Ethnicizing the Body and Film: Teshigahara Hiroshi’s Woman in the Dunes (1964)
Director Teshigahara Hiroshi’s oeuvre remains interesting not least because it resists the two long-standing paradigms of Japanese cinema studies. These are, on the one hand, auteurist approaches to filmmakers such as Kurosawa Akira, Mizoguchi Kenji, and Ozu Yasujiro¯: and on the other, formalist analyses that focus on the stylistic uniqueness of these auteurs’ work and inevitably compare it with the filmic ‘criteria’ of classical Hollywood cinema. By contrast, Teshigahara’s career as a filmmaker is arguably too brief to qualify for true auteur status, and his filmmaking style too polysemous, too deliberately modernist, to be pigeonholed as yet another example of a ‘uniquely Japanese’ aesthetic. This difficulty has been recognized by many domestic critics. For example, film scholar Yomota Inuhiko alludes to the problem in an interview with Teshigahara from the late 1980s: ‘Your [Teshigahara’s] work is difficult to discuss. In the case of analyzing other filmmakers’ work, one can find a certain stylistic pattern, yet yours is not the case. You might be a stumbling block for film critics, and every one of them has had trouble in discussing your oeuvre’ (Yomota 1989: 71).