Doing a little housekeeping here on the ol' blog-o and wanted to give an update of what I've been up to a bit lately.
First off, I posted about this previously, but this past Tuesday (04/28/08) Synapse Films released Karaoke Terror here in the US. The DVD includes my first [printed] liner notes. Shit or not, I hope people are at the very least reading them. (DVD Talk, among other sites, has a good review of the film and favorably mentions both Christine Yano's notes as well as my own in their reviewage. Read it here.) So, in short, buy the DVD so you can read what I have to say. (C'mon, support the good folks over at Synapse films; they make, like, zilch doing this.)
Next, remember I did that Japan Film Festival symposium back in the beginning of April? It went well, all told, and I hope to have some sort of essay version of my talk up on the blog in the future. That said, don't keep your eyes too peeled as they might dry out... (The reality is, that I don't have much time to write critical theory at the moment... Unfortunately...)
The theme of my talk, if you recall, was how the type of horror known as 'J-Horror' is no longer a type of Japanese film but instead a Hollywood (read: American) creation.
To be clear, I am convinced that J-Horror is Japanese in the way that Benihana is Japanese: they're both simulacrum for the real thing. Here's what I mean: in the same way that Benihana's teppanyaki dinner, which is more about the performance than the traditionality of the food, has become what many people in America believe Japanese food to be for the sake of my talk I called this J-Horror simulacrum a 'California Roll'** for Japanese films. This foodstuff would not (until recently) be found in Japan because it's not Japanese.
And while I recognize that the genesis of the J-Horror aesthetic is something which is found originally in Japan, what we see being remade in Hollywood right now is not Japanese. It's a Hollywood view of Japanese horror. This holds true even when the film is made by Japanese director (and in fact, the argument could be made that the films are better when they're not made by Japanese filmmakers.) Notwithstanding all of this, in the same way that the California Roll has become a dish that people who eat Japanese food expect to eat when they go out here in the US, the J-Horror aesthetic is now what people think of when they go see a Japanese horror movie. And to my mind, that cannot be a good thing of for no other reason than it enforces a culture of stagnation.
You want to hear something funny? The MC for the symposium was Ichise Takashige's assistant here in LA. That's 'Mr. J-Horror,' to you. (Ain't coincidence a bitch?)
Anyway, here are the links to the Japanese articles (Nihongo de!). These are both in PDF format.
Variety Japan pdf.
Nikkan Sun pdf.
(** "The origin of the California roll is somewhat murky, but usually food historians credit Ichiro Mashita, sushi chef at the Tokyo Kaikan in Los Angeles with inventing the roll in the early 1970s. Mashita realized the oily texture of avocado was a perfect substitute for toro. He also eventually made the roll "inside-out", i.e. uramaki, because Americans did not like seeing and chewing the nori on the outside of the roll." Link.)