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A Critical Handbook of Japanese Film Directors: From the Silent Era to the Present Day [Paperback]

Alexander Jacoby
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

1 Nov 2008
This important work fills the need for a reasonably priced yet comprehensive volume on major directors in the history of Japanese film. With clear insight and without academic jargon, Jacoby examines the works of over 150 filmmakers to uncover what makes their films worth watching. Included are artistic profiles of everyone from Yutaka Abe to Isao Yukisada, including masters like Kinji Fukasaku, Juzo Itami, Akira Kurosawa, Takashi Miike, Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, and Yoji Yamada. Each entry includes a critical summary and filmography, making this book an essential reference and guide. UK-based Alexander Jacoby is a writer and researcher on Japanese film.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Stone Bridge Press (1 Nov 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933330538
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933330532
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15.3 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 527,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Freelance writer and film critic. Graduate of Cambridge U (2000) with M.Phil. in Renaissance Lit. Employed at BBC Broadcast (Red Bee Media, Ltd). In Japan 2002-2005. Continues to publish essays and reviews on Japanese film in magazines and film journals. Donald Richie has been writing about Japan for over 50 years from his base in Tokyo and is the author of over 40 books and hundreds of essays and reviews. He is widely admired for his incisive film studies on Ozu and Kurosawa, and for his stylish and incisive observations on Japanese culture.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exemplary overview! 9 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback
Japanese cinema, from the silent era to the present day, is one of the world's richest film cultures, largely because it can boast a remarkable number of directors each of whom has produced a body of work that is distinctive both in its personal concerns/recurring themes and in displaying a unique visual style. One can debate which of these artists deserve to be recognised as "creators of genius" or "minor but talented" or "ambitious but problematic" etc.; the important thing is to establish that they are all worthy of attention. After an opening chapter that outlines with laudable clarity the effects of socio-cultural and economic trends in Japanese history upon its film industry, Alexander Jacoby profiles the work of no less than 156 directors, offering succinct, vivid accounts of their careers. He has clearly viewed thousands of Japanese films, but where prints of potentially key works are lost or inaccessible, he provides intelligent, cogent assessments based on contemporary or more recent crtitical sources. Whether your interest in Japanese cinema is deep-rooted or passing, this book is essential reading.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very useful book; comprehensive and cool 19 Sep 2011
By Little Roy Blue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an excellent reference work for anyone who has even a passing interest in Japanese cinema. Jacoby structures the book well, proceeding through all of the major Japanese directors (and many minor ones) in alphabetical order. For each director's entry, he provides a broad career overview - offering his own opinions of the major films - then includes a filmography. While I don't agree with absolutely all of his statements, his opinions are always interesting to read and well-informed, and it's nice to get a fresh (to me) perspective on such classic Japanese filmmakers as Kobayashi, Kurosawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi...

Another striking thing about this book is that Jacoby isn't snobby about which directors he includes. So he has "classical" directors like Mizoguchi in here, and also genre directors like Ishiro Honda of "Godzilla" fame and Takashi Miike. His willingness to cover drama, horror, science fiction, and gangster films in a single volume makes him more open-minded than most other aficionados of Japanese cinema, who tend to limit themselves to one or two genres. (Indeed, rare is the critic who enjoys both Tokyo Story and The Mysterians, as I do.) Another highlight is that Jacoby includes some useful appendices, such as an overview of the major Japanese film studios and a list of historical eras in Japan (handy for figuring out when all these samurai movies are supposed to take place).

Of course, since the book covers a lot of ground, Jacoby doesn't delve too deeply into any one director's work. Even "big guns" like Ozu and Kurosawa have short entries; and while Jacoby has room to challenge some common theories about Ozu, he doesn't have quite enough room to properly develop his counter-theories. Also, like most handbooks, this can get a little dry if you try to read it all in one go; I prefer to sample individual entries whenever I feel like it.

Overall, this is good stuff, and I look forward to using this book to track down the more obscure classics of Japanese cinema. As a pointless aside, many of the movies covered in this book have very amusing titles (in translation), on the order of: "Ninja Mountain Attack Saga: Duel by Autumn Moonlight!" Just thought I'd mention that, because it gave me a few chuckles.
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitive (Or Pretty Darn Close)! 24 Feb 2014
By William F. Flanigan Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are a Japanese film enthusiast (or just have a casual interest in films from Japan), you will want to have this hard-copy guide close on-hand. To make sense of the Japanese cinema past and present (circa 2008 - the date of publication). The text is written in plain language for the general reader. It is a far cry from the essentially unintelligible volumes out there written by academic film scholars. Contents also include a substantial glossary of terminology, a historical overview of releasing studios, and a description of each Japanese cultural period addressed by currently-known Japanese films (starting with the Nara period, circa year 700). There are, however, some issues to be raised, one minor and a few more than minor. The index is substantial, but does not list films by generally-accepted translated titles in English. More irritating, films listed in the text for each director are cited first by their Japanese title (in romaji, thankfully) and then by their English translated title. This makes sense, since English title translations can vary. However and on balance, it does not make sense, since the readers of this handbook are likely to have English as their primary language. Further, film titles (in either Japanese romaji or English) are not listed alphabetically across years or within years. This makes the reader work harder than necessary to get at information of interest. Bottom line: Consolidated, comprehensive, invaluable, and in print. WILLIAM FLANIGAN, PhD.
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