First Steps Ashore


Japan / 1932 / Japanese

Directed by Yasujirô Shimazu

Starring Joji Oka, Yaeko Mizutani, Akio Isono

Still from 'First Steps Ashore'From the pre-1920s chambara (sword-fighting period films) to Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto’s “new tribal art” that it’s grown into, Japanese cinema seems fated to be measured against its American counterpart. It seems customary, indeed unavoidable, for Western critics (along with many Japanese critics) to evaluate the films based on the degree to which they have either assimilated or withstood foreign modes and codes. The comparison overshadows the economic factors that shape film production, even though these usually play a significant role in cultural and artistic adaptation.  Take a paragon of the Hollywood tropes of the late 1920s, Josef von Sternberg’s The Docks of New York (1928), and its Japanese remake (file under “most assimilated”), Yasujiro Shimazu’s First Steps Ashore; side-by-side they provide a snapshot of a time when the Hollywood economic model, and by extension its aesthetics, began to take on predominance in Japanese productions.

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