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It’s tough being a humanist: Yōji Yamada, the cynical company man

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Yōji Yamada is noted for directing films in which diligent people from the working class struggle through the disquieting social situation of post-war Japan. As a longtime filmmaker for Shōchiku, Yamada has been faithful to Ōfuna-chō, Shōchiku’s filmmaking doctrine that focuses on working-class characters from a humanistic standpoint, unlike the New Wave filmmakers of the same generation who rebelled against this company doctrine. Yamada’s filmography consists of similar serialized films with characters who are complacent about their standing in the capitalistic system or who choose not to deal with the establishment. What the seemingly humanist films present is cynicism towards humanity and the ideological message of how an individual is impotent to change the social situation and must be resigned to accepting the given conditions. By analysing two films most critical of the working conditions of rural Japan as it succumbs to capitalism, Kazoku (Where Spring Comes Late) (Yamada, 1970) and Kokyō (Home from the Sea) (Yamada, 1972), this article will discuss Yamada’s belief that avoiding revolutionary activity and engaging in labour are the best ways to survive within the system of post-war Japanese society.
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Keywords: Kazoku; Kokyō; Shōchiku; Yōji Yamada; humanism; Ōfuna-chō

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Waseda University

Publication date: April 1, 2019

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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