Introduction to the Michigan Electronic Reprint
by Donald Richie
History, Signs, and Difference
For this online edition of my 1971 Japanese Cinema: Film Style and National Character, I have decided to leave the book as it is. It contains no major errors that I know of and its methodology represents its time—thirty-three years ago. I would write it differently now—in fact, I have, in A Hundred Years of Japanese Films (2001). Now, my ideas of film style have broadened and I am no longer so confident that such a thing as national character can be said to exist. Nonetheless, this book still has its uses. Some of the information is repeated nowhere else, much of the emphasis is convincing today, and I believe that, despite the continuing erosion of traditional values in Japan, my "admittedly somewhat artificial spectrum" is still useful. This catalogs ("from right to left") directors "concerned with traditional values, those concerned with a questioning of these values, and those with other values entirely." Traditional has changed and the questions have changed but this broad sequence of related qualities is, I believe, still there.