Transnational Film Stardom in Modern Japan
Harvard University Asia Center 2013
Stardom has a history. Hideaki Fujiki‘s new book traces that history through a story of the transformations of Japanese film stars in the early twentieth century. Taking a deeply transnational approach to understanding the imbrication of film stardom and modernity in Japan, Making Personas: Transnational Film Stardom in Modern Japan (Harvard University Asia Center, 2013) considers modern stardom as a historical process that depended on not just the appearance of a star, but also the circulation of her name and image in the media, and the support of consumers of that media. The book identifies and explores three main periods of the history of early film stardom in Japan, looking in turn at the rise and popularity of early Japanese film stars (1910s-mid-1920s), American film stars in Japan (mid-1910s onward), and a new type of Japanese film star (after the early 1920s). Fujiki’s book is full of the stories of early Japanese benshi who narrated silent films for eager audiences, American actresses like Mary Pickford and Clara Bow who brought a new kind of physicality and sexuality to stardom in Japan, and film directors and critics who attempted to understand and theorize modern Japanese film acting. Making Personas also illuminates the institutional history of the Japanese cinema business, and considers the new forms of stardom that emerged with Japanese colonial modernity. It is a fascinating work on many levels, and well worth reading for fans of modern Japanese history and film history alike.