At the request of Arzamas film critic, chose the major Japanese films of all time and advised what to read on the topic.
Maxim Pavlov — film critic, 2006-2014 — Deputy Director of the cinema Museum, curator and co-curator of exhibitions and retrospectives of the Museum of cinema and Eisenstein-Fund, including Masaki Kobayashi, photography by Shindo, Nagisa Oshima, Sajana Suzuki, Kihachi Okamoto, Jean-Luc Godard, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Vera chytilová, programs “Golden sixties”, “the Art of Bansi”, days of the magazine “Cahiers du cinéma” in Moscow, annual festival of new cinema Finland, Italy, Latin America “Latino fiesta” in Moscow, etc.
Classic Japanese cinema: 36 masterpieces
This list of Japanese films is not exhaustive. However, the films prepared it, in my opinion, give an idea of the main directions of development of classical Japanese cinema over the past century.
In the course of compiling this list I avoided following any formal numerical constraints (the Golden dozen, a dozen, a hundred, etc.), but still aim to stay within a reasonable, to somehow grasp the immensity.
However, I adhered to the same formal constraints: every master must be represented by only one film. This is a fairly stringent condition, as most Japanese Directors, especially the older generation, was very prolific — filmography many of them includes a good fifty or even a hundred or more films that reflect the specifics of Studio production in Japan. Many of the masters of Japanese cinema repeatedly changed the style of his films, moreover, a significant number of Directors of centenarians has worked in the era of the Great silent and sound film. Because of the performance of each of them with just one masterpiece — a Convention that can be overridden by anyone who wants to learn about Japanese film closer, the more that absolute majority of the represented in the list of Directors included in the history of Japanese and world cinema, and often several blockbusters.
Despite the fact that a huge number of films of Japan made before the end of the Second world war, there remained (as the majority of the Studio’s film archives were destroyed during the American bombing of 1945), making a list, I assumed that all of the films presented in it, are preserved. The vast majority of them translated in recent years into electronic format and is available for those interested in the history of Japanese cinema.
The disparity in the chronological distribution of movies within the list is associated with the above-mentioned circumstance and the fact that, according to most historians of Japanese cinema, the rise of cinematography as an art accounted for 50-60-ies of XX century (however, on this we can speak in relation to the world).
The selection is intentionally not included movies of modern Japanese underground and cyberpunk, as well, and anime, representing a phenomenon of Japanese cinema.
Buntaro, Futagawa. “Orochi”, 1925
A classic example of the early films shot in the genre of jidaigeki films about samurai. Wide recognition the film acquired through the formulation of the action scenes with the actor, Tamasaburo Bando.
Tanaka Kinugasa. “Kurutta ippêji”, 1926
One of the early classic films of Japanese cinema of the older generation, the most known example of avant-garde cinema. Different scholars see in it the features of both expressionism and surrealism. The film, which takes place in a psychiatric hospital, was lifted from a story by Yasunari Kawabata funded by the Director and miraculously survived, he went into the history of world cinema as one of the best examples of experimental cinema.
Sexo, Makino. “Chûkon keiretsu — Jitsuroku Chûshingura”, 1928
The penultimate film of the pioneer of Japanese film that became a classic early example of Kinosternidae the famous story of the 47 loyal ronin.
Janoska Gose. “The dancer of Izu” (“Koi no hana saku: Izu no Odoriko”), 1933
The first of many adaptations of the same story Yasunari Kawabata, filmed a classic movie Japan, who put in 43 years, 97 films. One of the best films of the Golden age of Japanese cinema, with the participation of the movie stars of silent and sound films Kinue Tanaka.
Yasujiro Shimazu. “Tonari no Yae-chan”, 1934
Romantic sound of “home drama”, which tells about the love of students; a typical product of the “realism of everyday life,” the company “Seiko” the so-called direction “Kamata” (named after the location where the Studio), which became the role model for many years.
Sadao Yamanaka. “Ninjō kami fūsen”, 1937
The screenplay was written for the play “the Barber Cinza” Japanese playwright, Kawatake Mokuami the author works for the Kabuki theater of the middle of XIX century. Swan song of the deceased the following year in a field hospital in Henan (China) 28-year-old genius of Japanese cinema, one of the most prominent representatives of his generation. It is believed that the best films of Sadao Yamanaka created in the silent period, but up to the present day, unfortunately, survived only three of his movies already audio period 1935-1937 years.
Tomu Uchida. “Tsuchi”, 1939
The recognized pre-war masterpiece of the master, epically depicting peasant life in Northern Japan. The film was created under the influence of “the Earth” Alexander Dovzhenko and the German expressionism. His only copy was discovered in 1968 in the GDR without the first and last parts, and in 2001 the picture of the first part has been found in the collection of the Gosfilmofond of Russia. One of the first Japanese films participating in competition at the Venice film festival in 1939.
Hiroshi Shimizu. “Kanzashi”, 1941
One of the best examples of modernism Studio “Seiko of OFUNA” with the participation of stars of Tisu Kinue Ryu and Tanaka. Adaptation of the story Masuji, Ibusa “Four bath”, which takes place away from the front line at the hotel at the hot springs: in this utopian space, masterfully crafted for the screen thanks to the famous plans of episodes with camera, unfolds leisurely lyrical reflection of the Director of human feelings, full of latent anti-militarism in wartime.
Akira Kurosawa. “Rashômon”, 1950
The masterpiece masters of world cinema marked the beginning of the recognition of Japanese cinema in the world and brought international fame to the Director and main cast — machiko Kyo and Toshiro Mifune. A free adaptation of two short stories, ryunosuke Akutagawa’s “rashomon Gate” and “often”. The story of an incident told from different points of view. Golden lion and the Italian critic’s prize at the Venice film festival (1951) and honorary Academy award “Oscar” for best foreign language film (1952).
Minoru Shibuya. “Honjitsu kyûshin”, 1952
A shining example of social Comedy, filmed on the works of Masudi, Ibusa in the Studio “Seiko”. The film opened the talent of the actors Jun the Tatars and, Rentaro Mikuni, the last of which for his 60-year film career, took part in more than 180 films, becoming one of the most popular artists of Japan.
Kenji Mizoguchi. “Ugetsu Monogatari”, 1953
The basis of the film, processing the genre of jidaigeki, based on two loosely coupled directed mystery novels Akinari Ueda from the collection “Moon mist” (1768). The feast of the continuous plans and no circuit changes inside the enchanted scenes, who considered the film one of his favorites. Eric Rohmer wrote: “This picture needs to watch those who do and those who are indifferent to it, those who are passionate about Japan, and those whose interests are far from this country.” “Silver lion” and the prize Pasinetti (The National Union of journalists) at the Venice IFF (1953).