The films i will be focusing on is two golden age films, Rashomon directed by Kurosawa (1950) and Ugestu directed by Mizoguchi (1953). These golden age films reflect the aftermath of World War II and particularly the atomic bomb, and the subsequent American occupation left the country scarred, but filled with inspiration and eagerness to start over. I will also be focusing on two films produced in the new wave, Irezumi directed by Masumara (1966) and Kuroneko directed by shindo (1968). These new wave films represents a post-war economic miracle this is when Japan rapidly became the world’s second largest economy.
The opening of Rashomon it starts of with montage of shots showing different images of where the film is set, there are diagonal lines shown through wood this reflects the complicated and disturbing situation japan is it after the war, Also the director of the film Kurosawa, was also an abstract artist so he likes to reflect abstract shapes into his film, his use of long shots come from the western genre, due to the US power. There is a establishing shot of the Japaneses hut this instantly shows the audience the after effects of the war shown through the hut building as it is destroyed. This sets the scene with the pouring of rain this reflects the pathetic fallacy of the situation, as the guys are feeling down about reflecting on war and how men are supposedly all lairs. The rain stops as they are talking shows that what their talking about should be focused on. The Slow editing used also reflects the sad slow mood. There is a long shot used this is a typical micro feature of a Japanese film, as The extreme long shot was first invented by the western genre typically the “lonerider”, occupies a small ratio of the screen space in relation to the setting or their surroundings. In the extreme long shot the screen space is filled primarily with the surroundings: in the western genre this is a panoramic view of a desolate plain, mountain or valley, its been used in rashomon as the men are sitting in the background under the hut with the rain pouring down in front of them it is illustrating the barren, harsh environment an antagonist is set in; thereby explaining his psychological state. The continuous theme of death is introduced straight away in the dialogued used by the men in this scene, words such as “war” “death”. Theatrical ways of filming and diagonal have been used this reflects another typical theme of Japanese films, it shows the over exaggeration of characters acting and the use if close ups. It makes it clear to the audience what the actors emotion is. Low key lighting has been used this also reflects the sad mood. An unusual medium shot of the two characters sitting on the steps contemplating the ferocity of what they’ve witnessed, creates an alignment which represents this feeling. The slow paced editing additionally adds an element of gloom to the opening sequence along with the low key lighting and high contrast, all symbolising the current emotions of the characters. By using these techniques the audience can see the representation of not only the characters in the film but the misery of men after the outbreak of war.
In the ending of rashamon, the scene is started off by the ending od the story and that the three men start to contemplate men, and that men are liars, one of the men start throwing away the wood into the rain this represents the fire burning out like there is no hope left for man kind. Then suddenly there is a dietetic sound of baby cries, again this sound is often associated with horror films. The two men start to argue they are pushed out into the rain this is significant as it is though the so could “truth” has finally home or metaphorically speaking poured onto them. The messages of truth that men will never change. Then there is a transitional fade sequence of the men standing with no movement, the rain stops. This sequence represents that time has passed on by and that the man has thought about his actions of stealing. The man then decides to adopt the baby in an act of kindness and to prove that man can do good in this world. Uplifting music starts to play reflecting the positive situation and it contrast with the negative music at the beginning, there is a low angle shot of the man as the film comes to an end, showing the man has become powerful as he is trying to make a change in his life by looking after this baby, representing men as being hopeful for the future.
At the begging of Irezumi film men are represents as abusive, the Tattoo artist Seikichi drugs Otsuya and forcefully draws a tattoo on her back without consent. In this scene sonic perspective is used when the needle is digging into her back this makes the scene more intense and brutallity of the situation reflcting the mans dominance. This scene could also be seen as a metaphor for rape as the needle is entering the girl by the man, this represents men as being controlling. However, through the attributes of Shinsuke are visibly depicted as weak and inferior to women; especially in terms of a tight framed, composition, abstract show which positions Shinsuke to the wall in the opening sequence. Through positioning his character next to the structures of the room rather than the centre alike Otsuya, we see he is trapped in a dominant, claustrophobic relationship. Even when he tries to kill her, he falls under her manipulative spell and his weakness, in addition to his stupidity, is the effect of his demise. Men in Golden Age films, such as ‘Rashomon’, are more stereotypically ‘masculine’ and ‘powerful’ when it comes to taming women.
In the opening of this film there is alot of signs to indicate danger such as the mise en scene of her clothing being the color red also the dietetic sound the bell and the pathetic fallacy of the snow reflecting how Otsuya is cold hear-ted. The camerawork used is close up shots to showing the intensity of pain through Otsuya facial expressions, this also reflects the theatricality of the scene which is commonly used in Japanese films. Also Tight framing has been used this is to reflect the main theme of ‘being trapped’, At the begging of this film women are represented as weak and in the ownership of men. This addresses the is issue of the time as in japan at the time of this film being published there was a post-war economic miracle this is when Japan rapidly became the world’s second largest economy (after the United States) by the 1960s. However although the welfare society maintained a high total of employment, it included many part-time workers who did not enjoy the workplace benefits and had very low pay, and were largely women. These people oftern worked for small companies that did not provide benefits such as lifetime employment as big companies started to do therefore there was a lot of unemployment in these small companies. This idea of women not getting good jobs and men benefiting more from society at the time is represented in this film, even though Otsuya gets kidnapped into prostitution, she has no other option as the society at the time does not allow her to get high payed job so has to earn money through prostitution. There is a lot of low angle shots of Otsuya showing her leadership through the film, her higher status, however i think this only due to the fact her farther is of a high status.She trys to control certain men in the film through black mail such as Shinsuke, this due to the spider tattoo on her back. who seduces and manipulates her prey; an element not explored in ‘Ugetsu’ for example. ‘Ugetsu’, 1953 (Mizoguchi) rather explores the destruction of war rather than the social achievements which were underway and presents the hypocrisy of male dominance. This can be supported when the wives in ‘Ugetsu’ are demonstrated as wise and humble when trying to persuade their husbands not to fulfil their dangerous passions however are dismissed due to their gender. A way in which Otsuya asserts power in through her intense sexuality and throwing her money behind her back, knowing that Shinsuke will always be there behind her. In ‘Irezumi’, the only other female participants are Otsuya’s mother and the wife Shinsuke and Otsuya visit when they want to elope. The expressionist red kimono creates a stark contrast to the loyal wife dressed in all black, a symbol of the ‘ideal woman.’ It can be said that in both new wave films, ‘Irezumi’ and ‘Kuroneko’ (1968 Shindo), the woman are robbed of the prospect of the ideal woman and forced to embody a supernatural being unwillingly- due to men. The motif of sound frequently playing when the spider makes an appearance also stimulates the recurring power symbol that Otsuya’s dominance is always there, threatening the men.
In comparison to the representation of women in Rashomon where the women are prsented as week within the middle seqequence of the film where the men are trying to fight for her. Women are also presented as gohst, when the Samaria is talking though the medium, a high shot has been used in the shot before the medium it makes the men look vulnerable therefor scared of the past. There is a low angle shot of the medium this reflects her strangeness also shows the contrast from the others. There is also a zoom into the mediums face this also reflects her weirdness as it zooms it into her facial expressions. Over the shoulder shots used to show the facial expression of the people in the background, and seeing from the persons point of view. The wind in the background and flowing through her wavy dress makes the scene more dramatic. The Medium represents no realism, and links with the grudge. This is similar to Ugestu directed by monogatori where a goahst is presented through a man to test his greed, Furthermore, pathetic fallacy also instigates the presentation of Otsuya and the mother in ‘Kuroneko’ to be demonic and gothic in both ending sequences, therefore highlighting how gothic horror is on going theme through out all these japanese films.
The representations of samurai between ‘Irezumi’ and ‘Rashomon’ are contradictory due to them being represented as noble and respected in ‘Rashomon’ whilst violent and disrespectful in ‘Irezumi’. For example, Serizawa, the samurai in ‘Irezumi’, has similar corresponding values of life to the protagonist, Otsuya as he says ‘between man and woman this is a fight to the death.’ This suggests that Serizawa has values of war in every aspect of his life including his distorted relationship with Otsuya. In addition to his, when Serizawa attempts to kill her he shifts the responsibility onto the fact that he wasn’t in control, presenting a message that samurais are unable to tame themselves. The opening of ‘Irezumi’ is also enigmatic due to not introducing a samurai- an interesting narrative device which shows that the significance of samurais in the new wave era have declined in comparison to Golden Age films. ‘Kuroneko’, an additional new wave case study also sparks values that samurai are animalistic and greedy through the rape of the mother and the daughter-in-law. It seems that in both films, men tarnish the essence of womanhood through the spider and the act of rape, leaving both to end with no moral guidance or compass and ending the films with a negative tone. Although women are cynical and domineering, they are still abused by intense masculinity.