l.makela@csuohio.edu) for the use of students at Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, who are enrolled in HIS 372/572, The History of Early Modern Japan during the Spring Semester of the 2007 - 2008 Academic Year; please contact him with any comments.  
 Last revised: January 15, 2008