Monday, May 10, 2021
Osaki Midori and the Film Theory Complex in Japan

A lecture by Aaron Gerow

Listen here.

Film theory is fundamental to understanding cinema: it attempts to answer questions about the what, how, and why of cinema. The history of such questions is long and global, yet the canonical histories of film theory have centered on Europe and America, tacitly assuming that those regions can speak for all of film theory. Japan has a rich history of film theory that matches its superlative cinema, but that history is largely unknown. Perhaps under the influence theory’s Eurocentrism, this history is also generally ignored in Japan, and the practice of pursuing theory but refusing to call it theory is an element of what I call the “theory complex.” There are many things to learn from reading film theory from Japan, but I contend one is a tendency that, likely because of theory’s perceived “Westerness,” critically questions theory as a discipline. As a fascinating example of this tendency, I would like to introduce the film writings of novelist Osaki Midori (1896–1977). Through her concept and practice of eiga mansō—wandering thoughts and jottings on cinema—Osaki enacts a different relation between film and spectator, one that is simultaneously intimately sensual and detached, corporeal and ghostly. Often analyzed in terms of her lesbian sexuality, Osaki’s eiga mansō could be called a queering not only of cinema, but also, I would argue, of theory as well.

- AG

List of all names featured in the talk, in English and Japanese.

Aaron Gerow is Professor of Film Studies and of East Asian Languages and Literatures at Yale University. He is the author of Visions of Japanese Modernity: Articulations of Cinema, Nation, and Spectatorship, 1895-1925 (University of California Press), A Page of Madness: Cinema and Modernity in 1920s Japan (Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan), and Kitano Takeshi (British Film Institute).