Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Making Personas: Transnational Film Stardom in Modern Japan (starring Clara Bow and Louise Brooks)

There is a new book out which should appeal to anyone interested in Louise Brooks, Clara Bow and silent film. The book is Making Personas: Transnational Film Stardom in Modern Japan, by Hideaki Fujiki, a professor of Cinema and Japanese Studies at Nagoya University. The book was published by the Harvard University Asia Center, and is distributed by Harvard University Press.

Fujiki's book is a detailed and fascinating look at how film stars are "made." According to the publisher, "The film star is not simply an actor but a historical phenomenon that derives from the production of an actor's attractiveness, the circulation of his or her name and likeness, and the support of media consumers. This book analyzes the establishment and transformation of the transnational film star system and the formations of historically important film stars--Japanese and non-Japanese--and casts new light on Japanese modernity as it unfolded between the 1910s and 1930s."

One chapter, "Modern Girls and Clara Bow," stronly suggests that the It girl was the subject of an intense following in Japan. And not far behind was Louise Brooks. In Japan in the late 1920s, the two actresses were compared and contrasted. Both were considered "modern girls," another term for flappers, and each influenced the way young Japanese women dressed and acted. (Colleen Moore was also considered a modern, though less so than Bow and Brooks, in opposition to Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish, who were considered "old fashioned.")

Bow and Brooks were each the subject of articles, which the author cites, in the Japanese press. Fujiki also notes that Akira Iwasaki, a prominent left-wing film critic, historian, and producer who helped introduce German experimental film in Japan, once penned a story called "Clara Louise."

In Making Personas, Fujiki "illustrates how film stardom and the star system emerged and evolved, touching on such facets as the production, representation, circulation, and reception of performers' images in films and other media." I've only begun looking through this book, but have found much of interest in it. The images of American movie stars on the cover of Japanese film magazines is fascinating. This book is recommended to anyone interested in the world wide phenomenon that was silent film.

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