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Imamura Shohei and the Challenge of Return

Philip Kaffen

Friday, April 24, 2015 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Communications Bldg 226

In the late 1960's, Imamura Shohei's interest as a director began to shift from feature films to documentary-like fiction works(e.g. A Man Vanishes, 1967).  Then in the 1970's  he worked largely outside of fiction film, making documentaries focusing extensively on marginalized sectors of society in Japan and abroad. A series of these documentaries engaged with the problem of return - from the unreturned soldiers in South East Asia, to the "return" to the postwar in Madame Onboro: Postwar History as Told by a Bar Hostess.  At the end of the 1970's, he resumed his fiction filmmaking with one of this strongest cinematic works, Vengence is Mine (1979), which many consider to by Imamura's "return" to feature film, albeit marked by a lingering preoccupation with documentary detail.  Rather than simply documentary or feature filmmaking as genres and sets of assumptions about cinema, Imamura Shohei's preoccupations with truth and fiction, memory and violence, and the role of cinema itself, pivot on the question - indeed, the challenge - of return.

Phil Kaffen is an assistant professor/faculty fellow in the department of Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies at New York Univeristy.  He work focuses on the thematic problems of technology and violence, and engages with various cinema and other media arts in relation to intellectual history in Japan.  He has written on cinema and urban space, violence and responisbility, and film and media theory.  His current book project takes up the relationship between space and violence in Japanese film, media and critical theory.

Kaffen Flyer (PDF)