AFL Reference to Japanese Film (Richie Review)

stephen cremin asianfilmlibrary
Mon Dec 21 13:33:06 EST 1998


Edited and compiled by Stephen Cremin.  The Asian Film Library, 1998.  
Pp. 650.

Reference works on the Japanese film in languages other than Japanese 
are both few and partial.  Arne Svensson's initial "Screen Series 
Japan" (1971) was selective and spotty and is, in any event, out of 
print.  Beverly Buehrer's "Japanese Films: 1921-1989" was more of a 
filmography and confined itself to the better-known pictures.  Stuart 
Galbraith's "The Japanese Filmography" (1996) was comprehensive but 
restricted itself to those films released in the United States between 
1900 and 1994.  The various references by Thomas Weisser and Yuko 
Mihara Weisser devote themselves to the popular product.  There is 
also one Japanese publication in English.  This is the annual 
"Japanese Film" published by Unijapan Film but it too does not pretend 
to be complete, though it does have a good cumulative index.

Stephen Cremin's new two-volume reference is, in addition to being up 
to date (it includes films not even yet released in Japan) is also the 
fullest and most reliable yet to appear.  In some respects it is more 
reliable than some Japanese-language reference sources which often get 
things wrong, and in addition it gives you the right romaji readings 
for Japanese names.

The perimeters for choice are quite wide.  To be included in these 
volumes the film has had to be have an English title.  No matter how 
this was acquired, it qualifies the picture for inclusion.  Thus even 
if a picture was never given subtitles, never itself English-titled, 
never shown abroad, if the title has been translated (in history 
books, director monographs, etc) it is included.

The first volume of this set (devoted to title listings, staff and 
cast lists, running times, production companies, etc) contains 2259 
films.  Included for each is the Japan title (in kanji, which 
determines the "alphabetical" placing of each entry), the English 
title or titles, the year of production, the Japanese title in romaji, 
full cast and credits, and running time.

To locate the film for which you are looking you may look it up 
directly if you can read Japanese.  Otherwise locate it by the English 
title in the index which gives you its reference number (as well as 
the title in Japanese, in romaji, the name of the director in romaji 
and in kanji, and the year of production).  In addition, alternate 
English film titles (some 500) are also listed.  Whether you know 
Nakahira Ko's 1956 "Kurutta Kajitsu" under the titles of "Crazed 
Fruit", "This Scorching Sea", or "Juvenile Passion", they will all 
direct you to entry 673 which is that devoted to this film.

The second volume of the set (devoted to credits and cast) is a series 
of filmographies given over to actors, actresses, directors, 
scriptwriters, original authors, photographers, production designers, 
composers, editors, and producers - some 3335 individuals in all.  
Here, again, completeness is achieved.

Look up any individual and all the films in or on which he or she 
worked are there.  The two volumes are also cross-referenced - those 
films listed in volume two in italics are featured in volume one.  In 
addition the index gives birth/death/gender while the year listed for 
films in both volumes is the release date.

And these listings are truly comprehensive.  I am at present doing a 
retrospective of the films of Hani Susumu for the Telluride Festival 
and so I looked him up here.  Cremin's listings for Hani is more 
complete than the one I had made after working with all the producing 
companies and with Hani himself.

As a research tool this second volume offers something which no other 
does.  One may now ascertain the complete work of a photographer, of a 
composer, of an editor.  One may discover how many film adaptations 
have been made of Izumi Kyoka (thirteen in all), which directors 
worked on which script for other directors, which directors produced 
their own films (Oshima did just two, "Yunbogi?s Diary" and "Death by 
Hanging") and much else.

Every film library should have this set because of the vast amount of 
information it makes available and for its completeness.  The hours of 
work which went into these volumes must have been enormous - it has 
been five years in the making - and its level of accuracy is amazingly 
high.  ... As a scholarly tool there is nothing else like it in 
English and I urge anyone interested to acquire it.

-Donald Richie, The Japan Times, 2 June 1998


I think the above is a little too generous.  In this edition, 
filmographies are restricted to films which have an "official" English 
title so here are actually a few more Izumi Kyoka adaptations.  
Although, as you can see from the Nagato Hiroyuki filmography posted 
separately, it is still quite extensive.  I actually keep records on 
over 10,000 films but I didn't want to impose my own "translation" of 
titles in this edition.  (I think there have been around 17,500 
Japanese feature films released in the postwar period and, according 
to Pia Cinema Club, around 6200 titles are currently viewable in some 
form: TV, video, cinema.  Of the top of my head, I'd guess that 
somewhere between 3-4,000 Japanese films have an "official" English 
title.)  Even using established souces, problems arise: Aoyagi Nobuo's 
"Sazae-san no Seishun" is not "Spring on Mount Sazae"!

As the work becomes established (and both the National Film Council of 
Japan and Unijapan consider it the key source) it will move to a 
position of originating "official" English titles.  (I'm happy to take 
suggestions from KineJapan subscribers and will of course indicate 
where a title has been "imposed".)  Although Richie recently stated 
that he has yet to find errors in the work, the odd small problem does 
exist ("Kanaya Koji" not "Kaneya Koji": Fuji TV drama cameraman; 
"Terajima Susumu" not "Terashima Susumu": Kitano actor, checked at 
source) and have been corrected for future editions.  Richie more 
recently described it as "the most important scholarly book ever 
published on Japanese film" which I believe is equally overstated.

Because of the difficulty accessing pictures of new Japanese films, a 
free update for insertion into the ring-bound work is only issued in 
the spring (following the Berlin Film Festival which premieres many 
forthcoming Japanese films).  The latest version of the update on my 
computer has an additional 55 films released in 1998 in addition to 
the 20 titles in the current edition.  (Again, these are titles with 
an "official" English title and extensive cast and staff lists, 
including production designers, editors, producers, etc.)  I imagine 
it will grow to around 100 new titles as the deadline draws closer.

I'll post a special offer for KineJapan subscribers in the next couple 
of days.


Stephen Cremin
The Asian Film Library
Suite 19, 2 Lansdowne Row
Berkeley Square
London W1X 8HL
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 7970 506326

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