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Daily Archives: October 22, 2009

Pink Cinema Revolution: The Radical Films of Koji Wakamatsu

Several films, grouped under the title of this post, are being shown this weekend, for the first time, in San Francisco.  From the press release:

More than any other Japanese films, those made by Koji Wakamatsu in the ’60s and ’70s are deeply rooted in the political and social upheavals of the era. One of the leaders of ‘pink cinema,’ Wakamatsu has always been obsessed with the history of student protest movements. The term ‘pink cinema’ or ‘pinku eiga’ comes from the English word ‘pink’, and the Japanese word ‘eiga’, meaning cinema. The pinku eiga—or Japanese sexploitation—were independent film productions that from the mid ’60s to early ’70s experimented with a new form of filmmaking that blended sex and violence.

Inspired by the narrative processes, aesthetics and production means of the French New Wave, pink films and their makers are inseparable from the history of the Japanese revolutionary left. This film movement, certainly the most extreme that developed at the time in industrialized countries, is nonetheless comparable to the cinema of Pasolini or Fassbinder, distilling the same subversive tendencies and denunciation of “bourgeois morality.” (Michaël Prazan)


Today the Chinese Visa Office in San Francisco is as delightful as usual, snug on a corner in Japantown.   After the commerce has been transacted, and the chatting done with the Russian immigrant security guard, I exit.  Here the sunlight splashes down on a California day, and the nice Falun Gong lady just outside smiles, her back to the drawings of vivisections and the obligatory photographs of the Heilongjiang struggle sessions from Red Color News Solider.  So I decide to go back inside for a little light reading.  Three big identical stacks of China Daily are there, just sort of airy and positive as everything else in this room.  No one seems to mind about the vivisections outside and everyone just smiles at each other and does what needs to be done.

For the handsome businessman, it is checking his beautiful hair.  For the woman at the information desk, it is switching flawlessly between three languages — English, Mandarin, and Cantonese — while handling dollars and taking photos.  For the security guards, it is describing the meaning of auto insurance.  For the women behind the windows, it is passport handling.  No bargaining allowed — can I really be on the sacred territory of the People’s Republic?

And thus:

China Daily reports that a Chinese firm is building a large hotel in Havana, the Hotel Hemingway, in anticipation of upswing in American tourists.

China Daily excitedly recaps the soft-power victory unfolding in Carnegie Hall, reported on this blog long ago in stellar fashion which the China Daily, even with a thoughtful piece on “the Class of 1978” composers, can rival in style.

The Epoch Times outside counters with an article by Kremea Krumova about Chinese classical violinists.  Stephanie Chase notes: “Being a classical musician — in solo and chamber music — is an ideal state of existence.”  And a long review of the rather stuffy book (which is really a glorified article in huge print) “Egg on Mao,” in which a Canadian of Chinese ancestry “sneaks into Southern Hunan Province” to talk to locals.  What?  If you want to learn what happened to the guy who threw eggs at Mao’s portrait over Tiananmen in 1989, there’s a short, sweet, and to the point piece in the Parisian journal Liberation which takes care of you much faster!

Last thing — staying down the street from the Japanese-American Citizens’ League has made me mindful of the tensions in Chinatowns and Nihon-machi in the 1930s.  With our monolithic title “Asian-American” and the shaping of various narratives, there isn’t much room for discussion of intra-Asian competition in American West Coast cities in that period — but I think it should be discussed more widely!

Everyone needs to read the book Before Internment.   One single chapter describes how Japanese-American organizations supported the Japanese war effort in China after 1937 (a support which certainly wasn’t against the law), but it skates around the notion that Chinese-Americans may have been at the forefront of pushing for the internment of Japanese-Americans.  After all, there were also business advantages which could, and did, accrue.  It’s not to set Asian-American communities against one another, but as we’re getting away from this period of history and witnesses to the late 1930s are fewer, it may be a good time to explore this idea in the matrix of Asian-American history and how it fits into the broader history of the War of Resistance/Fifteen-Year War/Pacific War/World War II in Asia.