I’ll be presenting a paper titled “A War on Indirectness: Kazuo Hara’s The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On” at this year’s Revelation Academic, the academic sidebar of the Revelation International Film Festival.
Here’s the abstract:
In a cabinet meeting in Tokyo, 1941, Emperor Hirohito was presented with a final opportunity to halt the momentum for war – a war, history suggests, he was reluctant to partake in. Instead he recited a poem – an anti-war lament written by his grandfather Meiji. Broadly interpreted by those in the room as regretful approval, the war pressed on, millions of lives were lost, and Japan emerged a devastated nation.
Kazuo Hara’s infamous 1987 documentary, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On – featuring the unforgettable, fanatical dissident, Kenzo Okuzaki – is among a series of well-known postwar Japanese films examining the Pacific War and the Emperor’s complicity in the nation’s war involvement. What distinguishes Hara’s film is its steadfast refusal of connotative imagery, absence of poetic language, and its empirical approach in ascertaining truth – traits that mark it in radical contrast to the vast majority of Japanese cinema.
Indeed, The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On is not merely a powerful anti-war statement; this paper considers the film as a sustained attack on indirectness – of poetry, myth, ambiguity, cinematic language, and the polite obliqueness of Japanese speech and culture more broadly – which continues to obstruct Japan’s engagement with its militant past.