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August 1996, Week 5

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Sender:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Subject:
From:
Ono Seiko and Aaron Gerow <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Fri, 30 Aug 1996 10:46:24 +0900
Reply-To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
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At 21:05 8/26/96 -0400, mylan p sloan wrote:
>Would anyone care to comment: Was Tony Richardson's TOM JONES the first
>instance of hand-held camera shots in a major theatrical film?
 
Hand-held camera movements actually became a dominant style in silent
chanbarageki (samurai) in the late 1920s and early 1930s in Japan, mostly
for fight scenes.  It is hard to say when and under what circumstances the
style originated, since far too few films exist to do a decent stylistic
history.  The conventional history is that this style began with Ito
Daisuke, who often had his cameraman run in between the fighting
samurai/actors and swish pan between the actors.  The few examples that
remain are visually very confusing, but bold and exiting.
 
Given Jeremy's citation of Abel Gance, it should be worth noting that this
style in Japanese film was probably influenced by the French cinema of the
time, which was popular in Japan.
 
This style did become quite common for a few years, but began to die out in
the mid-1930s with the coming of sound and the "monumental" cinema that
Darrell Davis discusses, though it did continue to exist into the late
1930s in very low budget films by minor studios directed at kids (which
were still silent up until about 1937, or after that, shot silent and a
limited (often benshi) soundtrack added in post-production).
 
Aaron Gerow
Tokyo, Japan
(formerly Univ. of Iowa, soon to be Meiji Gakuin University)
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