The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Education > Interesting Lectures and Seminars


Interesting Lectures and Seminars

A seminar with strong appeal to movie lovers. Film Studies

4th year student at the School of International Liberal Studies

Norimasa Morita,
Professor in the School of International Liberal Studies

The class usually begins every week by watching a movie. The classroom is enveloped in darkness and the wall changes to reveal a screen. You might not believe it, but this is a class for a university seminar. Without a doubt, this is highly appealing to movie lovers. Those participating in this class are actually all avid movie fans, and animated discussion of recently viewed works is enjoyed by all after class, including the professor. Of course, the goal of this class is not merely to watch movies. The meaning of the class lies in developing an analytical viewpoint in regards to movies.

The theme for the second half of the 2007 academic year was "road movies". The main character crosses the vast desert of America by car. During his trip, he fatally shoots someone, plots his escape from police, and has a casual relationship with a woman who happens to be passing by. These elements are important in the construction of the typical road movie. However, are the implications of road movies truly limited to such superficial matters? The answer to this question is no. Actually, many movies in this genre are filmed with the intention of criticizing conservative society.

For example, the main characters of Bonnie and Clyde (1967) become bank robbers to escape from the monotony of daily life. While the two criminals are pursued by police, the police officer is portrayed as a villain in this work, and viewers soon find themselves rooting for the two criminals who have been cast out of society. When viewed from this standpoint, Easy Rider (1969) was a work that spread hippy culture throughout the world, and the main character, speeding on his motorcycle and fleeing from constraint, is truly the personification of the road movie. Furthermore, the anti-society motifs of cigarettes, drugs, and violence, which are often seen in movies even today, have been an important element of the road movie genre since long ago.

The author is wearing a pink t-shirt (center of picture).

Incidentally, the road movie was a strictly a male domain for a long time. The main characters were usually men, and even when women appeared, they were usually relegated to a supporting role. However, this changed in 1991 with the release of Thelma & Louise. In this movie, the two women make a daring trip across the desert. This movie can be said to reflect the permeation of the concept of feminism into actual society. In this way, movies are not only a form of entertainment, but also a mirror that reflects society.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)