On my first trip to Cuba, I was delighted to find that not only was the city structure intact but that individual edifices could be matched with my memory of the 1959 film “Our Man in Havana.”
The same cannot be said of Tokyo, a city where the time traveler looks in vain for material reminders of the past.
This is why film is such an important document, one that is celebrated in “World Film Locations: Tokyo” (edited by Chris MacGee), a celluloid anthology of immense archival value.
Here we have stills and introductions from film specialists of works ranging from Kenji Mizoguchi’s 1929 “Tokyo March” to the more recent “Map of the Sounds of Tokyo” by Isabel Coixet.
Shuichi Yoshida’s “Villain” begins, as many Japanese crime novels do, with a meticulous, almost clinical description of the time, place and forensic details of a murder. The humdrum dialogue that characterizes the early pages of the story is superseded by well-observed descriptions of the lives and habitats of Japan’s blue collar and struggling lower-middle classes, of which there are clearly an inordinate number in a country that often projects itself as classless.
Yoshida’s tale gets even more interesting as the obvious suspects for his crime are eliminated. The recipient of several literary awards, the writer gives us a work that spans two popular genres in Japan: the crime thriller and social novel.
Over six decades after arriving on these shores, Donald Richie, a writer of acute perception and classical poise, has added a new title to his oeuvre, “Viewed Sideways,” one whose contents, we should pay heed to.
Completing the trilogy that began with the collections “A Lateral View” and “Partial Views,” this beautifully written collection of essays, examining subjects as diverse as Japan’s image industry, notes on theater, film and presentation, the aesthetics of fashion and design, a piece titled “Pink Box: Inside Japanese Sex Clubs,” and the wonderfully personal “My View,” represents a master at the top of his form.
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