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Donald Richie, Author and Critic, Dies at 88

Criticwire By Matt Singer | Criticwire February 19, 2013 at 11:10AM

Richie's books on Japanese cinema became required reading for film students.
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"The Japan Journals: 1947-2004."
"The Japan Journals: 1947-2004."

Fandor's Keyframe Daily has the sad news that Donald Richie, the influential writer, historian, and film critic who spent his life sharing his love of Japanese film and culture with the world, has died. He was 88 years old. 

At Keyframe, David Hudson also rounds up notable recent essays on and interviews with the late Richie; he's got videos, audio, book reviews, and lengthy articles. He also includes Richie's obituary from the Japan Times, which provides some of the biographic details about how this American writer became such a prolific expert on the subject of Japanese cinema:

"Richie, who was born in Lima, Ohio, on April 17, 1924, first came to Japan with the U.S. Occupation force in 1947. He soon began working for Pacific Stars and Stripes, where he gained a reputation as a prolific writer of film reviews. After a stint back in the United States, he returned to Japan and began writing regularly for The Japan Times in 1954. Richie wrote hundreds of articles for the newspaper, covering not only film, but his other passions of theater, literature and art."

Eventually, Richie moved from reviews and articles to essays and books -- and it's those books that will surely be his legacy.  Richie eventually wrote more than thirty of them, and nearly every film and film studies student in this country has crossed paths with at least one of them over the course of their academic careers, whether it's his "A Hundred Years of Japanese Film" or his studies of the works of Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu. In six years as an undergrad and graduate student, I read excerpts from all three. 

Cinephiles may also recognize Richie's name from his frequent contributions to The Criterion Collection, where he provided excellent DVD and Blu-ray commentaries for many Japanese films, including "Rashomon," "Seven Samurai," "A Story of Floating Weeds," and "Crazed Fruit." Richie was also an accomplished experimental filmmaker; according to Catherine Grant of Film Studies For Free, Apichatpong Weerasethakul "hoped to work with him" on an upcoming project. Unfortunately, Richie's poor health kept us from seeing what would have surely been a uniquely fascinating collaboration. Thankfully, his work in print will endure for decades to come.

Read more of "Donald Richie, 1924-2013."

Richie on "Au Hasard Balthazar:"

Richie on "Harakiri:"


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