The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film Paperback – Oct 1 2004
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"All you need to know about the cutting edge of the new Japanese film genre. Animated, inventive and imaginative, violent, and cool ... a cinema that has reinvented itself." -- Donald Richie, author of "A Hundred Years of Japanese Film
About the Author
Tom Mes is the founder and co-editor of MidnightEye.com, the world's leading English-language publication on contemporary Japanese cinema. His work has appeared in such magazines as Fangoria, Impact, Japan Magazine and Skrien. Jasper Sharp is co-editor of the premier English language film website on Japanese cinema, MidnightEye.com. He is currently at work on Behind the Pink Curtain, a documentary about Japanese erotic film. Director of the original Japanese "The Ring" series and director of an upcoming horror/suspense film with Sarah Michelle Gellar
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film" is as excellent as one would expect, an essential book for those interested in modern Japanese film. The layout is well-balanced, covering director profiles and film reviews, using both original material and previously featured articles. The writing is crisp and clear, and each chapter provides insight even on topics where one is knowledgeable. Over 100 photos show some of the visual highlights of this visual media.
Each chapter focuses on a director, from history to motivation to style, with a review of that director's top five or six films. Being new Japanese film, the profiles begin in 1956 with Seijin Suzuki ("Elegy to Fighting," "Tokyo Drifter"), a complicated and controversial director. With the Criterion Collection currently making a push of Suzuki's catalog on DVD, this makes a great starting point and leaves me looking forward to each new release. All of the major directors are profiled, such as Shohei Imamura ("The Eel"), Kinji Fukasaku ("Battles without Honor and Humanity" "Battle Royale") Masato Harada ("Bounce KoGals"), Kiyoshi Kurosawa ("Cure"), Studio Ghibli luminaries Isao Takahata ("Grave of the Fireflies") and Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away"), Takeshi Kitano ("Hanabi"), Takashi Miike ("Ichi the Killer," "Audition"), Hirokazu Kore-eda ("After Life"), and Hideo Nakata ("The Ring"). Other, lesser-known directors are also given their due, such as Nara-based naturalist Naomi Kawase ("Suzaku.")
The final section covers what they call "The Other Players," those who have put out a film or two of exceptional quality but hadn't yet established a solid career in the same rank. Animator Satoshi Kon's "Perfect Blue," Masayuki Suo's "Shall We Dance?," Mamoru Oshii's "Avalon," Juzo Itami's "Tampopo" and Mitsuo Yanagimachi's "Fire Festival" are all given their due. More than just simple film-reviews, the authors pack each spotlight with as much interest and insight as their director profiles.
With Donald Richie's seminal "100 Years of Japanese Film" covering the past, it is great to see such a qualified inheritor of the future. Anyone interested in Japanese film will be pleased with "The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film," both for its insights into current favorites as well as the host of new favorites that they will undoubtedly discovered.
A book such as this can be a huge aid to the western audience in identifying films otherwise inscrutable. I bought this book hoping it would put me on to some directors/films I might not otherwise have known about or viewed. In this respect the book was successful. It also gave me a lot of new and interesting information about directors with whom I was already familiar.
I don't give the book a higher rating because of two things (Oh, and I guess that I should add that some of the directors they write about are actually old, not to mention dead).
The first is that, perhaps because they attempt to be really informative, the director essays lacked narrative cohesion; jumping around a lot rather than proceeding logically from one point to the next; and the included bold-faced quotations while interesting were placed at random rather than within the area of the discussion whence the quote was made. As such, I found the director profiles difficult to read from start to finish.
My second complaint is that the reviews of movies with which I was familiar were so wrapped up in the gauzy language of critical analysis that they lacked any criticism to speak of and read more like puff pieces than critical reviews
Some of the movies they portrayed as really, really good were actually rather ordinary, even mediocre.
As such, the movie or two I did view based on their reviews left me feeling so disappointed that I ceased consulting the book for ideas.
Still, I do think this is a worthy purchase if one wants to explore Japanese movies, because this guide is definitely almost helpful.