Geishas & Godzillas

Films are windows and mirrors of nations; they plant images, perhaps indelible, of a country's people and personality. But the windows can be fogged by ignorance or prejudice. And the mirrors may be distorted — fun-house reflections that amount to a kind of visual libel. Often the cinematic views are those of outsiders, painting the Other with a coat of exoticism. But at times the oddest depictions are from the country itself.

No country has been the subject of so many extreme and contradictory signals as Japan, in foreign films and in its own product. The Japanese have been seen as...

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