In January 1968, the popular film magazine Eiga Geijutsu (Film art) published a dialogue—sensationally titled “Fascist or Revolutionary?”—between Oshima Nagisa, an acclaimed cinéaste and critic-representative of Japanese New Wave cinema, and Mishima Yukio, a renowned novelist who was to stage a failed coup d’état and ritual suicide as a spectacular media event two years later.
The dialogue is intriguing not so much because it suggests a rare point of agreement between Oshima and Mishima, who are considered to stand at opposing ends of the spectrum of political activism (the antinationalist Left and the ultranationalist Right). Rather, the dialogue is fascinating because it highlights their shared interest in television and, more broadly, in the political effects of televisually induced media events. Oshima and Mishima concur that the New Left generation of Japanese student protesters are the children of television whose political actions are deeply conditioned by the ubiquitous presence of the news camera.
Oshima calls this media-conscious form of student protest an “expressive act” akin to an artistic performance. Mishima criticizes this view by noting that the substitution of political action by the expressive act attests to the bleakness of the television age in which they all live. Oshima, in contrast, regards this blurring of the boundary between artistic performance and political action in a positive light, suggesting that the very meaning of politics and art should be rethought in light of this situation. Oshima and Mishima were not alone in remarking on the media consciousness of student protesters during the so-called season of politics (seiji no kisetsu) that erupted in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Various factions of student protesters allegedly chose the colors of their ubiquitous construction helmets (worn during protests) based on how they would look on color television. Both the dialogue and this anecdote point to the increasing imbrication of politics and media in Japan, to which the rise and consolidation of television greatly contributed.
The season of politics, which coincided with the golden era of leftist independent and avant-garde filmmaking practices, was, in effect, the season of image politics. Oshima’s call to redefine politics and art in light of the media-conscious student protesters also sheds light on a little-studied aspect of Japanese political avant-garde filmmaking in the 1960s: the tension between journalistic media and cinema that became visible against the backdrop of intensifying image politics.
During the 1960s, the proximity between cinema and journalism gained wide attention from critics and filmmakers. Political avant-garde filmmakers started to approximate—or, more precisely, to appropriate—television and other journalistic media forms.
This avant-gardist appropriation of journalism marks an important but overlooked tendency within postwar Japanese cinema. The timely appropriation of sensational news, high-profile media events, and other topical images widely circulating in the press by filmmakers such as Oshima Nagisa, Matsumoto Toshio, Wakamatsu Kōji, and Adachi Masao in the 1960s and early 1970s points to a collectively shared concern with journalistic actuality. For the sake of clarity, I will call this body of films the “cinema of actuality.”
Yuriko Furuhata, “Cinema Of Actuality: Japanese Avant-Garde
I can voice my ideas without hesitation or fear because I am speaking, finally, about myself. I am Black and I am female and I am a mother and I am bisexual and I am a nationalist and I am an antinationalist. And I mean to be fully and freely all that I am!
if I ever have a baby (which, no) and its first word is dada I’m going to assume that it’s referring to the early 20th century antinationalist surrealist art movement because any true child of mine will be a pretentious art hoe from birth