DeMille, , starring Sessue Hayakawa. The Cheat was particularly famous for its innovative use of expressive lighting, Rembrandt-style Chiaroscuro, by Cecil B. DeMille and his cinematographer Alvin Wyckoff. What DeMille and Wyckoff visualized was called Lasky lighting, referring to the name of the studio where the film was produced. Oshima wanted to ask that question in Hollywood Zen. For Oshima, Hayakawa was an attractive case study of the Meiji generation. Hayakawa was a Hollywood star when anti-Japanese sentiment was increasing rapidly.
Such anti-Japanese feelings were crystallized in the movements against immigrants from Japan. In , the Japanese Exclusion League of California was established. Then, in , the new immigration act passed by the U.
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When a white woman fails in investment in stock markets, he gives her a check in exchange of her body. Once she rejects to have sex with him at the last moment, Tori brutally presses a red-hot branding iron on the naked shoulder of her. Lasky lighting enhanced the brutality of the scene. Tori tears her clothes, grabs her hair, and throws her face forward onto the desk.
The branding itself is completed offscreen but the smoke comes up from offscreen in front of Tori grimacing with a tightly closed mouth. Wrapped in darkness, ranged in the cell-like seats, directed toward the source of emotion by their softer side, the sensibilities of the entire auditorium converge, as if in a funnel, toward the film. The production of the film was postponed only a few days before the scheduled first day of shooting day.
Location hunting and rehearsal were completed in Toronto with Kurita Toyomichi, the director of photography.
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But the production has never restarted to this day. Oshima passed in Even though Oshima thought that the film would be a success if completed, he was not attracted to its protagonist at all. Oshima described the scene as follows:. Hundreds thousands of people gather for the funeral of [Rudolph] Valentino.
Film and Geopolitics in Japan
Sessue in a traditional Japanese costume leads the crowd…. Women walk in front of the coffin in tears…. Oshima Why was Oshima obsessed with this scene when he was not interested in the character of Hayakawa as a Japanese macho man? In the screenplay of Hollywood Zen , there is a scene at a movie theater where The Cheat is screened. Oshima and Kurita were not planning to use actually footages of The Cheat but to recreate the film with its Lasky lighting. In order to do that, he needed a support of a director of photography like Kurita, who had experiences of filmmaking not only in Japan but also in Hollywood.
According to Kurita, in the production of Hollywood Zen , Oshima was planning to re-create the styles of silent cinema of the ss by using the actual filmmaking equipment of the period, including non-super-sensitive black-and-white film negatives and klieg light of carbon arc lamps. With the help of his cinematographer, Oshima was targeting to achieve muted tones that would not use as vivid colors as contemporary films of the s.
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In other words, he was trying to make a film that was supposedly made when the effects of lighting became seriously taken into account in Hollywood and the director of photography system emerged accordingly. The cross-cultural stardom of Sessue Hayakawa between the United States and Japan was an interesting vehicle for him to do that. In other words, I will finish what Oshima has started. I will closely examine several sections of the screenplay of Hollywood Zen , which Oshima wrote with Paul Mayersberg, in conjunction with articles written in the ss in both American and Japanese trade presses and film magazines.
What I am going to do is a cross-examination of the screenplay with historical facts. Oshima thought that Hayakawa failed it miserably. That might have been because Hayakawa was not in Japan and was caught by the politics of race and gender between the two countries. The tragedy of Hayakawa for Oshima was that he did not even realize his desire and his failure. All he could do was to dress up for the man he wanted to form bonds and walk boastingly on the street of a land that he conquered for a brief period of time with his star appeal.
I understand that most academic works on Japanese cinema have focused on either a historical survey of popular films or canonized auteur directors, such as Kurosawa Akira, Ozu Yasujiro, and Oshima Nagisa.
This is a problematic tendency. The assumption of auteur theory is that the films an auteur has directed can be analyzed to uncover recurrent themes and aesthetic patterns that demonstrate the cohesion of his or her vision of the world. This approach is insufficient to address filmmaking. As I have already stated, Hollywood Zen was a collaborated historical project between Oshima and Kurita to represent the early history of Hollywood and Japan. Thus, I will overcome the shortcomings in auteur criticism in both areas.
A hairpin with a red ornament is on. When the hair is combed up, a pale face of a Japanese woman with full of pain is seen. Blood comes out from her mouth. She stands up and staggers to walk. Keep on walking!
Actress Tsuru Aoki keeps walking towards the camera. Keep going, Tsuru. Then fall down. Tsuru performs as the director instructs. Tsuru, stand up! Try to walk … please try! One step or two, but no…. Fall down again! Then cry out! Then, you are going to die… Tsuru drops her head down and lies down on the sand. He runs to Tsuru and raises her in his arms. Thank you. The last scene was fantastic. Tsuru opens her eyes. Thomas Ince, producer and director, and a lady get out of a car parked behind the row of cameras and approach Tsuru.
Aoki conducts a sales campaign to Ince for a Japanese actor, Sessue Hayakawa, who is playing the leading role of a theatrical play, The Typhoon. It is a fact that Hayakawa appeared in the play at a theater in Little Tokyo of Los Angeles around Miyao Ince might have seen the play because he recognized that films with Japanese subjects had a certain appeal to middle-class Caucasian audiences, especially those who were open to trying to experience the East and were attracted to Japonisme, the trend in France since the s. Oshima placed a bet on this possibility in order to emphasize that it was Aoki who was the central character of Hollywood Zen and held the key to the success of Hayakawa as a Hollywood star.
He is not even an active character. Instead, complex and ambivalent feelings towards Hayakawa from the people near him play more significant roles. The most important person among them is Aoki Tsuruko a. Aoki was the first Japanese female motion picture actor. In Japan, female motion picture actors did not appear until as late as when Hanayagi Harumi starred in Radiance of Life Sei no kagayaki , a product of the so-called jun eigageki undo pure film movement , which attempted to separate filmmaking from the influence of kabuki.
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Before this film, the majority of female characters in motion pictures were played by onnagata , female impersonators in kabuki. While there is no record of a film that opens Hollywood Zen , in which a heroin played by Aoki dies in the end and is covered by sands, there were numerous other Madama Butterfly -style films, in which heroines suffer and accept self-sacrificial death. He appeared in at least seventeen films that Ince produced. The main focus of these films was to show exotic cultures and people to American audience, and the main star was Aoki. While Reel Life magazine, placed a still photo of Aoki on its cover at least three times in November , February and June , only a few films produced by Ince cast Hayakawa as leading characters.
None of the reviews of these films mention the name of Hayakawa. Considering his egotism observable throughout his career, it was no doubt that Hayakawa was frustrated by the way Ince treated him. Oshima thus consistently regards Aoki as the active agency. After the Centennial Exhibition of in Philadelphia when many Americans made their first contact with Japanese art and culture, high-class Japanese art and culture gradually became popularized among the middle class and fitted to their taste. Then, the success of the English light opera The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan and the popularity of Madame Butterfly had a strong influence among middle-class audiences on forming a popular imagination of Japan as a land of refined culture.
Historically, an important function of such a melodrama as Madame Butterfly was to contain the horror of modernity.
Related The Flash of Capital: Film and Geopolitics in Japan (Asia-Pacific: Culture, Politics, and Society)
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