Organized Panel Session
In the 1950s, Ichikawa Kon (1915-2008) directed a few canonical war films, among which are film adaptations of Takeyama Michio’s children’s novel The Burmese Harp (1956) and of Ōoka Shōhei’s semi-autobiographical novel Fires on the Plain (1959) as well as Escape at Dawn (1950). Focusing on the use of popular songs in his lesser-known films both made in 1951, Bungawan soro and Ieraishan, this presentation explores the afterlife of imperial romance in early postwar Japanese films.
While popular music has been regarded as a privileged medium of wartime nostalgia, its relationship with the revival of “things continental” (tairiku-mono) in the 1950s has not been examined in depth. Some early postwar Japanese films about the war were modeled on continental melodrama, a popular film genre during the Pacific War. Named after the popular songs of colonial origin (Bengawan solo and Ye Lai Xiang), the two films under consideration depict the war in Asia as an unrequited romance between a Japanese male soldier and a woman outside Japan proper. Despite the male protagonist’s disillusionment about the war and his tragic death at the end, I argue that both films nonetheless romanticize the war and eroticize Asia through the audiovisual fantasy of the imperial past as unfulfilled love.