Film Series Commentaries

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“Lone Wolves and Stray Dogs: The Japanese Crime Film, 1931–1969” is a continuing collaboration between the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University and the National Film Center of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Ever since the success of the French crime film Zigomar in 1911, the Japanese film industry has produced numerous movies depicting criminals and the detectives who try to apprehend them. Chivalric yakuza, modern mobsters, knife-wielding molls, hardboiled gumshoes, samurai detectives, femme fatales, and private eyes populate Japanese cinema, from period films to contemporary dramas, from genre cinema to art film, from the work of genre auteurs like Makino Masahiro to masters like Kurosawa Akira. Cinematic representations of crime have served in Japan to draw the boundaries of society and the nation, define the nature of reason and epistemology, shape subjectivity and gender, explore the transformations of modernity, and even express the desire for political transformation. Surprisingly, little of this rich lode of cinema has been introduced abroad. The film series, which took place over a period of four weeks in January and February 2015, presented some of the masterworks of Japanese gangster film, detective cinema, and Japanese noir, in subtitled archive prints that have rarely been seen abroad. The series concluded with a symposium featuring an international panel of experts on Japanese crime film, and a world premiere screening of a newly struck English subtitled print of the classic gangster melodrama, Chutaro of Banba. All films were screened in 35mm with English subtitles. In conjunction with the series, the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University printed a pamphlet that features introductions to each of the ten films shown, as well as critical overviews of the genre penned by and Yomota Inuhiko (Kyoto University of Art and Design), Ōsawa Jō (The National Film Center, Tokyo) and Phil Kaffen (New York University). The publication was produced by the graduate students in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures and the Film and Media Studies Program at Yale under the supervision of Professor Aaron Gerow (East Asian Languages and Literatures; Film and Media Studies), and provides a detailed and enlightening introduction to this important genre of Japanese cinema. The film series was also supported by the Yale Film Studies Center and Films at the Whitney.