AFL Reference to Japanese Film (Richie Review)
Mon Dec 21 13:33:06 EST 1998
"THE" GUIDE TO JAPANESE FILM
THE ASIAN FILM LIBRARY REFERENCE TO JAPANESE FILM 1998: VOLUMES I & II
Edited and compiled by Stephen Cremin. The Asian Film Library, 1998.
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
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