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   Now in our eleventh calendar year
    PCR #539  (Vol. 11, No. 30)  This edition is for the week of July 19--25, 2010.

"SALT"  by Mike Smith
Starr Struck: Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band  by ED Tucker
Book Review: Empty Rooms Lonely Countries by Christian A. Dumais  by Lisa Scherer
Donald Richie: Japanese Scholar  by Jason Fetters
Paul Is Definitely Alive! .... Passing On .... Happy Birthday .... .... .... .... .... .... Mike's Record Shelf by Mike Smith

Donald Richie: Japanese Scholar

Unfortunately, the motherboard on my main desktop PC is totally fried, so I am typing this column up on my friend's Toshiba laptop with the irritating keys that are so hard to type with. However, I didn't want to skip a week so I am forced to improvise. I might be up a creek unless I can build or borrow a new or used PC by next Saturday. Enough whining, on with the column!!

Donald Richie helped to introduce Japanese movies to the West, in a way that had never been done been before. He is responsible for American audiences to first see Kurosawa movies that would one day influence George Lucas.

Donald Richie grew up in the small town of Lima, Ohio and longed to get away so he joined the Merchant Marines during World War II. After Japan surrendered and the Occupation began, Richie was sent over to be a typist for the military. Richie interviewed a homeless man who was on the streets due to the extreme poverty of the War. This article earned Richie a job as a reporter and he was off and running. He started out as a film critic for Pacific Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper. Richie reviewed American movies for American families stationed in Tokyo. Gradually he shifted away from American movies and started watching Japanese movies, despite having no Japanese language skills. Despite no comprehension of dialogue and plot, Richie could observe emotions, camera angles, environmental settings, and gestures. Eventually Richie teamed up with Joseph Anderson and together they wrote the first book on Japanese movies called The Japanese Film: Art and Industry in 1959. The popularity of this book led to Richie organizing Japanese movies for European Film Festivals where he introduced Japanese movies, directors, stars, and screenwriters for the first time. He also organized Japanese movies in the U.S. Richie wrote the best film biography on Ozu Yasujiro, a director who focused on home drama about Japanese life. The book is called simply, Ozu, and describes Ozu's directing methods and film production. Ozu directed his masterpiece called Tokyo Story about an elderly couple whose own grown up children neglect them. Tokyo Story is still influencing Asian filmmakers today.

Donald Richie has also written the definite study on Kurosawa called The Films of Akira Kurosawa that offered the first Kurosawa biography in English and the first critical look at movies like Seven Samurai and the Academy Award winning Rashomon. Donald has always managed to stay ahead of his other fellow Japanologists by getting there first. He studied Zen with the great Zen Master, D.T. Suzuki, long before Suzuki visited the U.S. To teach Zen to hippies during the '60s. Richie was also a good friend of Japan's greatest modern writer, Mishima Yukio, the Hemingway of Japan.

Donald Richie believes that a critic should know something about the trade before he or she engages in writing about it. In other words, a music critic should learn to play a musical instrument and a film critic should make movies. With that in mind, Richie made several experimental movies in Tokyo that cover a wide range of topics and ideas and that still continue to influence Japanese writers, filmmakers, and artists.

After writing over 80 books on almost every aspect of Japan from gardens, to sushi, movies, books, writers, travel, historical novels, sex, tattoos, and popular culture, Richie is widely considered the Japan expert. He knows Tokyo so well that he gave tours to Duke Ellington and Truman Capote.

Richie even helps out Temple University by being a guest lecturer on Ozu for the Japanese film class.

Now in his mid-80's, Richie could sit back and relax, but he doesn't. He has just published a new travel book that takes you on a sightseeing tour of Tokyo through words and pictures in Tokyo: Megacity. Donald Richie never tires of writing and speaking about Tokyo and Japanese people for the past 60 years that he has been a Tokyo resident. Most Americans left when the Occupation ended and Richie has stayed and thrived.

To comment on this or any other PCR article, please visit The Message Board. "The Asian Aperture" is ©2010 by Jason Fetters. Webpage design and all graphics herein (except where otherwise noted) are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2010 by Nolan B. Canova.