Gojira Revisited: Autoethnography of a Kaiju

In my first post I looked at my original viewing of the 1954 Japanese film Gojira and how I felt about it as a direct response. That stage, the initial experience, has provided a whole bunch of personal responses I plan to delve into now with further research and reflection. In the question of my original response, I found the text to be strange but engaging thanks to underlying familiar themes and plot points, I feel like that is a good entry point to look at my own reference through.

In a piece for Premium Beat, Michael Maher  explores how Japanese cinema came to have a huge influence on world cinema post World War II. Described as the ‘golden age of Japanese cinema’, credited to the work of director Akira Kurosawa adapted western cinema and mixed it with eastern, traditional cinema to create important pieces like Seven Samurai and Rashomon. As Ishiro Honda, the director of Gojira in 1954, was a close friend of Kurosawa, his influences on this film especially becomes clear.

This, I think, is part of why I reacted the way I did to the film. I noted the blend of tradition vs technological advancement and the context of WW2/Nuclear testing in my original viewing, and these became quite a fascinating part of how Gojira manages to be an entertaining movie and a hugely important one culturally. The way these Japanese golden age films have come to shape modern media is part of what drew me to the text. It blended a lot of the seminal western film making we see, with Akira Kurosawa’s work being a big influence on George Lucas for the original Star Wars. This movie especially is important to how I grew up and view cinema, so it’s no surprise that these connections exist.

In future viewings of both Gojira and Japanese cinema I hope to be a lot more vigilant for the parallels between the culture at the time of production, and even world cinema that borrows and has been borrowed from. One of the assumptions I came into the film with was that it was very much a Japanese-centric film the western audience had come to enjoy, rather than realising the history between cultures that created the film and culture in general.

Akira Kurosawa

Across the blogs and from in class discussions I saw that a lot of people didn’t quite know what to make of Gojira as a film. Was it a movie with an environmental message? A movie that examined the ethics of mass destructive weapons and the consequences of that violence? Or was it simply a movie that tried to showcase the destruction Japan suffered in a way other cultures could understand? In a way, it’s all of these, but I think research into the placing of the film in time and in a culture lends a lot to how I can appreciate the text and make sense of wider Japanese cinema and culture in the 1950’s.

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One comment

  1. I loved this post Jayden! You mentioned appreciating the text through its cultural context and i agree. It’s also interesting to note the changes the US made to the original film. Shows the different perspectives on Nuclear testing and weapons during that time. Japanese cinema is incredible and i had a similar experience to you. I love the embedded video too. Bronte 🙂

    Like

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