Yesterday was the second and final day of the conference, “Engaging Commodities: Crossing Mass Culture and the Avant Garde in 1960s Japanese Film, Music and Art.” We began in the morning with a panel on “Engaging Cinematic Commodities,” with papers from Junji Yoshida (University of Chicago postdoctoral fellow) on the ways wartime memories were commemorated via jokes in 1960s popular films, Stephanie DeBoer (Indiana University) on the flows of people, technologies and forms between Tokyo and Hong Kong in the musical film genre, and Richard Davis (University of Chicago graduate student) on the depiction of advertising, both visual and aural, in 1960s film.
After lunch, we had a panel on “Radical Visual Culture in 1960s Japan” with Jonathan Hall (Pomona College) situating Okabe Michio’s remarkable 1968 film Crazy Love in dialogue with Susan Sontag’s writings on camp, William Marotti (UCLA) on the significance of early 1960s avant garde musical performances by the Group Ongaku, and Miryam Sas (University of California-Berkeley) on a variety of experimental animated films from the period.
Our last panel covered “Music in Film,” with Daniel Johnson (University of Chicago graduate student) looking at changing modes for representing romance/sex and sentiment/irony in Nikkatsu action films, Michael Raine (University of Chicago) discussing how we might rethink the practices of reading that 1960s popular films seem to suggest as their proper modes of use, and Junko Yamazaki (University of Chicago graduate student) on the use of avant garde musical forms in the film soundtracks composed by Mayuzumi Toshiro.
The conference ended with a screening of the remarkable 1964 Toho musical, Kimi mo shusse ga dekiru (You too can get ahead!, dir. Sugawa Eizo), a marvelous film that brings together many of the themes we had been talking about over the course of the conference. It was a stimulating, sometimes exhilarating, sometimes exhausting two days, and I’m grateful to all of the participants and to all of my colleagues for making it possible.
Here’s a trailer for Kimi mo shusse ga dekiru: