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5 Classic Films From Japan

When people think about Japanese films, most of the time the idea of anime films comes up. The most notable of them being from Studio Ghibli who has created works such as Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro. While these films have been an important part of Japanese cinema, there have been many other films which were influential in popularizing Japanese cinema and have created new genres that have become popular worldwide. I decided to list five classic Japanese films which have been in

Rashomon (1950)

Directed by famous Akira Kurosawa and based off In a Grove by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Rashomon is a crime movie about the murder of a man and sexual assault of his wife. While discovering the events that resulted in the murder, four suspects are interrogated who have widely different retellings of what happened. Rashomon was the first Japanese film that received international attention for its unique way of telling its story, which lead to the term Rashomon effect being created. The movie won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 1951 and the Academy Honorary Award from the Academy Awards in 1952. 

Ikiru (1952)

Ikiru was also directed by Akira Kurosawa and became a hit at the time but is less talked about when looking at classics. It revolves around an aging man who wants to find meaning after finding out he has stomach cancer and will not live for long. The movie also criticizes the inefficiency of Japanese bureaucracy and the shift of the family dynamic in Japan.

Tokyo Olympiad (1965)

Directed by Kon Ichikawa, Tokyo Olympiad is considered one of the best documentaries about sports ever created. It is vastly different from previous olympic documentaries, rather than focusing on the winnings and scores of each sport Kon Ichikawa focused on observing the atmosphere and the human emotions you see in the athletes. When the film was being created, the Japanese government was unhappy with the film as it was the opposite of what they wanted and forced Ichikawa to re-edit the film for release. 

Link to full release of Tokyo Olympiad:

Godzilla (1954)

Directed by Ishiro Honda, Godzilla is a considered to be the grandaddy of the monster movies and created the term kaiju, a Japanese term associated with movies that have giant monsters. While modern kaiju movies are focused on monsters fighting each other, Godzilla focused on the human side, with it criticizing the numerous nuclear testing happening around the world at the release of the film. 

Ghost in the Shell (1995)

Directed by Mamoru Oshii, Ghost in the Shell was originally a manga series created by Masamune Shirow. Ghost in the Shell is about Public Security Section 9 and its leader Kusanagi who is a cyborg. While the movie was considered a flop when it released, it became a cult classic around the world and became one of the Matrix heavy influence. 

Samuel Vandrey is a junior undergraduate majoring in East Asian Language and Culture in Japanese from Hamilton Lugar School and studying for a World Language certificate in Japanese at the School of Education. This is his second semester working at media services.

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