Cinema: “Tora-san” by Yamada Yoji, 25 years of the lifetime of Japan

Tradition

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Excerpt from “Love below a Parasol”, fifteenth film within the sequence “Tora-san”, directed by Yamada Yôji in 1975. (Supply: Telerama)

Anybody who has hung out in Japan has inevitably seen a “Tora-san”. Not per week goes by with out one or two movies from this saga being proven on tv in Japan. However few know the director: Yamada Yôji and even much less the work of this prolific filmmaker. This hole is crammed due to Claude Leblanc’s in depth monograph (752 pages): Japan as seen by Yamada Yōji, printed by Editions Ilyfunet. For individuals who wish to see movies by Yamada, the Maison de la tradition du Japon in Paris affords till March 2023 the retrospective devoted to the cult sequence. It is exhausting to be a person! (Otoko wa tsurai yo), higher recognized by the title of its protagonist Torah San. Interview with Claude Leblanc.

Why did you select to be involved in Yamada Yôji?

Claude LeBlanc: His cinema is widespread, nevertheless it shouldn’t be lowered to the one sequence It is exhausting to be a person. The remainder of his work is writer cinema. We are able to additionally see Tora-san like the films of an author-filmmaker. If this sequence wasn’t of high quality, it would not final as lengthy. It began in 1969 and resulted in 1996 when the lead actor who performed Tora-san died. Round this character’s hapless amorous adventures, Yamada has constructed a whole atmosphere the place the Japanese acknowledge one another, making a documentary about Japanese society spanning 1 / 4 of a century of Japanese life. That’s the reason the Japanese nonetheless really feel related to this sequence, which ended nearly thirty years in the past. If it weren’t for that public curiosity, the televisions would not rebroadcast his works as repeatedly.

Yamada sheds a social gentle on Japan, however does so with out provocation. That is the distinction with, for instance, a filmmaker like Ôshima Nagisa who revolted towards his nation and expressed it with a sure violence. The Japanese are in Yamada’s tone, to the purpose the place sure parts of his movies have been translated into code. For instance, a yellow handkerchief signifying hope: that is from considered one of his 1977 titles, The yellow handkerchiefs of happiness. The story of a prisoner who has simply served his sentence and returns to seek out his spouse, starring Takakura Ken. This movie might be launched in France on DVD and Blu-ray in August by Carlotta.

Yamada has a protracted profession and but he stays unknown overseas…

As an instance within the West! As a result of Tora-san and the remainder of Yamada’s filmography is well-known in Asia. This has a number of causes. One is that critics are slightly lazy and content material to see the competition’s lineup. If we’re slightly curious, we uncover different authors who deserve it. We nonetheless shoot 500 to 600 films in Japan yearly. And even when solely 10% is value , it’s nonetheless 50 to 60 works a 12 months that deserve consideration. Nonetheless, in France, on common, solely 8 Japanese movies are launched per 12 months! The second duty lies with the Japanese authorities and studios. Japan has no technique to advertise its cinema. The flicks we see outdoors the Archipelago aren’t “exported” by Japan, however “imported” by the distributors themselves, do you see the nuance?

It’s not that the Japanese authorities doesn’t have a cultural coverage. However it’s targeted on custom. If you wish to placed on a kabuki present in Paris, you will discover grants, however when you’re planning a movie competition, you will not get a cent. A number of necessary filmmakers corresponding to Kore-Eda Hirokazu and Yamada Yôji have simply referred to as on the authorities to create a selected group modeled on what exists in France to handle and promote the distribution of Japanese cinema past its borders. [Cette demande récurrente et remontant déjà aux années 1980 n’a jamais abouti, NDLR.]

And once I discuss displaying Yamada’s movies in Europe, the Shôchiku studios reply that “foreigners won’t ever perceive his movies”. The success of the screenings of Tora-san on the Maison de la Tradition du Japon in Paris proves that this bias is a mistake.

How can Yamada Yôji communicate to us Westerners?

Yamada Yôji is at first an incredible screenwriter. Aside from one movie of the 89 he has directed, he wrote the screenplays for his characteristic movies himself. It’s a advantage to be acknowledged and due to this fact “the standard of his tales speaks to us”. For us, Yamada is a have a look at Japan. When touring to Japan, it’s not unusual to return throughout plaques, for instance, marking the filming places of an episode of the sequence It is exhausting to be a person! This demonstrates the significance of Yamada within the Japanese collective consciousness. He’s additionally an incredible humanist and this philosophy is mirrored in his work. This makes it common. It tells us what happiness ought to be, but in addition what hope is. These are themes that instantly have an effect on everybody, be it Japanese or international.

And to your self, how does Yamada communicate to you?

Likelihood of life performed, you could possibly say destiny. After I arrived in Japan in 1984, I used to be staying with a household within the countryside. Sooner or later these folks took me to the cinema to see the final one Torah-san. I spoke poor Japanese, however this movie struck me for its correct tone, its view of on a regular basis life. Then I purchased a group of things from Yamada. His model was fairly easy and straightforward to learn for a newbie like me. What I learn stayed with me. Since then, Yamada has form of change into my information. Initially, a geographical information as he has filmed in all areas of Japan and there are traces in his movies of all of the locations I’ve visited for forty years. He was additionally my information to enter and perceive Japanese society from inside. He exhibits us subtly. Due to him I found it. And this ebook is, in a way, the expression of my gratitude to him.

Interview by Bruno Birolli

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Concerning the writer

Bruno Birolli, a longtime journalist in Asia for the Nouvel Observateur, lived in Tokyo (in 1982 after which from 1987 to 1992), Hong Kong (1992-2000), Bangkok (2000-2004) and Beijing (2004-2009). Shortly after his return to Paris, he exchanged his journalistic garments for these of a author. He printed historic books (“Ishiwara: The Man Who Began the Battle”, Armand Colin, 2012; “Port Arthur February 8, 1904 – January 5, 1905”, Economica, 2015) earlier than beginning the novel. Revealed in 2017 by Tohu Bohu, Le Music-Corridor des espions is the primary in a sequence on Shanghai, adopted by Lands of Evil (Tohu Bohu, 2019). The second version of his ebook “Ishiwara, the Man Who Began the Battle” is accessible in print on all Amazon websites on the planet.

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