RECALLING THE TREASURES OF JAPANESE CINEMA: Japanese Film History Studies, edited by Friends of Silent Film Association, supervised by Matsuda Film Productions, preface by Tadao Sato. Tokyo: Urban Connections, 2003, 200 pp., with photos, 1,800 yen (cloth).

With movies so ubiquitous it is easy to forget how fragile they are — particularly Japanese movies. Even in a world where two-thirds of all silent cinema is lost (and perhaps a quarter of all sound films as well), the destruction of the Japanese cinema is extraordinary. Except for a few titles, there is nothing extant from the period of 1897 to 1917 and only somewhat more from 1918 to 1945. The 1923 earthquake, the 1945 fire-bombing of the major cities, the postwar Allied Occupation torching of banned films, and the later indifference of the industry itself have meant the destruction of 90 percent of all Japanese films made before 1945.

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