Thomas Mes is a Lecturer at the Leiden University Institute for Area Studies.
V-Cinema: Canons of Japanese Film and the Challenge of Video
Supervisors: Prof. dr. Ivo Smits, dr. Peter Verstraten
The cinema of Japan has long played a central role in the study of film. But its well-established canon of master directors and classic films obscures as much as it reveals. A case in point is video. As early as the late 1960s, the major film studios in Japan actively took the lead in developing a market for video releasing, paving the way for the highly successful launch of the videocassette recorder in 1976.
Home video became arguably the most transformative technological change in cinema since the introduction of sound film – one that has often been called a ‘revolution’. Yet, film scholars have long looked down on video, considering it a substandard medium with no inherent artistic merit or scholarly interest: at best an approximate ‘translation’ of the theatrical viewing mode and at worst a threat to the very existence of the discipline. This has left a large gap in our knowledge and understanding of Japanese cinema.
At the confluence of a well-developed video market and a booming economy, “V-Cinema” was launched in 1989 in an effort to capitalize on the thriving video business: a production and distribution strategy for movies released directly onto home video, bypassing theatrical exhibition almost entirely. These were movies in recognizable genres, made on low budgets and shot in as little as two weeks. In this manner, major film companies as well as numerous fly-by-night operations produced well over a hundred movies a year, providing plentiful opportunities for novice filmmakers. Although a commercial distribution strategy with little or no artistic ambition, oriented almost entirely toward the domestic video market, V-Cinema provided a platform for the rise of new auteur filmmakers, films, forms, and genres into the global film culture, from Cannes to Hollywood.
For both its unsung volume and its exceptional proponents that entered international film discourse, V-Cinema challenges accepted notions of cultural value, the status and merits of home video formats, and what exactly constitutes the cinematic experience – as well as providing illuminating insight into the formation of cinematic canons, inviting us to rethink exactly what we mean by the term “Japanese cinema”.
B.A. in Communications at Ichthus Hogeschool, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
- MidnightEye.com - editor-in-chief, 2000 - present
- Extratainment - director of scriptwriting and storyboarding, 1999-2002
- Freelance film critic / journalist, 1996 - present (publications incl. Film Comment, Sight & Sound, De Filmkrant,
- Rue Morgue, Skrien, Fangoria, Kateigaho, Hanatsubaki, IdN)
Dutch (native), English, French, German, Japanese
- Re-Agitator: Ten Years of Writing on Takashi Miike, Guildford: FAB Press, 2011
- World Film Locations: Tokyo, Chris MaGee (ed.), Bristol: Intellect Books, 2011
- Thompson, Henrietta, Anders, Antwerp: The House of Books, 2011 (translator)
- “Tetsuo ga tokihotareta! Sekai o kakeru Tsukamoto Shinya" in: Tsukamoto Shinya Dokuhon Super Remix Version, Kobayashi Hikaru (ed.), Tokyo: Kinema Junposha, 2010
- Frodon, Jean-Michel (ed.), Cinema and the Shoah, New York: State University of New York Press, 2010 (translator)
- “Prefazione” in: Il cinema di Shinya Tsukamoto, Andrea Fontana, Davide Taro, Fabio Zanello (eds.), Piombino: Edizioni Il Foglio, 2010
- Tout, Ken, In de schaduw van Arnhem, Rotterdam: BBNC Uitgevers, 2010 (translator)
- Huygens, D.J., In het hol van de leeuw: een waargebeurd onderduikverhaal, Rotterdam: BBNC Uitgevers, 2009 (translator)
- Dictionnaire du cinéma asiatique, Adrien Gombeaud (ed.). Paris: Nouveau Monde Editions, 2008
- Tokyolife: Art and Design, New York: Rizzoli International, 2008 (with Ian Luna, Lauren A. Gould, Jasper Sharp, Yoshida Mika & David G. Imber)
- “Comprendere il caos: il cinema onesto di Kurosawa Kiyoshi” in: Mondi che cadono. Il cinema di Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Giacomo Calorio, Milan: Editrice Il Castoro, 2007
- “Generazione Video” in: Anime Perdute: il cinema di Miike Takashi, Dario Tomasi (ed.), Milan: Editrice Il Castoro, 2006
- Iron Man: The Films of Shinya Tsukamoto, Godalming: FAB Press, 2005
- The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film, Berkeley: Stone Bridge Press, 2004 (with Jasper Sharp)
- “Audition” in: The Cinema of Japan and Korea, Justin Bowyer (red.), London: Wallflower Press, coll. 24 Frames, 2004
- Agitator: The Cinema of Takashi Miike, Godalming: FAB Press, 2003
- Key Factor: Music in the Life and Work of Ishii Sogo – SCMS Conference, Josai International University, Tokyo, Japan, 2009
- Tokyo Tabula Rasa - Camera Japan Festival, Rotterdam,The Netherlands, 2008
- Miike Takashi vs. Tsukamoto Shinya: Main event in Japan’s genre film arena?
- University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA, 2008
- V-Cinema - Nippon Connection Festival, Frankfurt, Germany, 2004