Michael Kerpan wrote:I disagree with your analysis of Daiei's motivations. They may have been surprised by the _size_ of Rashomon's success, but they almost certainly had their eye on cracking Western markets when this was made -- and shipped abroad. As early as the latter 20s, Japanese studios had been trying to come up with a way to crack Western markets. Shochiku's first venture had been to compete on the West's own terms -- and there was little market. PCL made the same mistake in trying to get US attention with Naruse's very Hollywoodesque (in comparative terms) "Wife Be Like A Rose" in the mid-30s. Only the coming of the war years put a temporary end to this quest.
Michael, we must be drawing on different historical sources here.
The Naruse film, Kinugasa's Crossroads
, and a few others had been shown in the U.S. before the war with negligible impact, but even if these movies had been influenced by Western films, there is nothing to suggest that their directors had tailored the work to suit foreigners. After the war, the Japanese industry reconsidered the question of international distribution, and Daiei even contracted with Goldwyn and Disney for this purpose, but prior to Rashomon
, the industry was less intent on refining their films for western tastes than in using them as a means of exporting Japanese culture. About this effort in the period prior to Rashomon
, Donald Richie writes in The Japanese Film
The constant refrain among Japanese producers, directors, and critics was that the main purpose of showing Japanese films abroad was to introduce Japanese customs and culture in the world ... The cinema was to be Japan's cultural emissary, and the industry stuck to this concept with the evangelistic zeal of a true missionary. The new Japanese way of life was to be the salvation of the world.
The Japanese sent out into the world films that they thought would accomplish their goal of promoting authentic Japanese culture. They did not set out to westernize their product as the means to attract interest abroad until Rashomon
alerted them to just how this might be done.
Rashomon was (in part) a speculative venture -- to see if Daiei could get a foothold in the West.
Ironically, while Rashomon
touched off the Japanese fever to replicate its internationally alluring period-film flavor, the film itself had been anticipated, during production, not as a potential hit with foreign audiences, but as a failure-in-waiting with audiences in Japan and elsewhere. Nagata, president at Daiei, strenuously objected to making the film, thinking that audiences would be confused and alienated by its structure and thematic subjectivity. Yoshimoto Mitsuhiro, in his book about Kurosawa, reports that Nagata â€œexpressed bewilderment over what the film was about.â€