Following Donald Richie’s observation that the “Japanese film is richest in mood or atmosphere, in presenting characters in their own surroundings,” I introduce undergraduate students to the cinematic art of Akira Kurosawa and Hayao Miyazaki emphasizing each director’s use of mise-en-scène or the way in which the elements of the scene are arranged. For the purposes of the two courses (ASIA 4490/FILM 3220 and HONORS 4490: The Films of Kurosawa and Miyazaki), mise-en-scene was used strictly in reference “to the elements within a scene” or sequence of scenes “which places greater emphasis on pictorial values within a shot” or sequence of shots (Beaver, 2007, pp. 160-161). In both semesters students viewed and analyzed representative films from both directors. Francois Truffaut’s conception of auteurship is used in order for students to understand each director’s creative authority. In conjunction with Bela Belazs’s seminal essay “Visible Man,” students identified both directors’ presentation of embodiment in each film studied. Since both courses took place in conjunction with Kennesaw State University’s Year of Japan program, students also studied both directors in terms of their respective inclusion of elements of traditional and modern Japanese culture particularly the aesthetics of mono no aware and the ethos of yasashisa. Finally, students also studied the ways in which Kurosawa and Miyazaki exemplify international cinema.
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