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Unformatted text preview: persuasive arguments. For example, in order to secure
permission to make Utamaro and His Five Women (Utamaro o Meguru
Gonin no Onna, 1946), its director, Mizoguchi Kenji (1898–1956),
pointed out to SCAP that the late-Tokugawa-period woodblock artist
Utamaro was not only a cultural hero to the common man in Japan, he
was even a kind of prototype of a modern democrat! Mizoguchi also
hinted that he would like to take up the theme of female emancipation in
a subsequent film.20
Inundated by American culture, customs, and fads, Japanese filmmakers began experimenting with new practices and techniques of acting
that, if not revolutionary, were at least attention-getting. One of the most
widely heralded of these practices was the kiss, an act strictly banned from
Japanese films before the war and even deleted from foreign imports. To
the prewar Japanese the kiss had been “an act reserved solely for the privacy of the bedroom, if not indeed something of an occult art.”21 Even
after the kiss became generally accepted, it was often faked by having the
actors angle their heads away from the camera and merely touch cheeks.
Some actors apparently even sought to avoid pollution while kissing by
covering their mouths with gauze and applying an extra layer of makeup
to conceal it.
Among the most popular postwar films, both in Japan and abroad,
have been those of Kurosawa Akira (1910–98), including Rashòmon
(1950), Ikiru (To Live, 1952), and Seven Samurai (Shichinin no Samurai,
1954). Kurosawa has been called the most Western of Japanese film
directors, and it is true that in content his films, particularly those that
are highly action-oriented (such as Seven Samurai ) or deal with events by Culture in the Present Age 319 means of an Existentialist kind of psychological probing (such as Rashòmon), are more readily and universally comprehensible than the films of
many other Japanese directors. Yet Kurosawa, a consummate cinematic
craftsman by any international standard, was also a master of those techniques—the creation of moods and settings that perfectly blend people
and their natural environments, the meticulous atte...
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- Spring '13