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        The works of Loti, Puccini, and so many other European artists revolve around the figure of a Japanese woman. A more modern example would be John Huston’s The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958). This film faced many difficulties, foremost among them the disagreements between Huston and the leading actor, John Wayne, which put an end to their creative collaboration. There was also trouble after the shooting: Huston had intended to reflect influences from Japanese cinema in aspects like photography and pace, but he found that so many changes had been made in post-production that he even asked his name to be removed from the credits. Did this come to show that Hollywood was interested in giving another, more romanticised, view of Japan? What is clear is that nowadays the word geisha is one of the first to spring to mind in the imagination of the Western public when asked about Japan. A further and more recent Hollywood picture, the blockbuster Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), directed by Rob Marshall and produced by Steven Spielberg, also focused on this subject.

        Japan seen through its women is one of the leitmotifs when Western artists explore this country thematically. This probably has much to do with the way traditional Japanese art approaches eroticism. The thin line separating images of arousal and explicit sex (shunga) still seems fascinating to Europeans and Americans, whose most famous artists have never taken on eroticism as overtly as the Japanese. To think that images of couples having sex could be an important part of an artist’s production was unheard of in the West, whereas in Japan all the great masters have a considerable output of shunga. Again, the cinema has prolonged this Japanese tradition, most notoriously in Nagisa Ôshima’s radical 1976 film In the Realm of the Senses, which contained unsimulated sexual activity between the leading actors. The film created great controversy worldwide and has, to this day, never been shown uncensored in its country of origin.

        And after all this, what is it that we know about Japan? Is it the country we have come to know through the movies, populated with geishas, samurais, and kabuki actors? Over the last decades, this image has probably receded in favour of a highly industrialised society, from whose technological developments we benefit daily. It is possibly in the field of the arts that we can still appreciate greater differences. Its artists, be it Utamaro or Kurosawa, Hokusai or Ôshima, do not cease to fascinate us, that is true. But although we are much more informed than those first 19th-century connoisseurs and opera-goers, it is probably safe to say that we still like to think of Japan, at least to some extent, as a foreign land filled with exotic people. As in Sofia Coppola’s film, it seems we still remain, at least a little, lost in translation.

        Vous trouverez ici une sélection des œuvres de Hokusai. Cliquez sur l’image pour l’agrandir et accéder à ses informations. Achetez des reproductions d’œuvres de Hokusai en haute définition, en cliquant sur le lien : Image-bar. Vous y trouverez également tous types de formats.

© 2014 by Confidential Concepts US.