Hirokazu Kore-eda's 1998 film After Life stylistically cites canonical Japanese films (especially that of Yasujiro Ozu), while heralding the cinema's role in both photogenically defamiliarizing the familiar and naturalizing the new. Set in a way station between heaven and earth and alternating between documentary-like scenarios and quiet, evocative cinematic pauses on the natural world, After Life contrasts a bucolic landscape with the spectacle of film production. Moreover, After Life privileges the transformative potential of a benevolent gaze (subjectively held by its female protagonist) that productively learns from and contributes to a sensual, humanistic, and epistemic perception. Combining analyses of Ozu's films (by Noël Burch, Gilles Deleuze, David Desser, and Donald Richie) with film theories (by Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Mary Ann Doane, and Jean Epstein), I trace the temporal underpinnings of After Life's evocation of photogénie, seasonal passing, memory, identification, and gendered experience to show the sensual gravity of benevolent attention. I argue that After Life illustrates the way in which film can enable our taking the time to learn a sensual and sensitive way of being in the world. Through the point of view of the female protagonist, this film moves from a contemplative to a loving and epistemically productive gaze; in so doing, this story about learning to love what passes writes the history of women's cinematic subjectivity as the worldly exercise of photogenic love.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.