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Donald Richie didn’t just open a window on Japanese cinema — the renowned film critic broke down a wall and put in a cultural door.

A Hundred Years of Japanese Film, by Donald Richie.
317 pages
KODANSHA, Nonfiction.

A classic among his more than 45 books on Japanese film is 2001’s “A Hundred Years of Japanese Film,” which was revised in 2005. Not just for dedicated popcorn-munchers, this book is an important work for any student of Japanese culture. Richie examines Japanese film within the wider contexts of its artistic history, discussing how Japanese art approaches the audience-performer relationship as a stylized presentation, not merely a representation of reality.

Richie’s chosen century starts with the origins of Japanese film and early works before moving into World War II and a period of “criticism and crackdown.”

He then discusses the Occupation years and the rise of television before moving into the contemporary age with the creation of new, uniquely Japanese audiences for Japanese film.

The book ends with a selective movie guide that provides brief synopses on a range of Japanese titles that are widely available.

Richie’s work is also useful to scholars, as it contains an extensive bibliography, notes for each chapter and a glossary of important terms that covers a wide range of Japanese arts beyond film. This is the kind of book you want to own, to dip into for movie recommendations and insights on art over a long period of time.

Read archived reviews of Japanese classics at jtimes.jp/essential.

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