This article examines Kawase’s films, with a focus on her early documentaries in autobiographical forms (in the 1990s and early 2000s). Far from being a simple mimesis of her everyday reality, Kawase’s cinema-verité–like autobiographies have distinct features. In particular, they are characterized by the camera’s introspective gaze, a gaze directed toward the filmmaker herself. The films show various reflexive images of the director, such as her shadows, her reflections on a car window, and her images taken by her relative. This introspective (self-mirroring) style of Kawase’s documentaries gives them a “virtual” quality (Bergson), with a few distinct traits. First, the gaze tends to focus on surfaces and physical textures (e.g., a tattoo engraved on her father’s and her own skin). When the vérité (truth) of cinematic mimesis is rigorously pursued, Kawase’s reflexive gaze becomes one with her affective, nondual consciousness, which (perhaps ironically) resembles scientific eyes that capture the everyday’s physical textures. Second, for this reason, the images are almost always sensual (affective) (e.g., embodied with a sense of touch and proprioception) or “haptic” (Laura Marks). The subjective is inseparable from (indeed, identical with) the non-dual object and its surface qualities. Third, despite this embodied quality of her quotidian consciousness, these surface images undermine the actuality of the first person’s social experiences. Fourth, as a result, the mirror reflections retain alienated images of the filmmaker, and introspection reveals the heterogeneous otherness of the multitude surfaces that constitute the virtuality of the quotidian. Each of these traits destabilizes the first person’s social being. The virtuality of the gaze deeply affects Kawase’s social and everyday consciousness, raising a number of aesthetic, thematic, and ethical issues (e.g., flatness, cinematic truth [vérité], “non-Aristotelian” dramaturgy [Brecht]). Among the numerous issues Kawase’s introspective style raises, the author focuses on its nonsubjective grammar and its (latent) critique of the liberal subject (that is, a critique of a certain form of humanism). The author argues that cinema has the potential for going beyond the social reality based on the conception of the liberal subject, and Kawase is a prime example of this potential.
Kawase Naomi’s Introspective Style: Aesthetic Surfaces of World Cinema
Takushi Odagiri teaches ethics, environment, and medical humanities at Kanazawa University, Japan. He has an MD from the University of Tokyo and a PhD from Stanford University. In 2011 and 2012, he held an appointment as a medical doctor in eastern Japan, where he was engaged in community mental health and suicide prevention. He has published articles in Boundary 2, Journal of Religion, Philosophy East and West, Journal of Philosophy and Ethics in Health Care and Medicine, Tetsugaku (Philosophy), and Seimei Rinri (Bioethics).
Takushi Odagiri; Kawase Naomi’s Introspective Style: Aesthetic Surfaces of World Cinema. positions 1 May 2019; 27 (2): 361–396. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-7334462
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