New Book Explores the Cinema of Kobayashi Masaki

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Stephen Prince sitting in a movie theater
Stephen Prince

Stephen Prince, a professor of cinema studies in the Virginia Tech School of Performing Arts, has published an exploration of the life and cinematic works of a legendary Japanese filmmaker.

“A Dream of Resistance: The Cinema of Kobayashi Masaki” is the first book in English to explore the entire career of a director who was internationally celebrated as one of Japan’s greatest.

A pacifist drafted into Japan’s Imperial Army during World War II, Kobayashi struck a defiant tone in post-war Japan through scorching cinematic depictions of war and militarism.

To explore how Kobayashi’s upbringing and intellectual history shaped the political and spiritual values portrayed in his work, Prince drew on previously untranslated interviews and writings, including the diary the young director kept while held as a prisoner of war on an Okinawan island.

“A Dream of Resistance” examines Kobayashi’s early films as well as his internationally acclaimed masterpieces, including “The Human Condition,” “Harakiri,” and “Samurai Rebellion.”

“This was a challenging book to write because no book in English covers Kobayashi’s entire career,” said Prince. “It was also challenging because it required viewing many films that were hard to find.”

While Kobayashi is well known in Japan, many of his films have fallen into obscurity outside the country.

“The body of his work isn’t in active distribution today, the way Akira Kurosawa’s films are,” Prince said. “With cinema, one of the dangers is that a director can drop out of contemporary culture if the works aren’t in distribution. With this book, I’m hoping to reintroduce Kobayashi to an international audience.”

Scheduled for release in November, “A Dream of Resistance” is published by Rutgers University Press. The book is the fifteenth that Prince has written or edited; other works include “The Warrior’s Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa”; “Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality”; and “Savage Cinema: Sam Peckinpah and the Rise of Ultraviolent Movies.”

Prince’s latest book is one of several books about film recently authored by College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences faculty members. David Hicks, an associate professor in the School of Education, coedited with Jeremy Stoddard and Alan Marcus “Teaching Difficult History through Film” (Routledge, 2017), while Michael Bliss, a senior instructor of English, wrote Laurel and Hardy’s Comic Catastrophes: Laughter and Darkness in the Features and Short Films (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017). Visit the college’s online bookshelf to view a range of faculty books.

Written by Susan Sanders