There’s a great bit in a recent Radio 3 Nightwaves show discussing Tokyo Story where it’s posited that Osu shot from a low angle in order to create a philosophically buddhist and Japanese aesthetic. It was a really lovely and poetic idea that was promptly shot down by Naoko Shimazu, who said it was primarily because he didn’t want the cables that littered his film sets seen on film.
This was totally awesome. These critics, who love and study Osu and Tokyo story in particular, who live in a postcolonial post Edward Said world still orientalised this film maker of whom we as a film culture are intimately entwined with. If anyone should have been able to look through his race it should be these scholars, right?
I’m living in Asia, and keep coming up with grand theories about why Taiwanese people do things. I also have Taiwanese people (adult students, coworkers, people I am on a date with) show me their asinine assumptions about why Westerners (because there isn’t much of a difference between a Kiwi and an American, or a Californian and a person from Montana, we won’t even mention racial/cultural identities.) do things like say ‘let’s get lunch’ when they really don’t plan on eating lunch. Yes, it is because we secretly hate you and don’t want to spend time editing your IELTS Prep cramschool homework. No; it’s not because we have no concept of how time works.
It’s not a terrible thing all the time; Japan wouldn’t have modern manga and the super flat aesthetic without their initial appropriation of western animation, and Bertol Brecht couldn’t have developed gestus without a profound misunderstanding of Chinese Opera. It is really annoying to live through on a day to day basis though.
If people who are actually paid to think can still profoundly misjudge something as simple as a film shots construction based upon material limitations, how can I figure out the culture I am immersing myself in?
It’s sad, because I had a pretty good theory that Taiwanese women only wear fake eyelashes because they function like individual baseball caps; protecting their eyes from bright light while at the same time not flattening their hair.
Sigh. Back to the drawing board.