SEMINAR: Asian Studies Seminar Series Semester 1 2017
|Asian Studies Seminar Series Semester 1 2017 : Nikkatsu Film Noir as a Lens to Look at Socio-Cultural Change in Postwar Japan
This paper considers the ways that the genre of American film noir was adapted in “Nikkatsu Action” crime films to capture and convey some of the faultlines of rapid socio-economic and cultural change in 1950s/1960s Japan.
The term film noir was initially used by French film critics with reference to wartime and postwar American urban crime films. These films were noted for their depictions of alienation conveyed through dark lighting, extreme camera angles and a focus on criminality; traits that have been read as a response to the disillusionment in American society in the aftermath of WWII.
During the 1960s Nikkatsu Studios released a series of noir-inspired urban crime films aimed at a teenage audience. The protagonists in these “Nikkatsu Action” films did not display loyalty to a group such as family, gang or company, but were instead depicted as entirely individualistic. In their depictions of lone outlaws that existed outside of the confinements of traditional Japanese society, the Nikkatsu films constituted “a rebellion against tradition dressed in the trappings of American film noir” (Vick, 2015, p. 23), appealing to the disillusionment felt by many young Japanese with regards to traditional social structures and their supposed obligations to it.
This paper examines how several “Nikkatsu Action” films utilised conventions of film noir in order to subvert traditional Japanese conceptions of social obligation, thereby providing an unsettling representation of postwar Japanese society.
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