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Rising Sun, Divided Land

Rising Sun, Divided Land: Japanese and South Korean Filmmakers

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Rising Sun, Divided Land
    Book Description:

    Rising Sun and Divided Land provides a comprehensive, scholarly examination of the historical background, films, and careers of selected Korean and Japanese film directors. It examines eight directors: Fukasaku Kinji, Im Kwon-teak, Kawase Naomi, Miike Takashi, Lee Chang-dong, Kitano Takeshi, Park Chan-wook, and Kim Ki-duk and considers their work as reflections of personal visions and as films that engage with globalization, colonialism, nationalism, race, gender, history, and the contemporary state of Japan and South Korea. Each chapter is followed by a short analysis of a selected film, and the volume as a whole includes a cinematic overview of Japan and South Korea and a list of suggestions for further reading and viewing.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-85044-5
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Rising Sun and Divided Land
    (pp. 1-9)

    Towards the end of the twentieth century East Asian cinema began to take the world by storm. Directors from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Japan and South Korea all had films succeed on the popular international stage. Whilst Japanese directors such as Kurosawa Akira, Ozu Yasujirō and Mizoguchi Kinji had historically achieved acclaim and recognition among aficionados of world cinema this new wave of East Asian film appealed to a wide range of film-goers from young to old. Whilst Studio Ghibli products such as Howl’s Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro, 2004) and Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi, 2001)...

  5. Cinematic Japan and Korea: A Long and Turbulent History
    (pp. 10-24)

    This opening poem was written by zainichi (Japanese-Korean) female poet Mun Kon-bun. In this simple but effective musing she vocalises many of the issues facing people of zainichi descent living in contemporary Japan. Ethnic Koreans make up the biggest immigrant community in Japan and these communities, particularly those located around Osaka, have been in Japan for many decades. They continue, however, to frequently suffer economic, social and educational exclusion in the country that has been their home for several generations. The presence of the current zainichi community in Japan is a legacy of the tumultuous events that took place at...

  6. Im Kwon-taek and the March of Time
    (pp. 25-43)

    It would not be hyperbolic to say that in charting the career of Im Kwon-taek one is also charting Korean national cinema. As the longest working director in South Korea, Im’s films have featured and referenced nearly all of the major political and cultural events that have shaken the Korean peninsula over the last hundred years or so. Beginning as a director in 1962 and with an oeuvre that contains over a hundred films, Im is a vital element of South Korean cinema ‘not because he stands apart from Korean cinema’s contradiction but because his films demonstrate the film director’s...

  7. Film Analysis: CHIHWASEON
    (pp. 44-50)

    In 2002 Im released the film which would go on to achieve worldwide acclaim and win the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Chihwaseon, also known by the title Drunk on Women and Poetry, tells the tale of the famous Korean artist, Jang Seung-up. Starring the vibrant Choi Min-sik in the lead role Chihwaseon gained a huge level of success on the international market but, as will be discussed, failed to inspire domestic audiences.

    Chihwaseon charts the career of the highly talented but very difficult artist Jang Seung-op. The narrative of the film works on several different levels....

  8. Fukasaku Kinji and Beginning With a Bomb
    (pp. 51-64)

    In January 2003, when Fukasaku Kinji’s funeral took place at the Tsukiji Hongangi Temple in Tokyo, the crowds that surrounded the building were incredible to behold. The same area had a few weeks earlier experienced the arrival of David and Victoria Beckham and the comparable numbers of people that turned out to see Fukasaku laid to rest as appeared to catch a glimpse of Beckham-san, illustrated how highly regarded the 72-year-old director was at the time of his death. The director was still in the middle of directing Battle Royale II when he succumbed to the cancer he had been...

  9. Film Analysis: BATTLE ROYALE
    (pp. 65-72)

    These two opening adages offer a unique insight into the main themes of Battle Royale. Set in the near future this violent tale of schoolchildren being forced to kill each other became a worldwide phenomenon. It was a fitting tribute to a director that had thrilled Japanese audiences for years with his high-octane action dramas. As with all Fukasaku’s works there is an underlying message rather than just an exciting presentation of violence. The opening scenes set the tone for what is to come. With Verdi’s Requiem dramatically introducing the intertitles we are told that Japan has suffered from economic...

  10. Lee Chang-dong and the Trauma of History
    (pp. 73-90)

    Lee Chang-dong is certainly the only director examined in this book to have held political office. Lee was South Korean Minister of Culture and Tourism, 2003–4, under President Roh Moo-hyun, and of all the directors featured here he has been most notable for his direct involvement in governmental policies with regards to filmmaking. Although he no longer holds office he continues to be an influential figure in the South Korean art and film policy debates and works closely with the Seoul Institute of Arts in the training and encouragement of young trainee filmmakers.

    Lee was born in Daegu, the...

  11. Film Analysis: SECRET SUNSHINE
    (pp. 91-98)

    Secret Sunshine is Lee Chang-dong’s fourth film and this touching tale of a young woman facing tragedy saw Lee gain even more recognition as one of the key directors to have emerged from South Korea in the last two decades. Lee’s role as a government minister made him a well-known figure in South Korean politics but the nomination for Best Film at Cannes helped enhance his reputation as a South Korean director that could succeed on the international stage as well as charm local audiences. Secret Sunshine charts the emotional results when a kidnapping goes wrong. Unlike in Park Chan-wook’s...

  12. The Legacy of a Violent Man: Kitano Takeshi
    (pp. 99-115)

    Film scholars have often asked following question: ‘how do we draw the boundaries of a career and impute meaning into it?’ (Polan 2001: 161). This approach, moving away from the all-encompassing notion of the auteur, focuses on the need to examine, not just the individual director, but also the producers, cinematographers and actors that they consistently work with. Many directors have long and sustained relationships with people who clearly contribute a large amount to their respective films. Notable examples of a symbiotic working relationship include the French director Claire Denis who traditionally works with cinematographer Agnes Goddard; Kurosawa maintained a...

  13. Film Analysis: HANA-BI
    (pp. 116-122)

    The main themes of Hana-bi can be summed up in its actual title, which is literally the amalgamation of two words: hana that translates as ‘flower’, representing life, and bi that means ‘fire’, and therefore death. Thus life and death are brought together as the two parts of a ‘dichotomy that turns out to run through the film’ (Rayns 1997: 28). For Japanese critic Abe Kazushige the emphasis should be placed on the hyphen rather than the individual composite elements. The two words are intimately linked and in Hana-bi; we see the characters as continually balanced between the two poles....

  14. Twisted Histories: Park Chan-wook and the Legacy of Personal Trauma
    (pp. 123-137)

    In the last decade very few Korean film directors have made such an impact on the international scene as Park Chan-wook, and the key to his fame is perhaps summed up in one film title: Oldboy (2003). Although his previous works JSA (Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA, 2000) and Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (Boksuneun naui geot, 2002), did well on both national and international levels it was Oldboy’s macabre, violent and highly transgressive narrative that saw Park become one of the most well-known and popular South Korean directors on the international circuit.

    Park in many ways personifies what has come to...

  15. Film Analysis: OLDBOY
    (pp. 138-145)

    Released in 2003, Oldboy is based on a graphic novel by Minegishi Nobuuaki and Tsuchiya Garon, and is the second film in what has come to be known as ‘the vengeance trilogy’ which had started with Sympathy for Mr Vengeance. The opening shot of Oldboy is of Oh Dae-sue’s fist clutching a tie. As the camera pulls back we see him backlit by the sky and he informs the man, whom he is preventing from committing suicide, that he is going to tell him his story. This sudden and dramatic image sets the tone for the rest of this violent...

  16. The Lone Woman: Kawase Naomi
    (pp. 146-165)

    For many people working in visual culture the sheer lack of attention paid to Japanese women in the visual arts is astounding. Various women’s groups and organisations let us know they are out there and yet very little national or international press is given to them as directors, photographers or artists. In terms of the English language (I refer here to ‘non-academic’ fields) the placement of East Asian women in the Western imagination is generally poor and fairly insulting with the emphasis on sex, appearances and desirability. The objectification of the female body has been a historically dominant global trend...

  17. Film Analysis: SHARA
    (pp. 166-171)

    Shara not only offers an examination of Kawase Naomi as a director but also Kawase as an actor since she took on the role of the pregnant mother when the original actor Reiko Karaoka dropped out. The narrative of Shara is the simple tale of a family struggling to put their lives back together after the disappearance of their son. Kawase has stated in interviews that she had been considering focusing on a tale of murder for her first film after Moe no Suzaku but decided instead to focus on an ordinary family that experiences a tragic event.

    The film’s...

  18. Bad Guy: Kim Ki-duk
    (pp. 172-187)

    The above scenarios are just a small selection of the remarkable images and narratives that can be seen in the work of Kim Ki-duk. In his films Kim offers a bizarre and often surreal world where gender, race, nationality, globalisation and art come together to produce films that often disturb, sometimes offend, but always challenge. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring (Bom, yeoreum, gaeul, gyeoul, geurigo… bom, 2000) became the highest-grossing Korean film at the US box office with takings of over $23 million. This tale of a priest situated on a remote floating temple captured the attention of the...

  19. Film Analysis: BAD GUY
    (pp. 188-196)

    If one condenses the storyline of Bad Guy down to its bare essentials, it is a tale of a man who forces the women he loves into prostitution. She gradually accepts working in the brothel and falls in love with the man that has orchestrated her fall into the sex trade. Unsurprisingly Bad Guy received a stern amount of criticism from viewers for its representation of violence towards women and the female response towards this aggression. An initial reading is that the film is nothing more that a male masochistic fantasy conforming to the old adage that all women are...

  20. Miike Takashi: Welcome to the Dark Side
    (pp. 197-210)

    For many in the West the work of Miike Takashi is well-known. Benefiting in the UK from the introduction of the Tartan Asia Extreme label, a relatively large percentage of Miike’s feature-length films have made it to the UK and USA DVD market and, as such, his work for many personifies what they consider to be Japanese contemporary cinema: very violent, stylistic and highly transgressive. Although Miike is primarily known for either violent high-action gangster thrillers such as Dead or Alive (DOA Deddo Oa Araibu – Hanzaisha, 1999) and Ichi the Killer (Koroshiya 1, 2001) or the disturbingly deranged Audition...

  21. Film Analysis: VISITOR Q
    (pp. 211-219)

    Filmed using digital video technology Visitor Q was one of the cheapest films that Miike has ever produced. It was filmed as the sixth and final part of the Love Cinema series that consisted of V-Cinema productions that were given theatrical releases via a brief but exclusive run at the Shimokitazawa cinema in Tokyo. The six films, all by independent filmmakers, were conceived as a low-budget exercise to explore the benefits afforded by the low-cost digital video medium. Shot for the equivalent of US$55,000 Visitor Q relishes its digital format, and the handheld camera acts as a key method of...

  22. Conclusion
    (pp. 220-223)

    In the conclusion to her recent book reflecting on the state of the South Korean film industry, Jinhee Choi makes the comment that ‘the continuing prosperity of the South Korean Film industry is uncertain’ (2010: 193). This uncertainty is not only present in South Korea but is shared by almost all film industries outside of the dominant global player, Hollywood. The global financial crisis that has taken place in the last few years will doubtless have severe and long-lasting affects on the cinematic industries of all nations, including Japan and South Korean.

    There have been several key trends that have...

  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 224-234)
  24. Filmography and Further Viewing Suggestions
    (pp. 235-249)
  25. Key Electronic Resources for Japanese and Korean Film
    (pp. 250-250)
  26. Index
    (pp. 251-256)