During the 1910s, film criticism in Japan was flourishing with different schools of thought on what a Japanese film should and could be. Apart from the publicity magazines of film companies and fan magazines, there were also academic publications on the science and art of cinema, and left-leaning film journals that translated the Soviet montage theories of Eisenstein and Pudovkin.
Two largely student-initatied publications that stood out were Kinema Record (founded in 1913) and Kinema Junpo (founded in 1919). Having been exposed to the films from Hollywood and Europe, the student writers were often critical of the Japanese films then. The lack of quality script-writing was a common lament. The writers were no armchair critics; indeed, there was a sense that they were impatient for Japanese films to match up to the foreign films they much admired. Kinema Record sought to influence filmmakers; one of its founding editors, Norimasa Kaeriyama, even went on to lead the Pure Film (Jun Eiga Geki) movement. With the departure of Kaeriyama in 1917, Kinema Record was discontinued, but its reformist spirit inspired subsequent publications.
Generally regarded as the worthy successor of Kinema Record, Kinema Junpo was staffed with a diverse pool of talented critics who grew in prominence with the publication. Tadashi Iijima, a French literature major, advocated film as an art form and introduced the works of Moussinac, Epstein and Mitry. In contrast, Akira Iwasaki was a vocal left-wing critic, historian and producer. He was a key member of Prokino, the Proletarian Film League of Japan (Nihon Puroretaria Eiga Domei). Today, Kinema Junpo is the longest surviving film magazine in the world.
Cinemas of Asia speaks with Keiko Akechi, the Editor-in-chief of Kinema Junpo since 2007. Prior to her current appointment, Akechi was with the film distribution company GAGA Corporation and started four trade magazines in its publication department.
Bee Thiam (BT): Kinema Jumpo was first published in 1919, 13 years before the first issue of Sight & Sound (1932). Can you tell us how Kinema Junpo started? Who were behind it, why did they start the magazine and what were their inspirations?
Keiko Akechi (AK): On July 11 1919, four college students wanted to get closer to movies, and so they created a paper that specialized in foreign films. The first issue was printed on four sheets of art paper, and came to be known as Kinema Jumpo. Since then, it was published three times a month (on the 1st, 11th and 21st). The magazine’s aims were to introduce films, and create a space for cinematic discourse, gradually establishing a platform for film criticism. Incidentally, the first issue had seven pieces of film criticism. Lilian Gish and Margarita Fischer were featured on the cover. The first Japanese actress to grace the cover is probably Keiko Kishi, in the hundredth anniversary reissue that was published in the latter half of September 1954.
BT: What would you regard as the milestones of Kinema Junpo? How has the magazine grown and developed?
AK: With the variegation of entertainment, it has become increasingly difficult to cultivate young cinephiles. At the same time, there has been a proliferation of anonymous film criticism on the internet today. These circumstances greatly threaten the identity of a magazine that solely focuses on film criticism. In the midst of all this, we are trying to find ways to take our past criticisms and interviews of cineastes beyond the pages of our magazine.
娯楽の多様化により、若い映画ファンが育たなくなってきていること。そして、ネット社会の中で、匿名の批評が数多く流通していること。これらの状況は、映 画専門批評誌のアイデンティティを大きく脅かすものです。そんな中、過去の批評や映画作家、役者に対するインタビューなどの記事を、誌面の中に留まらず、 広く流通させてゆく方法を模索中です。
BT: What was the relationship between the writers and the filmmakers? What kinds of films and/or filmmakers did the magazine support and champion?
AK: Instead of sticking to the auteur theory, we try instead to discover new value in every work. Consequently, we consider filmmakers – whether they be young or experienced – on equal footing, discovering what is interesting in each of them from there. However, there are many filmmakers – even experienced ones – who have never had proper critical recognition. We try to acknowledge the talent of these filmmakers within the long tradition of cinema.
作家主義ではなく、作品ごとに新たな価値を発見してゆくことにつとめています。従って、若い映画監督の作品も、キャリアを積んだ映画監督の作品も、同じ土 俵で見て、そこから面白さを見い出してゆく考えです。但し、キャリアを積んだ映画監督のなかにも、その才能にふさわしい批評が出ていないことは数多いた め、そういった長い歴史の中で認められてこなかった才能に対しては、力を入れてその才能を知らしめてゆきたいと思っています。
BT: People usually associate the New French Wave with the Cahiers du Cinéma. Were there critics of Kinema Junpo who went on to become filmmakers of the New Japanese Wave too?
AK: There have been a few critics of Kinema Jumpo who later became filmmakers: Masato Harada, Haruo Mizuno, Makoto Shinozaki, Chiyoko Tanaka. There might have been more in the past too.
ふるくはもっといるかもしれませんが、今、わかる範囲では以下です。 原田真人、水野晴郎、 篠崎 誠、 田中千世子。
BT: What would you regard to be some of the most important articles and writers in the history of the magazine?
AK: We have been around for 93 years, so there can never be an appropriate answer to this question. Every article has a specific importance to the time in which it appeared. There were also innumerable critics who have left their mark in history. However, I think that the best living film critic in Japan today is Mr. Yamada Koichi, who also contributed to Cahiers du Cinéma.
93 年の歴史がありますから、何がその歴史の中で重要な記事であったかと問われると、それに対するふさわしい答えはありません。どの記事も、その時代において 重要であると思います。また批評家も、数多くの歴史に名を残す人がおり、これも特定できません。ただし、現在、日本で存命の批評家の中で最も優れたひとり は、かつて『カイエ・ドゥ・シネマ誌』の同人でもあった山田宏一氏だと思います。
BT: One of the most visible work of Kinema Junpo is the annual awards you give to honour the best of Japanese cinema. Can you tell us how this started and how the voting process works? Were there any highlights in the history of the awards? Were there also any years where the votes were particularly clear-cut or split?
AK: The Kinema Jumpo Top Ten is an awards list of best films that is put together yearly from the votes of film critics. It was first put together in 1924. At the time, only the editors voted, and there were only two categories: Most Artistic Film and Most Entertaining Film. Only foreign films were eligible. As the quality of Japanese cinema improved, these were split into two sections in 1926: Japanese Film and Foreign Film. Excluding the years during the war when it wasn’t held, this list has reached its 84th year in 2010.
This list has the following characteristics:
The 80th edition in 2006 was held as a commemorative edition, where many previous Best Lead Actor and Best Lead Actress awardees showed up as presenters.
最 初にこの賞の投票が行われたのは1924年度。当初は、編集同人のみによる投票で、＜芸術的に最も優れた映画＞と＜娯楽的に最も優れた映画＞の２部門でし た。いずれも外国映画のみだったことも特徴です。その後、日本映画の水準があがったことを機に、1926年からは＜日本映画部門＞と＜外国映画部門＞の２ 部門に変更。戦争による中断があったものの、2010年度のベスト・テンで84回目を数えます。