Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan

Japanese film crews were shooting feature-length movies in China nearly three decades before Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950) reputedly put Japan on the international film map. Although few would readily associate Japan’s film industry with either imperialism or the domination of world markets, the country’s film culture developed in lock step with its empire, which, at its peak in 1943, included territories from the Aleutians to Australia and from Midway Island to India. With each military victory, Japanese film culture’s sphere of influence expanded deeper into Asia, first clashing with and ultimately replacing Hollywood as the main source of news, education, and entertainment for millions. The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan, by Michael Baskett, is the first comprehensive examination of the attitudes, ideals, and myths of Japanese imperialism as represented in its film culture.

“Because imperialism has had such an appalling ideological reputation, we’ve lost sight of its excitement, the breathless anticipation of adventures in far-off lands. The Attractive Empire is a tour de force of enthralling historical scholarship that puts the appeal, and seductions, of imperialism on display, without underestimating its ugly consequences. Like its chosen subject, the book covers an astonishing array of texts, events, people, and issues. The clarity and vividness of the writing make it work effortlessly. Baskett’s organizational skills, narrative, and rhetoric deftly orchestrate a complex subject.” —Darrell William Davis, University of New South Wales

March 2008 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3163-9 / $48.00 (CLOTH)