Illustrating isolation: Visual strategies in the films of Kon Ichikawa | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Volume 34, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 1059-440X
  • E-ISSN: 2049-6710

Abstract

In this article, I attempt to establish some auteurist coordinates for analyses of the films of Kon Ichikawa. Though historically overlooked in studies of Japanese cinema in favour of more classical filmmakers like Yasujirō Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi and Akira Kurosawa on the one hand and more contemporary filmmakers like Seijun Suzuki, Takeshi Kitano and Takashi Miike on the other, I argue that Ichikawa is a unique and skilled auteur whose complex narratives and powerful themes are manifest in his richly idiosyncratic visual strategies. Towards the goal of capturing the scope and diversity of his prolific career, I explore films from (1955) and (1958) through (1959) and (1963) up to (1977) and (1983). In so doing, I strive to distinguish Ichikawa from contemporaries like Ozu and elucidate the specifics of his unique visual strategies. Focusing on his penchant for character studies and his ability to isolate his characters in physical space in front of the camera as well as within the space of the frame itself, I argue that the unifying thread in Ichikawa’s career is his fascination with outsider characters alienated from friends, family and society and whose isolation he depicts by virtue of brilliant use of both the full and widescreen frame, by playing with foreground and background, by utilizing light and shadow and by subverting shot/reverse shot editing. Whether in comedic or dramatic contexts, and whether in period sagas or contemporary stories, Ichikawa devoted himself to lonely characters in crisis and committed his to the externalization of the internal thoughts and emotions of his anguished characters.

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2023-07-05
2024-02-21
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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): auteur; film theory; isolation; Japanese cinema; mise en scène; Yasujirō Ozu
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