Category Archives: East Asian cinema

Project Completed – The Makino Mamoru Collection on the History of East Asian Film, 1863-2015 [Bulk Dates: 1920s-1990s] : A New Beginning of East Asian Film Studies and Beyond

The Makino Collection has now been fully arranged.

This archive started with one book by Charlie Chaplin, discovered at a secondhand bookstore. This provoked a passion for cinema in the young man who found it, inspiring him to become a filmmaker. Over the course of fifty years, the archive grew and his passion was realized, as he was established as a filmmaker and scholar, wishing to form a center for film studies. During this time, a number of students of film studies from Japan, as well as internationally, visited his house, which became a maze of archives – many of these students have since become accomplished film scholars.
Now all materials in the collection are open to the public at Columbia, finding a new place to welcome scholars. The broad range of materials in this collection will offer new scholarly perspectives on film studies of the pre- and post-war years for researchers.


The finding aid, a consolidated information list of the collection, is now accessible online, through Columbia University Libraries’ Archival Collections Portal. Please browse through the finding aid, and enjoy the collection that has taken over seven years of processing.


The Makino Mamoru Collection on the History of East Asian Film, 1863-2015 [Bulk Dates: 1920s-1990s]

The Finding Aid URL:

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Film Advertisements in Newspapers: Extremely Rare and Ephemeral

The Makino Collection, Columbia University

A newspaper advertisement for a British film from September 1965. GOLDFINGER, directed by Guy Hamilton

So, as we’ve established, film fliers are ephemeral. Unless they happened to end up in the hands of collectors, they are supposed to be discarded after being distributed in conjunction with a film’s release. However, there is more ephemeral media than just film fliers: film advertisements within newspapers, for example, when a film is brought to the public, a variety of promotional methods could be used. Newspaper advertising is one of the traditional methods to promote films among a broad range of audiences.

Newspapers report up-to-date news and information. After reading through a paper, most often, we immediately discard it. The advertisements are a sub-content of the paper, but can be more significant, for example, especially when a full page is designated for it. The newspaper’s nature, immediacy of information makes film advertisements in it a lot different from the contents of regular film fliers.

With this in mind, we will look at some interesting newspaper film advertisements from the Makino Collection.

The Makino Collection, Columbia University

An unknown newspaper advertisement for a Japanese film, December 1961. TSUBAKI SANJYŪRŌ, directed by Kurosawa Akira, distributed by Tōhō

Newspaper advertisements are different because they include not only film images, but also fresh eye-catching copy, which cannot be seen in typical film ephemera. Since newspapers are not meant to be preserved over time, the contents of newspaper advertisements need to be up-to-date, fresh and entertaining. The big difference, which is also the most entertaining thing about them, is that film advertisements will be flashy, appealing, and include funny slogans with weird wording, in contrast with the more polished look of film fliers, which usually features an elaborate design.

“Well-received! Horrendously popular! You should hurry!” (Goldfinger, 1965)

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The Unparalleled Japanese Artist (Part III): Hisamitsu Noguchi, Admired by the French Filmmaker François Truffaut

As we have discussed earlier on this blog, film ephemera have evolved from the simple stereotypical style when there were lots of strict conventions, such as presenting the film title and a close-up still of the lead actor or actress, to a variety of elaborate designs. Beginning in the 1980s, as all aspects of film diversified, film poster artists developed their own style. Today, film ephemera, the direct form of film promotion, are no longer merely commercial media; they have been established as a place for artists to display their interpretation of each film, beyond the movie screen.

The Makino Collection, Columbia University in the City of New York

Japanese variant design by Noguchi. British film flier. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981), directed by John Glen

Here is another interesting story about one Japanese artist and his work, who was supported by an innovative film company, caught the eye of one French filmmaker. The subsequent series of artwork was eventually highly received internationally.

Hisamitsu Noguchi (1909-1994), a graphic designer as well as a famous jazz and musical critic, was one of the notable cinema poster designers for pre- and post-war films in Japan.

Noguchi was originally a true film aficionado, and he belonged to a cinema club after joining the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (currently Tokyo University of the Arts). While he initiated lots of projects, including independent film productions, his interest in European films led him to design film posters rather than film production itself. The color, composition and typography of posters for European films, especially elegant designs by Soviet Union and German creators, genuinely influenced his esthetic and artistic sensibility, including those for Sergei Eisenstein’s Old and New/Старое и новое/Staroye i novoye (1929) and Aleksandr Dovzhenko‘s Earth/Земля/Zemlya (1930). Thus, Noguchi chose to design original posters for his graduation project. The project, consisting of seven posters, including Germany’s 1931 film Mädchen in Uniform/Girls in Uniform, was sublime in quality, and all the posters were purchased by the art school (Nemoto, 2011).

The Makino Collection, Columbia University in the City of New York

Designed by Noguchi. A program of French Film Festival in Tokyo ’66


Noguchi had long been wanting to join a film company as a creator, particularly Tōwa. Tōwa, the pioneer of European film distribution, was established by Nagamasa Kawakita (1903-1981), and it had long been Noguchi’s dream film company. In 1933, Noguchi had his dream come true; he finally joined Tōwa, after frequent visits to the company with his portfolio of original film posters. Soon after, this young man, who was just a big film fan, made it all the way to the top of cinema culture. Continue reading

The Unparalleled Japanese Artist (Part II): A Collaboration in Perfection, Ken’ichi Samura and Jῡzō Itami

As we discussed in the previous blog entries, film poster creators were a great part of the film ephemera evolution, that removed the distinction between commercial art and cinema art. While all aspects of film were dramatically transformed, the style of collaboration to produce film posters also changed. Filmmakers and poster creators started to seek new styles of producing works of cinema art, which enhanced film promotion and the appeal of the film itself.

The Makino Collection, Columbia University in the City of New York

Japanese film flier, designed by Ken’ichi Samura. The “Ramen Western” film, Tampopo (1985), directed by Jῡzō Itami

Today, in terms of creativity, the traditional rules no longer bind film poster artists. These artists have firmly established the film poster as a place to display their artistic interpretation of each film, beyond the movie screen.

One interesting collaboration between a filmmaker and an artist offers an example of the unique form of cinema art production. Ken’ichi Samura, a graphic designer, served as the art director for all ten films directed by the filmmaker Jῡzō Itami (1933-1997). Itami was a Japanese filmmaker, actor, illustrator, and industrial designer. He is known for his much acclaimed work, Tampopo (1985), and as the husband of the actress Nobuko Miyamoto, who appeared in all his films after The Funeral (1984).
Samura and Itami first met in the 1980’s, in order to work together for a commercial product design. They then became life-long work partners. Samura not only worked on Itami’s films, but also served as an art director for Itami’s productions. When Itami published a series of books, Samura also designed the covers. Samura came to know fully Itami’s needs, and contributed to bringing Itami’s film to the kind of perfection that is aligned with Itami’s philosophical perspective. In a book about Itami’s life and work, Samura quotes Itami to depict the filmmaker’s radical philosophy of film and design:

Everything appears in cinema, even those tiny objects that can be seen at the edge of the screen. It is all cinema. (2007)

Samura designed all of Itami’s iconic movie posters and pamphlets, as well as graphics used in Itami’s films. Once you saw their film posters, you never forgot them. The unique style in this series of film posters is instantly recognizable as an Itami film.

Itami was always trying to alter the traditional style of film production and film promotion. Accordingly, he established his own style of promoting films. He even prepared the press releases for many of his films before shooting began. He broke tradition by doing everything himself: he wrote his own screenplays, raised funds, and produced his films.

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Japanese Post-War Culture and Foreign Cultures: An Example of the Avid Adaptation of Foreign Culture and Creation of Neo-Hybrid Culture

Now you have a rough idea of the process of integration and huge presence of yōga (foreign films) in Japan and how they reflected the status of the post-war cultural revolution in Japan. While the archival processing is underway, we will look at one lovely example of ephemera, an LP record-sized leaflet, which could also serve as the cover for the soundtrack that was released at the same time as an Italian popular crime-comedy film, “Sette uomini d’oro (Seven Golden Men),” which was directed by Marco Vicario (1965).

Film ephemera from the Makino Collection, Columbia University in the City of New York

Italian film flier (spread). Seven Golden Men/Sette uomini d’oro, directed by Marco Vicario (1965)

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, records became popular in Japan, and film ephemera from this era can often be seen in this form. It is interesting to see how differently film ephemera represented one film, due to corresponding trends or Asian perspectives. Film ephemera show us how films were promoted in order to appropriately appeal to audiences in each cultural setting.

Film ephemera from the Makino Collection, Columbia University in the City of New York

Japanese anime film program. LUPIN THE THIRD: THE CASTLE OF CAGLIOSTRO/Lupan sansei: Kariosutoro no shiro (1979), directed by one of the greatest animation directors in Japan, Hayao Miyazaki. The action sequences have influenced lots of productions; they have been highly praised by Steven Spielberg, and an influence on his films, such as Indiana Jones

This Vicario film became one of the models for a famous Japanese manga/anime series, Lupin the Third (Rupan sansei), created by the manga artist Monkey Punch (Katō Kazuhiko). Lupin the Third was first published as manga in 1967, and then later animated for TV, cinematized, and even recreated as video games in the 1970’s due to its huge popularity.

Interestingly, the author was strongly influenced by the drawings of American comic artist Mort Drucker, as well as American humor magazine Mad. And Lupin the third is the grandson of the fictional gentleman thief, Arsène Lupin, which was created by a French novelist, Maurice Leblanc. James Bond, of popular spy movies, was his model. Inspector Kōichi Zenigata, the long standing rival of Lupin, was created to make him and Lupin a human “Tom and Jerry,” an American animation. Femme fatale Fujiko Mine was created to be Lupin’s Bond girl. Samurai Daisuke Jigen was based on James Coburn, from the 1960 American Western, The Magnificent Seven. Monkey Punch, the author, was also inspired by The Three Musketeers and the films of Alfred Hitchcock, and his creations reflect their influences. I could tell you plenty more of his influences, but I don’t want to bore you.

The completely new style of hybrid manga, which artfully adapted charming aspects of foreign cultures, was extremely well-received not only in Japan; this made-in-Japan product was translated into many languages and appreciated the world over. In reverse, the manga series and films have been quite influential on other productions in the world as well. Even now, its popularity continues; this manga series is always highly ranked in nation-wide surveys. Continue reading

The Transition of Pre- and Post-War Film Ephemera in Japan

Film Ephemera from the Makino Collection, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Pre-war film schedule bulletins. Shinjuku, Showakan News, No. 246, 255, 258, 264, 265 (1938)

The initial style of the film handbill, or flier, was seen in Japan before World War IIThere were a limited number of movie theaters in Japan at this period, and films were promoted by theaters themselves. The pre-war handbills in the Makino Collection were printed on coarse paper and produced by the movie theaters, unlike the current Western style. The design uses traditional Japanese writing styles, such as inscribing phrases from right to left.

The original style of film programs began to be distributed as a free-of-charge weekly bulletin, which were published by film theaters just like film fliers. There was no boundary between flier and program at this point.

Film Ephemera from the Makino Collection, Columbia University in the City of New York.

Occupation period foreign film leaflets. American Picture News by CMPE (reprint, 1984). From left: The Maltese Falcon (1951), directed by John Huston; The Pirate (1951), directed by Vincente Minnelli

After the war, starting from Subaruza in the Yῡrakuchō neighborhood of Tokyo, the American style of roadshow theatrical release permeated all of Japan, which was led by the Central Motion Picture Exchange (CMPE). CMPE published and sold their own film programs for their distributed Hollywood films during the occupation period. Meanwhile, the number of theaters dramatically increased, reaching its peak in 1960.


* CLICK TO ENLARGE * Attendance at pre- and post-war film theaters, and the historical background in Japan. Source: Compiled by C. V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University in the City of New York, based on data from The Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, Inc (2014); Senjika no Nihon eiga by Furukawa Takahisa (2003); the Cabinet Office, Government of Japan (2014)

* CLICK TO ENLARGE * Attendance at pre- and post-war film theaters, and the historical background in Japan. Source: Compiled by C. V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University in the City of New York, based on data from The Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, Inc (2014); Senjika no Nihon eiga by Takahisa Furukawa (2003); the Cabinet Office, Government of Japan (2014)

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The Film Ephemera Collection within the Makino Collection: The Uniqueness of Japanese Film Ephemera

Japanese film program from the Makino Collection

Japanese film program. Rampo (1994), directed by Rintarō Mayuzumi

The ephemera within the Makino Collection are the most vibrant part of it. Generally speaking, the word “ephemera” means “something which has a transitory existence”. What exactly does “ephemera” mean in the archival world and in library and information science? The term is defined by the Library of Congress (2008) as:

non-commercial, non-book publications in the form of pamphlets, handbills, leaflets, broadsides, position papers, minutes of meetings, information sheets, bulletins, newsletters, posters, moving images and photographic documentation.

Ephemeral materials may also be produced in a variety of electronic formats, such as web sites, web pages, web logs, pod casts, etc. These materials are typically published outside of official or normal channels.

The Makino Collection’s post-war film ephemera mainly consist of film programs and fliers.

Imported film program. À bout de souffle/Breathless revival (1978), directed by Jean-Luc Godard

French film program. À bout de souffle/Breathless revival (1978), directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Imported film program. Saturday Night Fever (1978), directed by John Badham

American film program. Saturday Night Fever (1978), directed by John Badham

Japanese film ephemera are considered to be very unique. Why? What makes Japanese film ephemera so special? Film ephemera are considered to be one of the most significant aspects of films in Japan. Film programs, especially, are extremely unique, in that all films in Japan, including revivals and retrospectives, produce film programs that are on a level not seen in the United States and other countries. There is no other country like Japan, where every variety of film publishes an elaborate program, which is sold at movie theaters only during the film’s run. Interestingly, the majority of audiences are accustomed to, or cannot resist purchasing a program when they are at the movie theater. It is like getting popcorn at a movie theater in the United States. In Japan, audiences purchase a film program instead of popcorn, or they might get both. In this way, film programs have always been present in the lives of Japanese theater goers broadening their film intelligence, and showing them the larger world. Continue reading

Yōga (Foreign films) and hōga (Japanese films): An Overview of the Japanese Film Industry as Represented in the Makino Collection

The most prevalent films in Japan could be roughly separated into two genres: hōga (Japanese films) and yōga (imported/international/foreign films). According to the Japanese dictionary Daijirin, yōga is understood as “films which were produced in Western countries. Also, the term could indicate foreign films in a broad sense”.

Right after World War II, films which were imported to Japan were overwhelmingly American and European. Therefore, most films, excluding domestic ones, were called yōga (=Western, ga =image/film). In the 1970’s, films from all areas in the world including Asian films began to enter the Japanese film market. Today, the Japanese film market is diverse; a myriad of film productions and distribution companies are multinational enterprises in the world market. In other words, films nowadays are the borderless product of multinational investments and productions. Therefore, the expression “yōga” is losing its intrinsic meaning, but it is still used as a term for foreign or international films in Japan.

* CLICK TO ENLARGE * Overview of post-war Japanese film industry. Source: Compiled by C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University in the City of New York, based on data from the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, Inc. (2013)

* CLICK TO ENLARGE * Overview of post-war Japanese film industry. Source: Compiled by C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University in the City of New York, based on data from the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, Inc. (2013)

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A Hidden Collection to be Revealed: Makino Collection Film Ephemera and Rare Book Project

Council on Library and Information ResourcesThe final phase of the project to make hidden treasures from the Makino Collection available to the public has started moving ahead.
The Makino Mamoru Collection on the History of East Asian Film has been lauded for its scholarly value and awarded a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, through the administration of the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR), as a Hidden Collections project. The final phase to make these hidden treasures available to the public has resumed. According to an initial survey, total number of materials in this collection reaches nearly 80,000 items. While approximately half of the entire collection has already been processed, the CLIR project consists of two main goals: to process the remaining film ephemera and catalog the rare books and monographs. The archival materials awaiting processing are mainly post-war film ephemera. Approximately 6,500 items in the “hidden collection” are to be arranged, described, and preserved in order to enhance access, expand research potential, and inspire new theories on East Asian Film.

As is often observed in academic film studies, Japanese film scholars have had difficulty obtaining comprehensive research materials, which has undervalued the importance of collecting and preserving materials on this subject. Unfortunately, this trend has moved the focus onto less valuable forms of media in the field of Japanese film studies. In a 2011 publication, the collector, Mr. Makino Mamoru explained the reason for the absence of academic resources, using a term, “le septième art [the seventh art],” coined by an Italian film theoretician, Ricciotto Canudo in 1911: “In the past, when discussing the culture or artistic genre of each period, film was long considered a sub-culture, and treated as le septième art, in contrast with existing traditional artistic fields such as literature, painting and music.” Because of this attitude, very few resources have been accumulated. Moreover, collectors generally focus on film stills and posters, which represent the esthetic aspects of movies. Aware of this issue, Mr. Makino has endeavored to collect print materials related to film history in addition to images. He decided that this vibrant print culture needed to be collected before being completely lost.

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East Asian Cinema Materials

I am often asked about Chinese and Korean cinema materials in the Makino Collection. Since processing began with the prewar Japanese materials in the collection, I usually explain that I haven’t gotten to the Chinese and Korean materials yet. This past December, I decided to start going through the boxes that my guide to the collection suggests may be East Asian related. This rough guide was compiled when the materials were packed and shipped to the U.S. from Tokyo. It divides the entire collection into 9 sections.  It indicates there are cinema resources for East Asia, items from South and North Korea (pre and postwar), China (former Manchuria, Manchurian cinema related, Shanghai cinema studio in the 1930s and programs from the 1940s), Taiwan (pre and postwar), and Hong Kong (pre and postwar) related materials. These boxes are located in the 1st of the 9 sections for the collection and it contains 166 boxes in all. Of these 166 boxes, I have processed 7 and seen the contents of an additional 12 (related to Charlie Chaplin, the Soviet Union, and various other Western cinema topics). In case you are wondering, each box is 40cm×34cm×27cm in size and contains somewhere between 10 to 40 items.

The guide also indicates there are materials related to East Asia in the section on materials from 1940 through the 1970s (the 5th section). Since I have a box number range for these, I decided to start with these 15 boxes first. Of these, 13 contain books about East Asia, some cover history or literature, some are cinema related, and some are written in Korean and Chinese. Most, however, are written in Japanese about Korea, Manchuria, China, and elsewhere in Asia. There are journals in 1 ½ boxes in Japanese about South Korea like Gendai koria/現代コリ(which Columbia already has from 1984, call number: DS901 .C451), and Kikan Sanzenri /季刊 三千(title Romanized in Korean as Kyegan samchoʻŏlli, of which Columbia also already has all 50 issues, call number: DS901 .K53). To give you an idea of what books are here, I made a rough list of the box contents for 11 of them.



I will send these boxes back to ReCAP for the monographs to be cataloged at a later date. That said, they can be recalled in advance and hopefully the above list of books will be useful to you. Now, I move on to the remaining 147 boxes that may contain East Asian cinema archival materials…