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The Waves at Genji's Door: Japan Through Its Cinema Paperback – 1 Nov 1976

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 review
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ready For Rediscovery 16 Sept. 2006
By David Alston - Published on
Format: Paperback
In the wake of the crossover success of Donald Richie's definitive A HUNDRED YEARS OF JAPANESE FILM, I would suggest that Joan Mellen's earlier WAVES AT GENJI'S DOOR is more than ready for a revival.

Mellen's book, first published in 1976, lacks the definitive scope of Richie's work, mainly focusing on the postwar boom in Japanese film, through about 1970. And her focus within those years is narrower - mostly canonical figures: Kurosawa, Ozu, Naruse, Mizoguchi and some of the figures that emerged from the 60s Japanese new wave.

But her work is similarly exhaustive and comprehensive, in many instances based upon extensive interviews, most famously with Masaki Kobayashi (which were excerpted for some Criterion DVD releases in the US). The book is very well illustrated with an abundance of black-and-white stills, including many I haven't seen elsewhere.

Mellen does approach her work - which is more of a critical analysis than a simple guide - with a thesis to explore, and feminist critiques are often applied, along with an attempt at placing films (and often, the women's roles within stories) within a historical context.

In this she doesn't always succeed, but she does always provoke thought and debate - her examination of women in Japanese cinema, which focuses on Ozu, Mizoguchi, Imai, Imamura, Susumu Hani, and Mikio Naruse - is of particular interest. I don't agree with all of her assessments, but I do with some, and Mellen knows the material very well. And she makes that knowledge accessible - this book was originally conceived as a graduate thesis, but Mellen doesn't hide her evangelizing enthusiasm for Japanese cinema, and goes to some length to balance academic authority and general literary accessibility.

Overall, an extremely engaging and valuable work - well worth the hunt.

-David Alston
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