Tag Archives: Media Studies

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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