BABY GIRL: Maternal Instinct

Josh

 

BABY GIRL: Maternal Instinct

The release of Baby Girl (2016) marks a cinematic milestone for Director Joshua Defour. Woman as unwed and single mother has been vilified throughout cinematic history as early as D.W. Griffith’s Anna (Lillian Gish) in Way Down East (1920). Considered a social fringe figure or resident unfettered by tropes of a traditional family model which rebukes patriarchal society. Her association with poverty, the welfare system, and questionable morality often evoke a sense of scorn. Defour’s film depicts her struggle as empathetic focal point which is given breath to the sailcloth as desperation sets tack for a hard choice.

Backdrop canvas for the film is a beautifully desolate small town of Farmersville, Texas. This quiet rural setting of empty streets speaks of emptiness and lack of opportunity for mother Addison (Sarah Spurger) and daughter Annie (Anelise Juarez). The muted pallet of exterior scenes is also supportive of the premise of a world of mundane inescapability that is the bane of small town life. Juxtaposed are the colorist hi-lights of interior scenes, notably within a resale shop, which attract like brightly colored candies in a jar. Soundscape is masterfully handled through a lilting scored music bed covering a gamut of subtle nuances to tension building and fall off.

The films story arc follows character familiarization, empathy, tension, situational circumstance and resolution. Perhaps most captivating is the directors handling of the symbiotic relationship between mother and child. Theirs is a conjoined dialect both visually and emotionally. Interwoven tracking shots of mother and child from behind, as they wander through the magical wonders of the shop, serve to fuse this bond. Further verbal inferences of baby girl to both child and mother solidify the reflective properties.

The simple pleasure of a child’s wish denied and unfulfilled promise of a family unified create parallel tensions for both baby girls. Innocent tantrum by child and public disruption by mother also mirror unmet needs within both characters. This tension is broken through Addison crossing the boundary between right and wrong for the sake of filling this void. Maternal instinct serves not only to satisfy Anna’s desire but also justifies Addison’s desolation despite the consequences.

Defour has developed a style that is both intrinsic and seamless and shows a promising career future in the cinematic arts.

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How Gravity Works.

How Gravity Works

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Gravity as a force is measured in Newtons as produced by constant acceleration times an objects mass. The cinematic experience of Gravity (2013) provides pseudo realism of anti-gravity through disengaging the mind from the constraints of physical forces acting upon the body. The three dimensional form of the film excels at placing viewers in a transient limbic flux. All referential grounding is lacking thereby depriving audiences the codes upon which are relied on to establish directional navigation. This free floating immersive state ignites the suspension of disbelief created when the imaginary and the symbolic are released to supersede the conscious real.

A removal of referent barriers permits a heightened identification and empathetic self-awareness with the female character of Ryan (Sandra Bullock). The connection with the male character of Kowalski (George Clooney) exists on a more paternal level as a watchful yet distant observer. While the fear and fascination experienced by Ryan is at the forefront of the journey that we are asked to embark on. And it is a journey, as all great narratives are a journey, a quest, a life altering trip into Oz or Wonderland that forever changes the protagonist. As viewers we grasp at the only beacon available in this vast expanse of orbital rotation. The immersion into the psychic point of view of Ryan provides an attachment point.

The journey which Ryan provides us is twofold first is the external means of physiological survival. Secondly, perhaps more integral to the film’s success, is the internal struggle of grappling with how we got here, who we are and who we will become. Initial fear suffered during the disaster sparks a regression to darkness and an embryonic stasis. Symbolism of tethering to the ship and free floating blackness harken connotation to the maternal womb, umbilicus and embryonic fluid.   We emerge from several stages or shells to experience full rebirth in a strong maternal development. Where we will land or if we will ever regain solid footing is left to fate.

Far From Heaven: Postmodern Politicizing of Race and Sexual Orientation.

Far From Heaven: Postmodern Politicizing of Race and Sexual Orientation.

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While the task of choosing one specific film that best represents postmodernism and its wide variances is considerable, it seems befitting to discuss, Far From Heaven (2002) as a relevant case study. This film contains many of the “styles and techniques characteristic of postmodern art” [1]  through its use of simulation, pastiche and allegorical intertextuality as opposed to pondering it as parody of similar conventions. Director Todd Haynes drama revolves around its three main characters, a 1950’s Caucasian married couple, Frank and Cathy Whitaker (Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore) and their African American gardener Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert). Cathy Whitaker discovers her husband Frank is leading a double life of homosexuality and turns to Raymond for comfort. The idyllic life of the couple becomes unraveled as suspicion, hostility and racial prejudice ensue.

The film is cited as New Queer Cinema (NQC) with a lean toward, “a narrative shift of political emphasis,” [2] a trend developed in the American independent film movement of the 1990’s. The political mode, which stands in opposition to mainstream cinema, is an association of gay civil rights with racial inequality through the veneer of classical Hollywood cinema pastiche. This identical message is openly conveyed in the film Any Day Now, (2012) which addresses gay adoption issues, as Rudy (Alan Cummings) argues with his partner that the two equality struggles are “The same thing!” An attachment of sexual orientation recognition to African American civil rights may or may not be reciprocated by those individuals and organizations seeking racial equality. Both films utilize the recycling of surface narrative in raising questions concerning civil liberties facing sexual orientation and racial inequality. Far from Heaven could be categorized as more representative of, “reactionary postmodernism” whereas Any Day Now is a form of “resistance postmodernism” [3]

Far from Heaven has been compared to a style which harkens back to the 1950’s melodrama and more specifically to the Douglas Sirk film, All That Heaven Allows (1955). This conventional trope is emulated through reflexive title and credit sequences, era detailed Mise-en-scene, deep saturated color palette, over dramatic dialogue, creative lighting and broad camera motion.

A playfully placed cue is provided to the observant viewer, which denotes a divergence from mainstream narrative in the Ritz Theatre marquis double bill of Three Faces of Eve (1957) and Miracle in the Rain (1956). Michael Z. Newmans book Indie: An American Film Culture references, Millers Crossing (1990) as an extended allusion to the gangster film, [4] similarly,  Far from Heaven works as melodrama allusion in providing three distinct subplots. Miracle in the Rain is a romantic drama between a man and a woman while Three Faces of Eve details a woman diagnosed with three split personalities. The marquis may be one playful cue that the surface romantic drama between Mr. and Mrs. Witaker will soon divide into three individual paths.

Frank Whitaker first presents as a persona of 1950’s patriarchal masculinity as typified in classical Hollywood. He works for the Magnatech Company, a reference to familiar consumer electronics giant Magnavox Company. Frank lives in an idyllic home with Cathy and their young son. He most often appears in suit and tie, trench coat and hat and presents a heterosexual surface which masks homosexuality. Mr. Whitaker often strays by taking the long way home by under the cover of working late at the office. On one such evening he repugnantly passes by a prostitute who inquires “Where you headed sailor?” Frank enters The Ritz cinema and is presented in oblique camera angles, a technique used to indicate discord within the character and text, behind him a concessions wall poster reads “We promise to satisfy your hunger and thirst”. The dimly lit cinema lobby finds a lone man at the foot of balcony stairway smoking and beckoning Frank to follow him. The image fades leaving the audience to contemplate Frank’s response to the gesture. Perhaps one of the most striking uses of lighting occurs as Frank enters a gay bar, oversaturated greens and oranges create a cavernous environment as an inverse parallel to the bright dress colors worn by Mrs. Whitakers and her social ladies group.

Cathy decides to bring a late dinner to Frank at his office and stumbles upon his double life as she discovers his sexual encounter with another man. This creates an internal crisis for Frank’s character and Cathy seeks out a specialist to cure him of his medical condition determined as a sickness. In the traditional model of a masculine approach to problem solving Frank vows to fix his own problem. The textual tension increases through the use of a film noir aesthetic sequence involving the police questioning his deviant behaviors. This blending of genre conventions fits the criteria of a postmodern pastiche film.  A suppression and inability to control his urges causes Frank to become increasingly resentful and hostile towards Cathy. Following a drunken berating of Cathy at a cocktail party he unleashes his rage and strikes her across the face. This feminism assault sequence is less aligned with a hetero male dominance assertion, as in The Electric Horseman (1979) wherein Robert Redford slaps Jane Fonda, and closer to, although to a much lesser extent, the repressed psycho-sexual fury unleashed by Norman Bates in Psycho (1961). Frank is exposed and ostracized at home, work and socially resulting in Cathy’s request for divorce as he sacrifices everything to his desire for male companionship.

Mrs. Whitaker has existed within her American bourgeois world by the world through the metaphor of rose colored glasses and is laughingly referred to as “Mrs. Magnatech” by her Caucasian socialite lady friends. These women socialize over drinks bantering in open gossip on frequency of performing sex with their husbands. Cathy is reflective on her own relationship and her own rejected advances towards Frank.  Cathy later discovers in Raymond an intelligent caring man with whom she begins to fall in love. The two soon encounter sharp racial prejudice as Caucasian townspeople scorn them both in a diner and on the street. Raymond suggests they go to a nice little place with friendly people that he frequents. The all African American patrons frown on his bringing a “white woman around” and hurl racial slurs such as “What you doin, boy?” Having been shunned from their respective social strata opens a middle ground of dialogue on their racial differences, this is a reflexive discourse is not inherent in traditional melodrama narrative.

Being stunned and hurt by Frank’s homo erotic indiscretions she turns to her best friend for a shoulder to cry on. Her friend can empathize with her plight about Frank as being “One of that kind” but when Cathy confides her feelings towards Raymond her racial prejudice turns her against Cathy. Gossip and rumors spread throughout the town and Raymond’s daughter is targeted and victimized for their taboo relationship. She is cornered in an alley by a group of Caucasian boys who stone the girl into unconsciousness. Raymond is aware that the boys will never be punished and fears for his daughter’s safety. Cathy later realizes that she was a catalyst to the girl’s injury as she rushes to Raymond to apologize. Raymond decides to move to Baltimore and must reject Cathy for the sake of his daughter. Cathy redefines the role of placated feminism in the 1950’s melodrama by breaking social boundaries and asserting feminist dominance in divorcing Frank.

Raymond is initially portrayed as the subservient Negro exploited in classical Hollywood tradition. The Whitaker housemaid and bar patrons also represent a social class that is oppressed by the majority Caucasian society of the small Connecticut town. Raymond quickly moves beyond this portrayal while attending the opening of an art exhibit and is approached by Cathy. He reveals that he holds deep beliefs in the existentialism of modern art as an extension of mankind’s limited capacity to explain religion. This opposes of the stereo typified portrayal of the African American as lacking cultural or intellectual opinion and is an example of pastiche at play in his character.

The intimate allusions of romance between Raymond and Cathy, which often occur in hidden garden alcoves, also subvert stereo-typification of the slave labor Mandingo Negro Buck and “White Lady of the Manor” lusting after one another in southern plantation settings. As the romantic sparks between Frank and Cathy never develop into a sexual discourse and in its place creates a sociological contemplation of prejudice towards mixed race relationships.

Postmodern aspects within Far from Heaven use classical genres and audio visual cues to create a cinematic experience that evokes questions outside the narrative. The final sequence places Raymond aboard a train leaving Cathy standing alone on the station platform. Cathy has acted as a hub between Frank and Raymond and their divergent paths. An affinity for weakness in the males and strength in the female concludes the film with an open ending that lacks narrative resolution. This reverses traditional roles of male and female leaving the audience to grapple with the broader context of race and sexual orientation contained within the film.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Cunyet Cakilar, “Cinephilic Bodies: Todd Haynes’s Cinema of Queer Pastiche” in Kult  

     Kanon, web. http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1308859/1/Cakirlar_Haynes_KULT.pdf  

     Accessed Feb. 25, 2013.

Hill, John. “Film and Postmodernism” in Film Studies: Critical Approaches. edited by

     John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Newman, Michael. Indie: An American Film Culture. New York: Columbia University

     Press. 2011.

 

 


[1] Hill, Film and Postmodernism, 98.

[2] Cakilar, Cinephilic Bodies: Todd Haynes’s Cinema of Queer Pastiche, 164.

[3] Hill, 98.

[4] Newman, 161.

Ozu and Oshima: Beyond the “Tradition of Nostalgia”.

Ozu and Oshima: Beyond the “Tradition of Nostalgia

            “I depicted the changing relationship between parents and children and how the family system collapsed in Japan”. (Ozu, 1960)

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These words from the iconic director of early Japanese cinema denote a social system that is morphing from a traditional model into something as yet unfamiliar. Throughout its history, from the period of the Tokugawa Empire in the mid 1700’s, Japan has developed as an isolated, and “homogeneous”,[1] society which placed a high value on strong government supported by a stable family model. As the empire evolved into an imperialist regime, these traits followed, and helped to shape the creation of a Japanese national cinema. During the 1930’s, “Studios were ordered not to feature jazz, American dancing, or scenes that might undermine respect for authority, duty to the emperor, and love of family.”[2] Complementing the family model are the extended social connections found within the school and workplace, “Both are almost foster homes; traditionally far less impersonal than their analogues elsewhere”.[3] These foster groups are interdependent, yet may have been subject to disruptive forces occurring in the core family traditions of birth, love, companionship, loneliness, and death. If, as Ozu denotes, the Japanese family system suffered collapse, it may have resulted in a weakened national social identity as reflected in the national cinema. This social identity may also have affected the younger generation of the post-World War II period through evoking radical change in the passive role of the individual within the collectivist culture. It is the focus of this study to consider the cinematic works of two directors as reflective indicators of Japans national and international social identity during the period of this transition.

Firstly, I would like to consider that Yasujiro Ozu created a “Tradition of Nostalgia” which helped to create and preserve a filmic sense of national identity. This was primarily achieved through the subjective cultural representation of the Japanese family in dissolution. The second consideration is that in 1959, Nagisha Oshima began to produce “Japanese New Wave” film, also known as “Nuberu bagu” film. Oshima represented a younger generation and his films were influenced by his exposure to global cinema. The Oshima film, as a counterpart to European “Nouvelle Vauge”, and Western “New Wave” film, moves beyond, the “Tradition of Nostalgia”, and into a more radicalized form of cinema. The films of Oshima exposed Japan’s modern culture by exploring youth dissentient over the subtle family melodramas presented in Ozu’s films. The release period of 1959 to 1967 denotes a cinematic transition from the “Tradition of Nostalgia” into “Japanese New Wave”. These two monumental periods amalgamate the importance of Japanese cinemas in both national and global cinema studies.

Japanese cinema is steeped in two traditions, the jidai-geki or historical film, and the gendai-geki or films depicting contemporary life, the latter of which Ozu’s bijou movies are more aligned. The cinema produced by Ozu and Oshima, which was not readily exported to the West, appears to have lagged in early academic film consideration compared to other movements.

Perhaps it is best to begin by tracing Ozu’s trajectory in terms of his life events. The director is described as a quiet man who never married; he lived with his mother until they both departed within a few months of one another in 1963. It is unclear what role, if any, Ozu’s father played in his life or how it may have affected the subject choice of his films. He was extremely disciplined in his craft and was noted as enjoying strong drink following the days’ shooting schedules. In 1923, according to David Bordwell, Ozu began an apprenticeship at Shochiku studios where his training as assistant camera man and assistant director included shot composition, scriptwriting, and plan continuity.[4] Ozu’s career was interrupted at different times by his deployment in Japan’s military service. In October of 1937, Ozu assumed the role of foot soldier in the war with China and the invasion of Nanking. The capital city fell to the Japanese after fierce fighting and many civilians were killed. This battle is the subject of the arguably propagandist film produced in China, Nanking (2007). This historical documentary style film highlights the severe brutality that was imposed on Chinese citizens by Japanese forces. In an interview, Ozu recounted his desire, during the battle, to capture on film the sound of falling apricots and image of small floating white flowers of a nearby tree following the nearby explosion of mortar rounds.[5]

The experiences that Ozu encountered in war may have profoundly impacted his personal philosophy on life. His commentary on the absurdity of war is evident in his post war statement, “I feel like I began to think positively through the war. I wanted to cry out from the bottom of my heart that every existence is fine as it is!”[6] One can only speculate as to the effects his war experience, and witnessing, what has been described as “the rape of Nanking” had on him. As a filmmaker, however, he observed enough chaos existing in ordinary life that he rescinded the need for overtly false drama. It is reasonable to assume that his exploration of domesticated dwellings and the everyday people that inhabit them provided some therapeutic haven to psychological trauma imposed by his military service. Following his discharge from service, Ozu moved deeper into films depicting the complexities in the meaning of life, such as, The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (1939), through the calm, stable and controlled settings which he created. This film depicted the home front “women’s picture” scenario of a wife’s acceptance of the husband’s military deployment. The film script was censored and pulled from production due to violations of the “1937-1938 Home Ministry Code”.[7] The script and film were later revived and produced by Ozu in 1952.

Once again, in 1941, war interceded in his filmmaking career and he was deployed to Singapore to produce films for the war effort. The imperialist “Home Ministry Code” of Japan cultivated a national audience, and discouraged certain film imports in a strong vertical integrated studio system of production, distribution, and exhibition. Cinema content was controlled in large part by government censorship and more specifically by military censorship during relative spans of wartime and occupation. Film production was considerably reduced, due to a rationing of resources between the years 1942 to 1945. During this time, Ozu produced the Kinema Jumpo award winning-film, There was a Father (1942), which was hailed as a national policy film. This film used a method of character development to bolster an ideology of a national tradition in self-sacrifice and acceptance of one’s military rank. Ozu was captured and remanded to a prisoner-of-war camp before returning to his native land following Japan’s surrender to the United States in 1945. On his return, as an older director, Ozu resumed making films centered on the Japanese family under the scrutiny of the occupation censorship. It was during this period, as Japan underwent its rapid evolution from imperialism towards a more westernized form of parliamentary government, that the “Tradition of Nostalgia” served both the national audience and occupational censors. Ozu’s films provided a haven of cultural nostalgia for national movie patrons, while also satisfying the social identity perceptions of the occupation censor board.

The body of work produced by Ozu is extraordinary. It includes fifty-three film releases between 1927 and 1962, with most being black and white and thirty five of which are silent films. It is not only the number of films, over the thirty-five year period, but rather the developed continuity in thematic, character, and stylistic form which makes them extraordinary. These three strands are interwoven and create a strong filmic identity of the cultural reference within the family, school, and work groups that served the collective society. Through the periods of imperialist expansion by colonization efforts in its War with China, World War II, and Post-War Occupation periods, the films of Ozu helped to preserve a historical reference of Japan’s national identity.

The primary theme in Ozu’s films center on vicissitude within the family by placing an emphasis on examining its subtle changing dynamics. Ozu families matched the ordinariness of Japanese middle class bourgeois lifestyle. The generational discourse can be found therein, “Often a parent is missing, dead or absconded, and the one remaining must rear the children. The dissolution of the family, already begun, is completed by the marriage of the only or eldest child or the death of the remaining parent.”[8] The family in crisis is not handled as overtly dramatic but with a quiet resolve and acceptance. Examples of these melodramas within the text are found in Floating Weeds (1959), “The rest of the syuzhet is built around three melodramatic climaxes”.[9]

Early films recount a pre-modernist era with images of parental homes, “They live in a traditional samurai-style villa and are connected to a variety of Buddhist images, including ceremonies at the time of and one year after the father’s death. Meanwhile, the mother moves about with a caged myna bird and a potted orchid (traditional hobbies) and a picture of father.”[10] The films other iconographical elements include; tatami mats and pillows, close neighbors, kabuki dance, scroll painting, caged birds, tea ceremony, meals, and religious objects. Places once visited and family photographs play an important role in the remembrances of the characters’ lives. Often times, agency is imparted on the still life insert shot object, “When viewers look at the shot of the vase abruptly inserted into the scene, they cannot help staring at it. They are forced to think about the meaning of the vase and interpret it. For Ozu-san the vase in the moon light is an image of purification and redemption.”[11]

The recurring nature of these thematic elements may have evoked a connectedness with the closed national audience. The frequent recasting of actors, in varying roles, also helped to foster identification with the audience. This continuity created a familial sense for the spectator longing to escape to perceived normalcy from the uncertainty of tumultuous periods that faced the nation. It should be noted that the “Tradition of Nostalgia” is less concerned with antecedent representation than acting as a progenitor to coming change. Geist supports this argument by stating “Evocations of traditional Japan offer comfort, but never solution” they also “never point ‘back to Japan’, but always to the future, even when the modern world seems bleak, or, as in Ohayo (1959), where ‘television threatens to create ‘100 million idiots’.[12]

The second strand that comprises the “Tradition of Nostalgia” is that of character. It is primarily through use of character that Ozu imparts the larger ideological messages of his films. Characterization is consistent as “The father or brother is typically shown sitting in his office and the mother or sister doing the housework or serving tea to guests that are always appearing in the Ozu household, the children often study English and the daughter of house can type in English.”[13] Situational events between similar character family members recur in varied form from picture to picture. The family dissolution often results from the daughter leaving the family as in, Late Autumn (1960). Bordwell notes that, “Akiko Miwa and her daughter live happily together, three businessmen, old friends of the family, decide to help Ayako get married.”[14] There is an emptiness that exists around the characters in conjunction with the narrative that “gives the characters no past or childhoods, little expository fleshing-out and still less psychological motivation.”[15] How the characters reach decisions are masked by their subjective mental states. This seems to evoke certain frustrations in some film scholars more accustomed to the cause-effect and goal oriented classical cinema or the ambiguous art-cinema character. The dedramatization permits an openness with the character and hence a strong suture vessel for the spectator. The character existence, similar to a porcelain vase, is filled with the spectators’ own experiences equated to the on-screen events being portrayed. This “drawing out” of the spectators’ internal perceptions through character representation entwines the second strand within the “Tradition of Nostalgia”.

The camera and editing techniques, employed within an Ozu film, complete the final strand of theme, character, and style. Yoshida Kiju explains that very early works by Ozu and his contemporaries, in the late 1920’s, were often influenced by Hollywood “not only in terms of cinematography and lighting, but also for storyline, gags, acting style, and actor’s body movements”.[16] Despite these initial conventions of western cinema practices, the young director soon developed a trend which represents the unique characteristics of an Ozu film. Most notable is a low angle camera shot utilized in the shooting style which forms a familiar image. This quintessential point of view in Japanese society is used in conjunction with eye-line match and creates a marker of national identification. The mise-en-scene low tables, sitting pillows, and Tatami mats, are staples of the Japanese home, and can also be considered as traditional symbolism of Japan nationality.

Moving camera practices were considered by Ozu to be a representation of the director’s authorial commentary. The use of pans, tilts, dolly, and tracking shots were rejected by the director in favor of the static shot with balanced frame. Doorways, windows, and screens are often used to create a frame within the frame. These stylistic practices produce an inverse of the “action film” wherein the image and its cause-effect meaning is thrust upon the spectator. Instead, “When Ozu relinquished, one by one, most of the grammatical elements of cinema, obviously he sacrificed a great deal – most of the means, in fact, and through which film directors ordinarily express themselves”.[17]

This ambiguity in camera shooting style is paralleled by a rejection of film editing conventions. The films do follow a subtle narrative course, but the potential for directing narrative interpretation through editing is avoided. Preferences lean toward the use of linear straight cuts over dissolves, or fades, “One reason was the editing, a process of selection, is so fraught with opportunities for editorializing. Editing, as has been pointed out often enough, offers the director his last and best opportunity to interpret the material. But as we have seen, Ozu did not want to interpret: he wanted to present”.[18]  What Ozu had developed was a stylistic image, in a narrative form, through ambiguous camera and editing technique, which is non-imbued by directorial comment. While early experimentation with stylistic Hollywood techniques were quickly abandoned by him, as stated, “Eventually, he excluded all of these and achieved that famous image that resembles a still photo.”[19] The tradeoff for Ozu’s sacrificing of conventional production techniques was that he gained a refinement in advanced balanced composition and framing. Ozu also refuted advancements in cinema technology through continuing black and white film production long after color film stock was available to him, “He started using color very late and never used widescreen or cinemascope.”[20] The “Tradition of Nostalgia” created an illusion of the contentment for a surrendered society engaged in nation rebuilding. While the cinematic surface represented a setting of peaceful tranquility it also may have masked the voice of restlessness in a new generation that grew hungry to shed oppression of the former occupation.

The new trends of the transnational era of filmmaking, during the early 1960’s, had an influence on modernized Japanese cinema. One of the rising star filmmakers that incorporated stylistic form of “nouvelle vague” directors, such as Jean Luc Godard, was Nagisha Oshima. Controversy surrounded the early political issues found in Oshima’s films. The fourth film produced by Oshima, through Shochiku studios, was entitled Night and Fog (1960). This film was so politically overt that the studio was forced to retract it only a few days after its release. This decision caused the director to part ways with the production company that had first brought him recognition by its release of, Cruel Story of Youth (1959).

To compare the works of Ozu with Oshima’s first notable film is paramount to contemplating the porcelain vase before and after it has fallen from its pedestal and shattered. The family model found within the “Tradition of Nostalgia” era is now completely eradicated as its foundational structure has disintegrated. In its place rises a somewhat disturbing image of self-servitude, lack of traditional values, and absolute disregard for authority.

The nonexistence of thematic consistency in Oshima’s films provides the opposite of all the comfortable familiarity of his predecessor. These films fall into generalized genres of crime, drama, and soft porn. In fairness to the director, Oshima’s career path follows the transnational filmmaking trend of cultivating a youth demographic structured around commercial profitability. In doing so, Oshima readily abandons any responsibility to provide his audience a narrative based upon absolute meaning, opting instead for stories of multi-hypothetical variances. Nowell-Smith states, “It is just that once the hypothesis is formulated its consequences are pursued with a rigor that makes few concessions to ordinary audience expectations”.[21]

Modernized characters, such as the four male students in Sing a Song of Sex (1967), are errant and rebellious with grandiose fantasies of rape and murder. The fantasies are blended with sequences that depict the acts potentially being carried out. There is no firm cause-effect established in this blurring of the characters’ subjective and objective reality coding. The parents in Oshima’s films are rarely mentioned and have little or no positive bearing on the radicalized youth generation. This movement of “Nuberu bagu” also borrows from European and Western cinema movements in its use of documentary footage. In Cruel Story of Youth (1960), this character technique displays the ineffectual protests of students to the American Japan Protection Treaty, a remnant of the post-World War II occupation. The male and female protagonists are ambivalent to this political effort and are instead narcissistically enveloped in their own self-gratification exploits. The young couple is repulsed by members of the former generation and through racketeering and sexual extortion of older businessmen seeks to advance their own fortunes for engagement in frivolous pleasure seeking.

The stylistic camera component in Oshima’s films raises the camera to a western point of view. Moving camera is often utilized and combined with frenetic editing that imparts a directorial influence on the audience. A heightened non-diegetic sound perspective is provided to evoke emotive response in similar fashion to new European and Western film movements. Unlike Ozu, the new films of Japanese cinema are designed to impart an auteur vision of social commentary.

The “Tradition of Nostalgia” served a useful purpose, in providing a haven of Japanese culture for national patrons, and a complacent image of a surrendered society for occupational censors during its tenure. The movement retains its importance in preserving historical references of traditional and modernized images through Japan’s post World War II transition. At its conclusion, in the early 1960’s, the “Tradition of Nostalgia” created by Ozu was replaced by the “Nuberu bagu” film. The definitive shift away from family-oriented cinema towards rebellious youth films provides a marker for the social changes occurring within Japan through the 1960’s. As the shadow of occupation slowly lifted from Japan, an undercurrent of repressive anger, vexing of intervening authority, sexual deviancy, and resentment of apathy in the older generation, bubbled to the cinematic surface. The previously cultivated audiences, raised as children under the occupation known as “MacArthur’s Children”, were summarily dismissed by the youth culture as ineffectual to change. As a reflection of social identity, it may be considered that this new generation stripped away the veneer that Ozu’s “Tradition of Nostalgia” had provided, and in doing so, it revealed the repressive desires which had existed unseen within Japanese society. The centuries of strong governmental rule and strict social hierarchy of family, school, and work were replaced with a degree of individual freedom that had never before been experienced.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Films:

Ozu. The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (1939), There was a Father (1942),

Floating Weeds (1959), Late Autumn (1960),

Oshima. Cruel Story of Youth (1959), Night and Fog (1960), Sing a Song of Sex

(1967)

Guttentag Bill, Sturman, Dan. Nanking (2007)

Bibliography:

Bordwell, David. Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema. London : British Film Institute ;

Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1988.

Fernandez-Armest0, Felipe. “The World: A History”, London: Prentice Hall, 2010.

Geist, Katherine. “Ozu and the Nation”.,Theorizing the Nation, edited by Vitali,

Valentina ., Willamen, Paul. London: British Film Institute, 2006.

Kiju, Yoshida. Ozu’s Anti-Cinema. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies:

University of Michigan, 2003.

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey. “Oshima Revisited” Film Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 2 (Winter

2010), pp.  19-23. Accessed November 16, 2012.

Richie, Donald. “Ozu”, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1974.

Thompson, Kristen., Bordwell, David. “Film History: an Introduction”, Boston:

McGraw Hill, 2010


[1] Felipe Fernandez-Armesto. “The World; A History”. (London: Prentice Hall, 2010), 659.

[2] Kristen Thompson, David Bordwell. “Film History: An Introduction”. (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2010), 229, 232.

[3] Donald Richie, “Ozu”. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 1.

[4] David Bordwell, “Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema”, (London : British Film Institute ; Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1988), 10.

[5] Yoshida Kiju, “Ozu’s Anti-Cinema”, (Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies: University of Michigan, 2003), 40.

[6] Kiju. 2003, 40.

[7] Bordwell, 281.

[8] Richie. 1974, 8.

[9] Bordwell. 1988, 355.

[10] Katherine Geist, “Ozu and the Nation”, in Theorizing National Cinema, Vitali, Valentina., Willamen, Paul.  (London: British Film Institute, 2006), 120.

[11] Kiju. 2003, 80.

[12] Geist. 2006, 125

[13] Richie. 1974, 13.

[14] Bordwell. 1988, 360.

[15] Bordwell. 1988, 71.

[16] Kiju. 2003, 17.

[17] Richie, 1974. 113.

[18] Richie, 1974. 160.

[19] Kiju, 2003. 32.

[20] Kiju, 2003. 32.

[21] Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, 2010. “Oshima Revisited”, Film Quarterly, 64., (Winter, 19-23).

Transgenic Seed

Transgenic Seed

  

  At the base our the food web is the seed. Today’s agricultural seed is increasingly being produced with genetic modification. GMO’s or genetically modified organisms include plants as well as animals. These plants and animals enter the food chain as GMF’s or genetically modified foods. Do you ever stop to consider the impacts of transgenic seed, which is primarily used to grow corn, soybean, rice and cotton. Plant stock is altered genetically by one of two methods. The first method uses agrobacterium, a gram-negative bacterium that produces tumors on plant roots. The tumors contain modified T-DNA which is extracted and used to grow new plants. The second method uses a gene gun to infuse plant cells in a petri dish with trait DNA coated tungsten particles. Most of the plant cells die but the ones that survive incorporate the modified genetic traits. These cells are then grown into plants and produce GM seeds.

   The first genetically modified food was a tomato that was altered to ripen without spoiling and produced a longer shelf life. This tomato was marked as a genetically modified food and was rejected by consumers; it has since been removed from stores. It was then reissued and is sold as unmarked GMF tomato paste. The United States is by far the largest producer of GM crops; other countries include Argentina, Brazil, China, Canada, India and Paraguay. The issue of genetic modification has caused much controversy globally both in public and political areas. Lets looks at who produces and who benefits from transgenic seeds, global acceptance, and some opinions of those opposed the genetic modification of food crops.

   Monsanto Corporation is the world’s largest producer of genetically modified seeds.

 

1.      Monsanto holds exclusive patent for one form of gene modification known as the roundup ready seed.

2.      Roundup ready seed is modified to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, which is used in roundup total vegetation kill herbicide.

3.      Monsanto holds patent and produces the herbicide roundup.

4.      Monsanto combines herbicide resistance gene traits with insect resistance traits in seed production.

5.      Farmers purchase the GM seed and then purchase roundup spray herbicide to total kill all other vegetation.

 

 

Proponents of GM crops claim.

 

1.      GM crops produce higher yields than non-modified crops.

2.      Fewer pesticides are required to spray on insect resistance crops.

3.      Developing countries will benefit from disease resistant crops.

4.      Crops can be engineered to combat climate change.

    The opposition to GM crops has been varied both in geographic acceptance and in its impact on traditional farming. Some countries have banned the use of GM seeds altogether while others have refused food products grown with the seeds. It is estimated that in the U.S. 90% of soybeans and 60% to 80% of all corn grown is from GM seed. These two crops are used in most of the everyday processed foods that consumers purchase. An example is corn syrup that is used in everything from barbeque sauce to soft drinks. Although processed food contain ingredients that are from GM crops, the products do not require to be marked in the U.S.

    As a result of vast U.S. exports of GM seed and food products importing countries have initiated responses that include.

 1.      Required separation of GM ingredients at the production level with GMF labeling.

2.      Cutting off UN World Food program supplies and inducing famine.

3.      Total GM crop failures in some developing countries.

4.      Interruptions of American exports due to unauthorized gene traits.

5.      Moratoriums on harvesting of GM crops due to public demands.

   Environmental groups and other opponents of GM Seed claims include.

 1.      Cross-pollination of GM crops in adjacent fields contaminates traditional seed sources. (Farmers are then restriced from harvesting thier own seed stock)

2.      Excessive roundup herbicide is sprayed and runoff damages surrounding eco systems.

3.      Development of herbicide resistant weeds will create “superweeds”.

4.      Long term health effects to consumers ingesting trace herbicides.

5.      Insect pests developing resistance to GM modified crops creating “Monster Bugs”.

6.      Genetic modified Corn Syrup is used in a majority of processed foods.

    The future outlook for the use of transgenic seed seems unstoppable. The U.S. is expanding its use into other produce crops, while other countries are being forced to accept GM crops in order to compete in the global food market. As the world population continues to grow and more food is required we may have little choice other than to accept food that is designed in a laboratory.