Film I read a fairly horrifying statistic today and I’m going to reproduce the relevant passages in full hoping that the publishers of The Movie: An Illustrated Guide don’t use their time travelling lawyers to sue me from the past. Italics are mine for emphasis:
“The end of the war found Japan, the last Axis enemy, in a desperate situation. Most cinemas were closed, and though the studios had remained theoretically open, the shortage of materials and equipment was acute. The whole country was place under the regulations of the Supreme Command Allied Forces in the Pacific (SCAP) whose officers drafted and implemented rules about which films should and should not be made.

[…]

Meanwhile the SCAP authorities industriously burned negative and prints of some 225 forbidden films, which included works by outstanding directors like Kinoshita, Ichikawa and Kurosawa.”
The statistic is repeated with greater detail in an article specifically about Japanese cinema from the period:
“Japan had tended to depict its long tradition of a highly structured, feudalistic society very firmly in its films. Prior to the war many films had been made which roused and reinforced the people’s loyalty to the Emperor and the ideals of the nation. During the war such movies had become more overtly propagandist, and it was these to which the new American censors turned their attention. Of the 554 films from the war years, 225 were judged to be feudal or anti-democratic and were ordered to be destroyed. The Occupation forces not only censored complete films, but also kept a watchful eye on new scripts, Kon Ichikawa’s puppet film Museme Dojiji (1946, Girl at the Dojo Temple) was burned simply because he had not submitted the script for approval.”
Isn’t that horrifying? That’s cultural vandalism, plain and simple, and ironically of the kind with the allied forces were supposed to be fighting against in other parts of the world. It’s not unheard of for an occupying force to take control of the local media; it’s quite another thing to go around burning negatives of pieces of art simply because you ideologically disagree with them. Propagandist or not, these films were still important historical documents and lets not forget the work of directors who would go on to become part of the classic cinema canon. You burnt Kurosawa? How would you like it if someone took a torch to John Ford’s Stagecoach, made at roughly the same time. Unthinkable.

My first university dissertation discussed art censorship and I wrote about Heroic Realism in Nazi Germany. These are generally giant kitsch canvases of very Aryan gentlemen standing in fields with hoes or at war, the very model of the super race. They’re rubbish and creepy, but the last thing I’d suggest would be their destruction; store them in a deep bunker somewhere perhaps but they’re a perfect way of revealing the worst excesses of an ideology developed by a very small man (with potentially just one testicle) and did when they were displayed alongside the work of Jewish painters from the period at an exhibition in the mid-90s.

Inevitably, the wikipedia offers some idea of the Kurosawa material which was lost.
“After his directorial debut with Sanshiro Sugata, his next few films were made under the watchful eye of the wartime Japanese government and sometimes contained nationalistic themes. For instance, The Most Beautiful is a propaganda film about Japanese women working in a military optics factory. Judo Saga 2 portrays Japanese judo as superior to western (American) boxing,”
Which don’t exactly sound as though they would stand alongside Rashomon in terms of significance, but they would still have some scholarly interest, in the same way that you can’t completely disregard Hitchcock’s early work, before he discovered the thriller genre.

We were supposed to be the good guys. But then there was the nuclear bomb too.

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