Leonard Schrader's Masters of Japanese Cinema

Mark Nornes amnornes at umich.edu
Tue Jan 10 19:55:58 EST 2006

A month or two ago, there was some talk about Leonard Schrader's 
manuscript of translations. After Peter High mentioned some interesting 
things about the history of that unfinished project, I decided to ask 
the man himself about it. Schrader's response follows.


>       The "book" is called MASTERS OF JAPANESE FILM.  It has never been
> published because I became too busy writing screenplays.  At one point 
> Weatherhill
> was ready to publish it; at another point Knopf wanted to publish it; 
> but that was over
> 30 years ago.  In 1973 I deposited the unfinished manuscript in the 
> Pacific Film
> Archives at Berkeley, so scholars could use it.  For five years I 
> received annual
> updates on who was requesting what parts of it, but then it stopped.
>      The book concentrated on Mizoguchi, Ozu, Naruse and Kurosawa.  It 
> translated
> into English every interview they ever gave.  (For example, I found 
> not only a lost
> Mizoguchi film but also a "lost" Mizoguchi interview from a 
> mid-Twenties magazine
> which is not in the possession of either the Japanese National Library 
> or the Japan
> Film Library.  In the late Sixties, Kyoto was a great place to find 
> used bookstores filling
> up with priceless materials being dumped by a dead filmmaker's 
> estate.)  Many of the
> Kurosawa interviews were, of course, already translated.  Next the 
> book translated every
> interview with the filmmaker's crew: screenwriters, cinematographers, 
> etc.  (This is
> how I became good friends with one of Mizoguchi's screenwriters, the 
> late Yoda
> Yoshikata who was the "go-between" at my wedding with my Japanese 
> wife.) In addition,
> the book translated a sampling of Japanese film criticism on each 
> filmmaker: it ranged
> from the mainstream consensus (such Iwasaki Akira) to the provocative. 
>  The "criteria"
> was to find something (anything?) that didn't bore me to death.  In 
> addition, I sent out
> questionaires to every director asking about these four filmmakers.  I 
> received several
> replies.  In addition, I interviewed my friends such as Kurosawa Akira 
> and Terayama
> Shuji.  So I have, for example, Kurosawa saying that although 
> Mizoguchi is Japan's best
> and most Japanese filmmaker, he didn't understand the samurai class as 
> profoundly as
> he understood the merchant class, so he wished Mizoguchi would have 
> asked Kurosawa
> to direct his few scenes with samurai.
>      I began the translations with a fellow faculty member in Doshisha 
> University English
> Department, Nakamura Haruji, a super sharp guy who is now Dean of 
> Doshisha University.
> However, he became busy and was soon replaced by my soon-to-be-wife 
> wife Chieko.  For
> awhile the translations were done by the three of us, but the bulk of 
> the work was done by
> my wife and me.
> Cheers,
> Len Schrader

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