SOAS University of London

Japan & Korea Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Culture

Japanese New Wave Cinema: Youth, Sex and Protest

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 2

The module focuses on a study of the Japanese avant-garde cinema of the 1960s and early 1970s as a political backlash against the conservatism of the major film studios, the conservative LDP government, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Just as in Europe, Japan underwent a period of radicalisation in the 1960s. In the world of Japanese Cinema a new generation of directors were coming to the fore at this time – Ōshima, Nagisa, Imamura Shōhei, Yoshida (Kijū) Yoshishige, Hani Susumu, Fukusaku Kinji and Wakamatsu Kōji. A generation that sought through the intellectualisation of cinema to challenge, what many of them perceived to be a corrupt society that had learnt nothing from the experiences of World War II. One of the strategies they employed was to politicise ‘sex’. At this time, the film industry also faced the challenge of television and the prospect of declining audiences. Studios, such as Nikkatsu made a deliberate policy decision to attract audiences by exploiting ‘sex’ in films through the creation of the roman porno genre. The course also considers the avant-garde’s reworking of popular genres such as the jidaigeki and yakuza films.


There are no pre-requisites for this module.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  • understand the inter-connectedness of cultural forms (cinema) and politics in an age of youth rebellion in Japan;
  • analyse and discuss critically the image as a form of communication – genre versus the avant-garde;
  • analyse critically (not just narrate or describe) a body of film texts from the contexts of their production and reception;
  • engage critically with existing theoretical paradigms and pursue their own particular research interests;
  • to identify key research agendas in the study of Japanese cinema in the 1960s and early 1970s;
  • to critically analyse key concepts of cinema: genre, national cinema, narrative cinema using the Japanese context as a model;
  • to express and defend positions about cinema both orally and in writing;
  • to develop their own particular research interests independently.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

The syllabus is structured to give students a solid overview of this particular moment in Japanese visual history. Issues are covered from both a socio historical context and through issues in film theory. Thus the module should benefit both the area studies students and students from the discipline defined degree.  

Method of assessment

An essay of 1500 words to be submitted on day 1, after reading week, term 2 (35%); an essay of 3500 words to be submitted on day 1, term 3 (65%).

Suggested reading

  • Bordwell, David and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction
  • Desser, David Eros Plus Massacre
  • Dower, John Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Aftermath of World War II
  • Foucault, Michel ‘A Preface to Transgression’ in Language Counter-memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews by Michel Foucault (ed) Donald F. Bouchard, Cornell University Press: Ithaca, New York 1993 pp. 29-52 (photocopy to be distributed in class)
  • Lehman, Peter (1987) ‘Oshima: the Avant-Garde Artist Without an Avant-Garde Style’, Wide Angle Volume 9, Number 2 (photocopy to be distributed in class)
  • Mulvey, Laura (1990) ‘Visual pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ in (ed.) Patricia Erens Issues in Feminist Film Criticism Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press (photocopy to be distributed in class)
  • Neale, Stephen. Genre
  • Neale, Stephen. Chapters 1 and 2 in Genre and Hollywood
  • Oshima, Nagisa Cinema, Censorship and the State
  • Sakaguchi, Ango ‘Discourse on Decadence’ Review of Japanese Culture and Society Vol 1 No 1 October 1986 (photocopy to be distributed in class)
  • Standish, Isolde. Politics, Porn and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s London and New York: Continuumn.
  • Standish, Isolde. A New History of Japanese Cinema: A Century of Narrative Film London and New York: Continuum
  • Standish, Isolde. Myth and Masculinity in the Japanese Cinema: Towards a Political Reading of the Tragic Hero London: Curzon/Routledge
  • Tessier, Max ‘Oshima Nagisa or the Battered Energy of Desire’ in Desser, David and Arthur Nolletti (eds) Reframing Japanese Cinema (photocopy to be distributed in class)
  • Turim, Maureen. ‘The Erotic in Asian Cinema’ in Dirty Looks: Women, Pornography and Power (eds) Pamela Church Gibson and Roma Gibson, BFI Publishing: London 1993 (photocopy to be distributed in class)
  • Turim, Maureen. The Films of Nagisa Oshima
  • Wantanabe, Tsuneo & J. Iwata The Love of the Samurai: A Thousand Years of Japanese Homosexuality


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules