Weisser's books

Jasper Sharp jasper_sharp at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 19 10:24:41 EDT 2001

>One more thing : can anyone tell me if these two books are valuable : 
>Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia : The Sex Films Japanese Cinema Encyclopedia: 
>Horror Fantasy and SciFi Films

Valuable or useful? They are both easy to get hold of on Amazon at the 
moment, so they aren't rare.
I've had a copy of his Essential Guide to Japanese Cinema for quite a while 
now, and I think its worth pointing out that Thomas Weisser's interpretation 
of the word 'Essential' is somewhat different from most peoples, as it is 
clear his personal tastes lie more in the domain of the Sex film and not 
with Ozu and Kurosawa. He quotes his favourite Japanese films as being 

It's easy to mock his books, though its important to remember that they are 
VERY complete, and will give you an idea of exactly how much stuff is out 
there and a broad introductory background to the subject. Weisser is a bit 
of a pioneer in this respect, as he's seen hundreds of films which have 
never been written about in English before.

At the same time, he makes quite a lot of factual errors, and misses out 
mainstream stuff like AFTER-LIFE in favour of more 'essential' stuff such as 
UNIFORM GIRLS: THE FRUIT IS RIPE. The more I use his books, the more I 
realise that he doesn't even have a basic grounding in Japanese (mispelling 
Hiragana translations for example), despite having a Japanese wife credited 
as co-writer. A lot of his synopses are very inaccurate, so he's obviously 
watching them in a language he doesn't understand, or hasn't seen the film 
at all (BOUNCE KOGALS is descibed a "a fashionable sex movie, like 
SPICEWORLD times 10", for example).

And then there's his writing style, which is basic in the extreme, 
constantly making digs at "arthouse" audiences, and with an annoying habit 
of sticking things in italics or upper case to make a very simple point. The 
sheer scope of the book doesn't allow enough space for any real insights 
into the films, and its generally a series of capsule reviews of a couple of 
hundred words.

The Sex films book is an extraordinary achievement. I never realised there 
was so much out there, and I don't know whether to admire or pity him for 
having seen them all - the full filmography of Hisayasu Sato, for example, 
is quite something. As 95% of these films will never make make it outside of 
Japan, its rather hard to tell whether the information in this book is 
correct or not. I spotted a few errors and I'll point out that Pinku is 
hardly my specialised subject. The individual reviews aren't too important 
or interesting, but the sporadic profiles of the directors are useful, if 
not always correct, and its another case of providing a very complete guide 
to a subject which hasn't been broached before.

Both of these books, especially SEX, suffer from the fact that the films are 
listed under the direct English translation of their Japanese titles, or 
Weisser's own interpretation, often ignoring the Eng lang titles listed in 
distributors catalogues, in favour of more sensationalist titlings such as 
etc. Wakamatsu's ECSTASY OF ANGELS is thus translated as ANGELIC ORGASM etc.

Still, as there's so little available on Japanese films, I would tentatively 
recommend them, but use with caution.

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