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Itami Juzo. Referentiality and Self-referenciality. Itami’s Career. Itami Juzo was born in 1933 as a son of Mansaku Itamai, who was a prominent film director in the silent age. At high school he met Oe Kenzaburo, who was to marry Itami’s sister.

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Itami juzo

Itami Juzo

Referentiality and Self-referenciality

Itami s career
Itami’s Career

  • Itami Juzo was born in 1933 as a son of Mansaku Itamai, who was a prominent film director in the silent age.

  • At high school he met Oe Kenzaburo, who was to marry Itami’s sister.

  • Failing to enter University of Osaka, he became a commercial designer, TV reporter, essayist and actor.

Itami s career1
Itami’s Career

Itami became a dependable supporting actor. He

also went to the US to be trained as actor at


  • A crook student in A False Student (1960) by Masumura Yasuzo, based on the novel of Oe.

  • Son of a factory owner, friend of the protagonist in Younger Brother (1960) by Ichikawa Kon

  • Col. Chiba in 55 Days at Peking (1963) by Nicholas Ray

  • Warris in Lord Jim (1965) by Richard Brooks

Itami s career2
Itami’s Career

  • Meitei in I am a cat (1975) by Ichikawa Kon

  • Tatsuo, Tsuruko’s husband in The Makioka Sisters (1983) by Ichikawa Kon

  • In The Family Game (1983), Itami marvelously played the role of the father who has two teenage boys.

  • He turned to a film director after this film.

Filmmaking in the 80s
Filmmaking in the 80s

  • ‘Collapse’ of studio system / star system in the 1970s.

  • The studios stopped contracting directors, stars and staff. (1st wave of the collapse)

  • The studios reduced their own production (2nd wave of the collapse) and shifted their funds to the part-financing of independent film projects and projects of independent production companies.

Filmmaking in the 80s1
Filmmaking in the 80s

  • The studios are owned by film companies, which also own distributors and exhibitors (film theatres). The film companies have come to distribute works of independent filmmakers and independent production companies, and open their film theatres for those works.

  • Virtually every film became an independent or a part-independent film: every filmmaker became an independent or a part-independent filmmaker

Filmmaking in the 80s2
Filmmaking in the 80s

  • In the era of the Japanese studio system, only those who worked as assistant director could become directors.

  • With the collapse of the system, the studios stopped having assistant directors under contract.

  • People with various backgrounds and experiences become film directors.

  • Amateur filmmakers, film school graduates, employees in the media, commercial makers, video makers, actors, film critics, etc.

Student and amateur filmmaker morita yoshimitsu 1950 ishi i sogo 1957 omori kazuki 1952
Student and amateur filmmakerMorita Yoshimitsu (1950- ) Ishi’i Sogo (1957 - ) Omori Kazuki (1952 - )

Filmmaking in the 80s3
Filmmaking in the 80s

  • Tsukamoto Shinya (1960 - )

  • Yamamoto Masashi (1960 - )

Filmmaking in the 80s4
Filmmaking in the 80s

  • TV Commercial director / video clip director

  • Iwai Shunji (1963 - )

  • Ichikawa Jun (1948 -2009 )

Filmmaking in the 80s5
Filmmaking in the 80s

From television

  • Kore’eda Kazuhiro (1962 - )

  • Nakata Hideo (1961 - )

Filmmaking in the 80s6
Filmmaking in the 80s

Director of video film (V-cinema)

  • Mi’ike Takashi (1960 - )

  • Kurosawa Kiyoshi (1955 - )

Filmmaking in the 80s7
Filmmaking in the 80s

  • Soft porn film

  • Suo Masayuki (1956 - )

  • Nakahara Shun (1951 - )

Actor comedian hayashi kaizo 1957 takenaka naoto 1956 bando tamasaburo 1950 kitano takeshi 1947
Actor / comedian: Hayashi Kaizo (1957 - )Takenaka Naoto (1956 - )Bando Tamasaburo (1950 - )Kitano Takeshi (1947 - )

Itami s films
Itami’s Films

  • The Funeral (1984) - an old man dies and his funeral is prepared and carried out following the conventions. The film wryly observes what ensues when the age-old ritual is repeated in modern Japan and how modern people react and respond to death.

Itami s films1
Itami’s Films

  • Satire and commedy of mannersa la Jean Renoir

  • In this family occasion, some secrets and lies are revealed: extra-marital affairs of the dead man and his son in low.

Itami s films2
Itami’s Films

  • Tampopo (1985) - a track driver and his assistant walk into a ramen shop and is appalled with the taste of noodle. The driver helps the owner of the shop, the young widow with a little son, create a great noodle shop.

Itami s films3
Itami’s Films

  • Gourmet movies in the mold of spaghetti western.

  • Drifter (driver - cowboy), good citizen (the owner of the shop - maiden in a bar) - the undesirable (the constructor - outlaw)

  • George Stevens, Shane (1953)

Itami s films4
Itami’s Films

  • Taxing Woman (1987) - a female tax inspector investigate serious tax evasions and frauds.

  • Itami went on a through research on these issues and made a film on tax and tax inspector (unglamorous topics) borrowing the framework of detective thriller (glamorous genre).

Itami s films5
Itami’s Films

  • A Taxing Woman Returns (1988) - the tax inspector returns to investigate this time a huge tax evasion by the leader of a religious sect.

  • Timely social issues of the late 80s - corporate greed, land shark, land bubble, and the collapse of communities are shown in the mold of detective thriller and action film.

Itami s films6
Itami’s Films

  • A-Ge-Man (1990) - Nayoko, a unhappy geisha is an ageman, who brings luck on anybody who is partnered with. She has an affair with an unfaithful company executive. He is protected by Nayoko’s special power in revealing dirty business deals.

Itami s films7
Itami’s Films

  • Minbo: the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion (1992) - a yakuza group makes a hotel a place for hangout and a target of extortion. A female lawyer unite hotel staff to face up the threats from yakuza thugs and defeat them.

Itami s films8
Itami’s Films

  • Minbo made yakuza look greedy, extremely vulgar, self-indulgent, foolish, dim-witted, and dangerous to themselves and society.

  • The angered yakuza (three) attacked Itami outside his home and slashed his face.

  • A social critique in the mold of yakuza film

Itami s films9
Itami’s Films

  • The Last Dance (1993) - a satire on the traditional system and practice of the medicine in Japan, particularly such as informed consent and sharing information with patients.

Itami s films10
Itami’s Films

  • Supermarket Woman (1996) - the owner of a supermarket, which suffers from price-cutting competition from its rival, employ his former classmate housewife for its survival.

  • Revelation of the back-stage reality of the retailing industry and satire on its business practice.

Itami s films11
Itami’s Films

  • Woman of the Police Protection Program (1997) - an actress witness a murder (a cult group murders a lawyer) and two cops go everywhere with her to protect her from the group’s attempt to gag her. In the end, she gives her evidence at court.

Itami as auteur
Itami as Auteur

  • Contemporary social issues, behaviour and manners in Japan: funeral, adultery, culinary boom, economic babble, corporate greed, tax evasion, organized crime (land shark, loan shark, tax evasion, corporatization of yakuza), welfare system, problems in the retail industry, and the protection of witness.

  • Cynical and satiric representation of the issues.

  • Frank Capra like social awareness and consciousness.

Itami as auteur1
Itami as Auteur

  • Dealing with social and moral issues, films are by no means preachy

  • Satiric stories are told borrowing the formulae of entertainment film genres - Western, suspense film, detective film, yakuza film, etc.

Itami as auteur2
Itami as Auteur

Reference to films of other


  • Itami as a cine-phile

  • Telling his own story in a referential framework, quoting and imitating other films.

Itami as auteur3
Itami as Auteur

  • Itami ‘While continuing to watch films, I accumulated in my mind a number of impressive shots: a wonderful shot of a slope, a wonderful shot of a rainy night, a wonderful shot of people running together, a wonderful shot of a finger touching something, a wonderful shot of a thing moving in the air, a wonderful shot of two people staring each other, etc.’

  • Interviewer: ‘Then, you had wanted to make your own film full of such shots?’

  • Itami: ‘Yes.’

Itami as auteur4
Itami as Auteur

  • Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932)

  • Itami quotes the mise-en-scène of the vampire coffin in his film Funeral

Itami as auteur5
Itami as Auteur

  • Ozu Yasujiro’s The End of Summer

  • At the end of The End of Summer, smoke comes out of a chimney as it does in The Funeral.

Itami as auteur6
Itami as Auteur

  • George Stevens, Shane (1953)

  • Tampopo borrows the narrative structure of Shane. Goro walks into arun-down noodle shop owned by a widow with a boy and helps them out as Shane wanders into a farm managed by a widow with a son.

Itami as auteur7
Itami as Auteur

  • Jean-Luc Godard, A bout de souffle (1959)

  • The man in a white suit in Tampopo is modelled after Michel Poicard in A bout de souffle and a James Cagney character.

Itami as auteur8
Itami as Auteur

  • Louis Buñuel’s film, The Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie

  • The satire on the hypocritical discreetness of the bourgeoisie is inserted in Tampopo referring to the Buñuel’s film.

Itami as auteur9
Itami as Auteur

  • Chusingura

  • Taxing Woman and Taxing Woman Returns base their narrative structure on Chusingura. A group of people bring justice to evil doers.

Itami s films12
Itami’s Films

Self-referentiality of Itami’s films

  • Refer to itself - refer to filmmaking - film is about filmmaking

  • Conscious foregrounding of various aspects of filmmaking: what is filmmaking.

  • E.g. The Funeral, the scene of the making of TV advertisement; a video tape explaining how to put up a funeral; amateur video recording the preparation for funeral.