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History, Unevenness, and Urban Space in Japanese Cinema: Prof. Sasaki Presents on Kawashima’s “Suzaki Paradise: Red Light” (1956)

As part of the Bellini Colloquium series for spring 2017, Prof. Tomoyuki Sasaki shared his new research with colleagues and students.  On March 30, Prof. Sasaki presented a talk entitled “History, Unevenness, and Urban Space in Japanese Cinema: A Case Study,” which is part of his new research project.

Kawashima Yuzo's "Suzaki Paradisu Akashingo" (1956)
Kawashima Yuzo’s “Suzaki Paradisu Akashingo” (1956)

Prof. Sasaki’s presentation examined the intersection between historical narratives and cinema. Postwar Japanese history is often narrated as a story of the great success of the nation’s capitalist economy. This narrative is prescriptive in that it dictates how people should perceive the past (and the present). In this lecture, Prof. Sasaki discussed Kawashima Yuzo’s film Suzaki Paradise Red Light, released in 1956, at the onset of high-speed economic growth. This film participated in the contemporary discussion of the transformation that Japan’s capitalism was experiencing at that time, revealing its disquieting and contradictory nature. At the broader theoretical level, this presentation also considered the multiple possibilities that popular culture offers for narrating historical events.

The Bellini Colloquium is a lecture series sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. It is named after the first Professor of Modern Languages at the College, Carlo Bellini, a native of Florence, Italy and close friend of Thomas Jefferson. Bellini taught French and Italian from 1779 until 1803, and holds the distinction of being the only Professor to stay in residence at the College when classes were suspended for two years during the Revolutionary War.