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screenshot from "The Truth Behind MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE (Expanded & Revised) | Cinema Nippon" https://youtu.be/aO3chPQOc_g

I saw Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983) (IMDB) in the theatre circa 1983 and did not at the time appreciate any of the context related to Yukio Mishima until I just watched the Cinema Nippon YouTube video The Truth Behind MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE (Expanded & Revised) | Cinema Nippon

In the beginning just after 01:20 there are a few frames of what looks like a movie director holding a device and looking through it, a second person at their side is looking through a similar device.

The device looks like four identical metal boxes roughly the size and shape of books stacked together, with several round features on the front. It appears that the users are looking through one of the four.

Text overlaying these frames say:

"The Pornographers" Dir. Shohei Imamura, 1966 Courtesy Criterion

Question: What devices are this Japanese director(?) and his coworker looking through? If they are small format cameras, then why four right next to each other?

I'd also like to double check if this is likely to be Shohei Imamura, or perhaps an actor in the film, being portrayed as filming pornography.

I ran across this image from the Seattle Film Blog monday, october 22, 2007; An Introduction to Anthropology: The Pornographers which includes

As the title indicates, Mr. Ogata (Shoichi Ozawa) makes dirty movies, but he does many other things besides

Here there is also four devices that now look like small format film cameras, one with what looks like NIKKOREX written on the front.

Seattle Film Blog monday, october 22, 2007; An Introduction to Anthropology: The Pornographers http://siffblog2.blogspot.com/2007/10/introduction-to-anthropology.html "As the title indicates, Mr. Ogata (Shoichi Ozawa) makes dirty movies, but he does many other things besides"

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TL;DR:

It is for instant duplication.

enter image description here

Note that this caption is incorrect, on the left is Kabo, played by Shinichi Nakano.

From:

The explanation is that instead of filming with one camera and then duplicating the processed film later, they can film 8 cameras simultaneously and have 8 films duplicated on the spot.

Useful part of the transcript:

They complete about one film every day, and as you can see, they've devised an ingeniously economical way to reproduce the film.

If Mr. Ogata and [Banteki] each strap four cameras together with duct tape and push all the buttons on the cameras simultaneously, they can instantly produce eight copies of the film, which they then screen for small audiences, like this group of office workers.

This explains that when they start to shoot, they press the shoot button simultaneously on all cameras at the same time:

enter image description here

First picture:

Array of Fujica Single 8 P1 movie cameras:

enter image description here enter image description here

The P1 was one of the first Single 8 cameras released by Fuji in 1965 (and in various versions up to 1977). Single 8 was a film format introduced by Fujifilm in 1965 to rival the Kodak Super 8 format.

The single 8 cartridge had 50ft of 8mm film. The camera ran at 18fps, giving around 3 minutes and 45 seconds of footage.

You can see the cameras being fitted to a tray to keep them together here:

enter image description here enter image description here

Second picture in OP's question:

On each side of the array is a 1963 Nikkorex 8F 10/1.8 8mm 16fps film camera.

The two in the middle are the earlier 1960 Nikkorex 8 film cameras.

enter image description here

enter image description here

The camera uses whats called a double 8mm film spool containing 50ft of double film.

Whilst this gives you 4 minutes of playback, at 16 fps, there is a catch:

The 50ft is split in two, running down in tandem on a reel thats 16mm wide.

So you shoot the first 25ft (2minutes), then you open up the side and take out the spool, flip it over, and reload it to film the second 25ft.

Obviously, filming a porno is a bit difficult if you only get 2 minutes a pop and have to reload so this gives you a longer continuous running time instead.

So originally, I thought that if assembled in this way, they can film around 8 minutes of film without reloading - ie. film camera 1, then 2, then 3, then 4.

But based on the information given in the youtube introduction video and the film footage that shows them pressing all shooting buttons simultaneously, its simply to duplicate on the spot.

Camera ref:

https://cameramanuals.org/movie-8-s8-16/nikkorex-8f-instruction-manual.pdf

https://imaging.nikon.com/imaging/information/chronicle/cousins18-e/

https://static.pacificrimcamera.com/images/184186.jpg

https://camera-house.co.uk/product/fuji-p1-single-8-movie-camera-c-1965-1977

https://camera-house.co.uk/product/fuji-p1-single-8-cine-movie-camera

Otherwise:

OP asks:

I'd also like to double check if this is likely to be Shohei Imamura, or perhaps an actor in the film, being portrayed as filming pornography.

This is a scene from the film, with actors.

In the OP's picture, on the left is Shinichi Nakano, and on the right is Haruo Tanaka

enter image description here

Haruo Tanaka left, Shôichi Ozawa (playing the protagonist, Ogata) right.

Note:

I only see the Fujica Single 8 P1 movie camera used in the movie, I don't or cannot easily see the Nikkorex cameras at all...

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    "filming a porno is a bit difficult if you only get 2 minutes a pop and have to reload" — sounds like plenty of time to me! Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 8:45
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    Why do you need duplication ?????
    – Fattie
    Commented Apr 4, 2023 at 19:52
  • @Fattie I'm no expert on the making of pornography in Japan in the 1960's, but presumably the purpose was to sell many copies to make money. But your question is quite valid, and this complicated explanation is too challenging for me to understand: Internegative; Overview. I'll ask a followup question in Photography SE.
    – uhoh
    Commented Nov 18, 2023 at 1:16
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    @uhoh - the Wikipedia article that you linked to is what they were apparently trying to avoid, it's the normal duplication process used for motion pictures. Most movie cameras used negative film which had to be developed, then duplicated to a positive for color correction, then duplicated again to a negative which was used as a master for making theatrical prints. In this case they used Single 8 reversal film (similar to Super 8) which, similar to slide film, was already positive when developed. Filming with eight cameras gave them eight copies ready for use as soon as the film was developed Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 1:38

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