From Osaka to the Gion: Vernacular Modernism in Kenji Mizoguchi’s Osaka Elegy (1936) and Sisters of the Gion (1936)

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Author: Paul Spicer, Hiroshima Jogakuin University, Japan
Email: pspicer@gaines.hju.ac.jp
Published: July 31, 2017
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijmcf.4.1.06

Citation: Spicer, P. (2017). From Osaka to the Gion: Vernacular Modernism in Kenji Mizoguchi’s Osaka Elegy (1936) and Sisters of the Gion (1936). IAFOR Journal of Media, Communication & Film, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijmcf.4.1.06


Abstract

One of the most innovatory models for re-appraising the way in which popular cinema is able to articulate social and cultural change has been provided by Miriam Hansen’s idea of "vernacular modernism" (Hansen 2000). Hansen examines how cinema provided a popular, quotidian modernism in the context of western industrial influence upon East Asian culture. However, her definition does not explore the notion of vernacular as an embedded discourse, one which combines both traditional and modern forms. In an article entitled "Vernacular Culture" in the journal American Anthropologist, Margaret Lantis uses vernacular to connote "the culture-as-it-is-lived appropriate to well-defined places and situations" (1960: 205).

This paper will examine how Kenji Mizoguchi deploys this "regional vernacular style" through two of his seminal 1930s pictures. This will be explored through two areas where this style might be most obviously articulated; contemporary culture, and mise en scène.

Keywords

Japanese cinema, culture, Mizoguchi Kenji, Isuzu Yamada, Vernacular Style, mise en scène, Miriam Hansen, Margaret Lantis, tradition, modernity