Weisser's books

Pete Larson plarson
Thu Apr 19 12:29:58 EDT 2001

That's excactly the problem I have with them. While I can forgive mistakes
in transliteration and poor writing, I cannot forgive the almost intentional
exclusion of the best that the Japanese cinema has to offer. Maybe his
Japanese skills are so low that these films present problems for him. I
don't know. I often wonder how much input his wife actually has. Her bio
lists her as having been a movie reviewer for several Japanese newspapers
but the quality of the reviews in these books makes me suspect. His Asian
Cult Cinema magazine sometimes attracts worthwhile writers but his sections
are more attacks on arthouse movie goers and people who don't like the
inclusion of naked models in his magazine. Still it's not nearly as bad as
"Oriental Cinema", the name alone makes it worth avoiding.

Also, like I said before, his books are good sources of movie lists, and I
referred to them often in my early days in Japan. I often wished, however,
that he would have printed the titles of the movies in Japanese rather than
just his poor title translations (I often had to traslate the titles from
his english titles into Japanese to find what I was looking for!) Given
this, I don't understand how he expects people to find the movies he writes

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
[mailto:owner-KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu]On Behalf Of Jasper
Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2001 10:25 AM
To: KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Subject: Weisser's books

>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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