SOAS University of London

Centre for Creative Industries, Media and Screen Studies

Naniwa Erejii / Osaka Elegy (Mizoguchi Kenji, 1936) and Gion no Kyōdai / Sisters of the Gion (Mizoguchi Kenji, 1936): On Sartoriality and Speaking

Speaker: Lois Barnett

Mizoguchi’s 1936 diptych – Naniwa Erejii / Osaka Elegy (Mizoguchi Kenji, 1936) and
Gion no Kyōdai / Sisters Of The Gion (Mizoguchi Kenji, 1936) – occupies an intriguing space in Japanese cinematic history, bridging not only the space between ‘Japanese’ and ‘Western’ subject matter onscreen, but also that between the Japanese film as a primarily visual medium and its new role as an audio-visual, fully immersive experience with the onset of sound – the insertion of a panel proudly advertising the usage of the latest ‘Eion’ sound system technology in the title sequence of both films is testament to their audience appeal as immersive technological novelty.

With their novel and immersive sensory qualities, coupled with the simultaneously ‘modern’ and conventional issues presented in their narrative structures, these two films embody the sentiment of sensation, modern disorientation and the desire to both reinvent and reinstate ‘tradition’. Mizoguchi’s representation of the ‘Modern Girl’ or moga in both films exemplifies this personification of the modern city onscreen, yet her manifestation is made specific to either Kyoto or Osaka.  I examine the combined role of clothing and sound (particularly speech) in semiotically constructing moga characters onscreen in conflation with scholarship discussing fashion and gender studies, the history of the cinema and modern space.