Cinema assumed the role of theatre in Japan, a platform for maintaining traditions even as the arrival of modernity left such precarious. This sort of behavior is common among middle aged white men. Richie details how television ruined it all and how the subsequent decades have left the audiences of not just Japan but the entire first world suitable for only a stylized nihilism.
A detailed, scholarly, readable history of Japanese film from the silent days to the present (or the present of the book). The great value is that along with outlining the history of the Japanese cinema, you are given a fantastic historical and cultural context for the movies being discussed. The notion of how Japanese culture, film in particular, reacted to and reflected the rampant militarism of the Thirties is dealt with extremely well.
However, he also discusses overall trends, the development of genres and new technologies, and events (such as the war and the occupation) which had major influences on the direction of studios and directors. The overall result is that the book has a clear narrative while presenting a wealth of information, much of which will be new to most readers. On a theoretical level, Richie is largely concerned with the way that the tension between the traditional and the modern has informed Japanese cinema. Many directors, as he discusses them, appear to have a common career trajectory: they break onto the scene highly critical of tradition, embracing the modern, but as they mature they find that the only way to be truly Japanese is to return to tradition, if not actual conservatism, in their later films. The idiosyncrasy which was mentioned to me before I read the book is that Richie has preserved the Japanese names in their traditional family-name-first sequence.
Additionally the author focusing at all on the emotional impact of a film (pretty subjective) was not at all useful.
The end result is a book best suited as a reference or a starting point for learning about Japanese film before going on to more detailed sources.
Donald Richie is an American-born author who has written about the Japanese people and Japanese cinema. In 1959, he published his first book, The Japanese Film: Art and Industry, coauthored with Joseph Anderson. In this work, the authors gave the first English language account of Japanese film. A collection of his writings has been published to commemorate fifty years of writing about Japan: The Donald Richie Reader. In the foreword to this book, Paul Schrader says: "Whatever we in the West know about Japanese film, and how we know it, we most likely owe to Donald Richie." Richie also has written analyses of two of Japan's best known filmmakers: Yasujiro Ozu and Akira Kurosawa. In the 21st century, Richie has become noted for his erudite audio commentaries for The Criterion Collection on DVDs of various classic Japanese films, notably those of Ozu (A Story of Floating Weeds, Early Summer), Mikio Naruse (When a Woman Ascend