Books


Title: Asakusa Kid
Publishing company: Le Serpent à Plumes
Country: France
Release date: 05/10/1999
Editor:
Writer: Kitano Takeshi
Language: French
Pages: 261
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon [France]
Price: OOP
Notes: This is a French translation of Kitano's autobiographical account of his Asakusa period, where he became a comedian and formed "The Two Beats". It is Out Of Print, but once in a while there are copies available on various etailers, so keep a look out for it.
   

Title: Asakusa Kid
Publishing company: Le Serpent à Plumes
Country: France
Release date: 08/xx/2001
Editor:
Writer: Kitano Takeshi
Language: French
Pages: 261
Format: Hard cover
Etailer: Amazon [France]
Price: € 7,00
Notes: This is a French translation of Kitano's autobiographical account of his Asakusa period, where he became a comedian and formed "The Two Beats".
   

Title: Rencontre du Septième Art
Publishing company: Arléa
Country: France
Release date: 04/04/2003
Editor: Silvain Chupin [Translation]
Writer: Kitano Takeshi
Language: French
Pages: 96
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon [France]
Price: € 6,00
Notes: Introduced by Michel Boujut, this is a collection of four conversations by Kitano Takeshi with

Kurosawa Akira (Shukan Bunshun, May 1999)
Imamura Shohei (Shincho 45, February 1998)
Hasumi Shiguehiko (This is Yomiuri, February 1998)
Mathieu Kassovitz (Uno, June 1998)
Comments: One amazing book, a cornerstone in the literature on Kitano. That it's not translated into English is quiet a blunder.

Especially in the conversations with Kurosawa and Imamura, Kitano displays a profound understanding and insight into cinema, which allows one both understand and appriciate his work further.
   

Title: Rencontre du Septième Art
Publishing company: Arléa
Country: France
Release date: 18/02/2000
Editor: Silvain Chupin [Translation]
Writer: Kitano Takeshi
Language: French
Pages: 96
Format: Hard cover
Etailer: Amazon [France]
Price: € 12,96
Notes: Introduced by Michel Boujut, this is a collection of four conversations by Kitano Takeshi with

Kurosawa Akira (Shukan Bunshun, May 1999)
Imamura Shohei (Shincho 45, February 1998)
Hasumi Shiguehiko (This is Yomiuri, February 1998)
Mathieu Kassovitz (Uno, June 1998)
   

Title: Warum ich Frauen trotzdem mag
Publishing company: Angkor Verlag
Country: Germany
Release date: 06/xx/2004
Editor: Guido Keller
Writer: Kitano Takeshi
Language: German
Pages: 98
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon [Germany]
Price: € 9,90
Notes: A German translation of "Soredemo Onnaga Suki" with 6 pages of glossary for those unfamiliar with Japanese costums and personalities.
Comments: Where most know Kitano Takeshi as a serious film maker, another side of his persona is the provocateur and social satirist "Beat" Takeshi. Here "Beat" speaks out about women, sex, adultery, marriage and so forth, with a highly satirical and provocative humour.

As the title may suggest, the target are the women of today. Amongst other, "Beat" accuses todays independent women of being the cause for impotence, as men are getting tired of having to do all sorts of things, just to have sex with them; Why spend tons of money on dinners and flowers and wasting several weeks courting, when you can go down and get off, faster and cheaper, with a soap girl?, is one of the many questions he rhetorically asks. In his critic of the modern woman, he also attacks the institution of marriage, suggests that all women are whores, that mothers spoil their children and that the way they raise their kids are the cause of several problems of today.

Yet, despite women obviously are the source to all problems, "Beat" admits that he can't live without them. Why? Because he always is horny. In several comments, "Beat" goes into great detail about getting erections watching the asses of the nurses at the hospital following his accident, "Here I laid, smashed up by the accident, and it would have been a good time to contemplate life and so forth, but all I could think of was the asses of the nurses. After all, I am a horny devil.", continues to talk about how great erections are and how he got so horny he had a case of premature ejaculation. Then he jumps to talking about his venture in making photographs of pubic hair. On and off he also comments on the alleged affair with singer Fumin. While he time and time again stresses that they only are friends and that he only visited her that night to borrow a dress, he equally as many times talks about her great tits and how he would love to do her.

This is "Beat" Takeshi in a nutshell. This is the sort of both exposing and self exposing humour he has practised since 1981, where he began doing it on the radio show "All Night Nippon".

The structure of the book consists of short comments, arranged by topic, giving a somewhat coherent flow. But then suddenly, "Beat" interupts this flow with comments about how he hates Japanese tourists on Hawaii or how much he loves Fumin's tits.

A highly recommendable book for everyone who wants to see the side of Kitano Takeshi for which he is famous in Japan.
[Review by Henrik Sylow]
   

Title: Samurai Beat: Der Zen-Krieger. Das Buch zum Film 'Brother'. [Budôshoshinshû]
Publishing company: Angkor Verlag
Country: Germany
Release date: 01/01/2001
Editor: Guido Keller
Writer: Yuzan Daidoji
Language: German
Pages: 100
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon [Germany]
Price: € 11,00
Notes: A German translation of "Budo Shoshin Shu", dealing with how bushido and zen affected daily life of the Samurai. Attached is 4 page article about Kitano and a 5 page forword about how "Brother" related to the ways of the Samurai.

Not really a book about Kitano, but Guido Keller told me, that he added the material on Kitano in order to promote the book further. Nevertheless, an interesting text, that offers a different approach to "Brother".
   

Title: Takeshi Kitano
Publishing company: Audino
Country: Italy
Release date: xx/xx/1998
Editor:
Writer: Donatello Fumarola
Language: Italian
Pages: 64
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: [IBS.IT]
Price: € 3,62
Notes: An Italian book on the films of Kitano Takeshi. The Book is OOP (Out of Print).
   

Title: Il cinema nero di Takeshi Kitano. Con tre sceneggiature: Sonatine, Hana-bi, Brother
Publishing company: Ubulibri
Country: Italy
Release date: xx/xx/2001
Editor: Luciano Barcaroli, Carlo Hintermann, Daniele Villa
Writer: Luciano Barcaroli, Carlo Hintermann, Daniele Villa
Language: Italian
Pages: 272
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: [IBS.IT]
Price: € 30,99
Notes: One of the few critical approaches to the work of Kitano. The book demonstrates the dynamics of his direction thru 6 manuscripts to three films (Sonatine, Hana-Bi and Brother), by first draft compared with final script, and thru a conversation with Kitano Takeshi.

Introduction
Takeshi Kitano, ovvero l'orfano inafferabile, by Shigehiko Hasumi

Sonatine
First version, August 1992
Last version, December 1992

Hana-Bi
First version, February 1997
Last version, July 1997

Brother
First version, November 1999
Last version, January 2002

A Conversation with Kitano Takeshi

Appendix, Paintings, Filmography, Television and Bibliography.
   

Title: Asakusa Kid
Publishing company: Mondadori
Country: Italy
Release date: xx/xx/2002
Editor: Alexander Carlini
Writer: Kitano Takeshi
Language: Italian
Pages: 204
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: [IBS.IT]
Price: € 6,80
Notes: This is a Italian translation of Kitano's autobiographical account of his Asakusa period, where he became a comedian and formed "The Two Beats".
   

Title: Takeshi Kitano (1st Edition)
Publishing company: Il Castoro
Country: Italy
Release date: xx/xx/1998
Editor:
Writer: Buccheri Vincenzo
Language: Italian
Pages: 64
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: [BOL]
Price: € 3,62
Notes: An Italian book on the films of Kitano Takeshi.
   

Title: Takeshi Kitano (2nd Edition)
Publishing company: Il Castoro
Country: Italy
Release date: xx/xx/2001
Editor:
Writer: Buccheri Vincenzo
Language: Italian
Pages: 137
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: [BOL]
Price: € 11,90
Notes: An Italian book on the films of Kitano Takeshi. This is the second edition including "Kikujiro" and "Brother".
   

Title: Takeshi Kitano (3rd Edition)
Publishing company: Il Castoro
Country: Italy
Release date: xx/04/2004
Editor:
Writer: Buccheri Vincenzo
Language: Italian
Pages: 159
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: [IBS.IT]
Price: € 11,90
Notes: An Italian book on the films of Kitano Takeshi. This is the 3rd edition, including "Dolls" and "Zatoichi".
Comments: A great "little" book. Starting out with a biography, the main part of the book consists of each film being introduced, followed by a synopsis, then to be analysed. Clearly a work of passion and insight, the analysis is supported by numerous references and many frame stills.

To allow readers, who aren't familiar with cinematic expressions, a better understanding, the book has a section, where specific terms are explained. Likewise, to allow readers to study Kitano further, the book has a very detailed and expansive literature list (articles, books, interviews).
   

Title: Smierc jest moim zwyciestwem : kino Takeshi Kitano
Publishing company: Rabid
Country: Poland
Release date: xx/xx/2001
Editor:
Writer: Piotr Kletowski
Language: Polish
Pages: 122
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: [RABID]
Price: € 11,90
Notes: A Polish book about Kitano.
   

Title: Takeshi Kitano : Al final de la violencia
Publishing company: Semana Internacional de Cine de Valladolid
Country: Spain
Release date: xx/xx/1998
Editor: Tsujimoto Makiko (translation)
Writer: Kitano Takeshi
Language: Spanish
Pages: 138
Format: Soft cover
Etailer:
Price:
Notes: ISBN 8487737269
   

Title: "Beat" Takeshi Kitano
Publishing company: Tadao Press
Country: United Kingdom
Release date: 01/04/1999
Editor: Brian Jacobs
Writer: Imai Takako, Tommy Udo, Sato Yuki, Machiyama Tomohiro and Abe Casio
Language: English
Pages: 128
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon
Price: OOP
Notes: This is the best introductionary book written about Kitano Takeshi. It is Out Of Print, but once in a while there are copies available on various etailers, so keep a look out for it.

Born to be Wild - Biography by Imai Takako

Film reviews by Tommy Udo

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence
- Introduction by Tommy Udo
- Oshima Nagisa interview by Sato Yuki
- Jeremy Thomas interview by Imai Takako
- Tom Conti interview by Imai Takako

All About Takeshi's mother and his misdemeanours

Cannes '96 by Sato Yuki
Venice '97 by Sato Yuki

A Comedian Star is Born by Machiyama Tomohiro

Takeshi: A Genius Actor by Abe Casio

Cannes '99 by Imai Takako
   

Title: Contemporary Japanese Film
Publishing company: Weatherhill
Country: USA
Release date: 01/11/1999
Writer: Mark Schilling
Language: English
Pages: 400
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon
Price: $ 24.95
Notes: This comprehensive look at Japanese cinema in the 1990's includes nearly four hundred reviews of individual films and a dozen interviews and profiles of leading directors and producers. Interpretive essays provide an overview of some of the key issues and themes of the decade, and provide background and context for the treatment of individual films and artists.

In Mark Schilling's view, Japanese film is presently in a period of creative ferment, with a lively independent sector challenging the conventions of the industry mainstream. Younger filmmakers are rejecting the stale formulas that have long characterized major studio releases, reaching out to new influences from other media - television, comics, music videos, and even computer games - and from both the West and other Asian cultures. In the process they are creating fresh and exciting films that range from the meditative to the manic, offering hope that Japanese film will not only survive but thrive as it enters the new millenium.

Contains three essays: Mainstream Japanse Film, The New Breed of Japanese Film and The New Wave of the Nineties, interviews and profiles of key Japanese directors: Shinoda Masahiro, Kurosawa Akira, Yamada Yori, Okuyama Kazuyoshi, Sai Yoichi, Takahata Isao, Iwai Shunji, Suo Masayuki, Itami Juzo, Sento Naomi, Shinozaki Makoto, Kitano Takeshi, Ichikawa Jun, Sento Takenori and Kore-eda Hirozaku, and reviews of key films.
   

Title: The Yakuza Movie Book : A Guide to Japanese Gangster Films
Publishing company: Stone Bridge Press
Country: USA
Release date: 15/06/2003
Editor: Mark Schilling
Language: English
Pages: 320
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon
Price: $ 19,95
Notes: Japanese gangster films, with their stoic yet explosively violent heroes, have influenced everyone from Eastwood to Jarmusch. The Yakuza Movie Book is the first book to look at this genre in detail. It features more than 100 film critiques and "top 10" recommendations plus profiles and interviews of famous actors and directors like Kinji Fukasaku, Takashi Miike, Takeshi Kitano, Sho Aikawa and Bunta Sugawara. With dozens of stills and striking movie posters, this is a book any film lover will savor as a viewer's guide and definitive reference.
Comments: It wasn’t really until the mid seventies that the general western audience was introduced to the term yakuza, academically thru Paul Schrader’s pioneering essay on yakuza movies for Film Comment magazine in 1974, generally thru Sidney Pollack’s Yakuza in 1975. And even then, the yakuza was some strange Asian thing, often falsely depicted, as in the US dubbing of the Sonny Chiba film The Street fighter, where the yakuza was mentioned as an assassin ring from Hong Kong.

With “The Yakuza Movie Book”, Mark Schilling both sets the record straight and fills out the gaps in regards to the yakuza genre.

Schilling begins his book with a 21 page introduction to the genre, noting upon its historically origin, Toei’s ninkyo eiga films, Nikkatsu’s mukokuseki action films, pinky violence, jitsuroku eiga and the gokudo no onnatachi series. A great introduction, which really does Schilling credit and shows both how much he knows about the genre, but also how much he loves it.

Schilling continues with profiles of key directors - Fukasaku Kinji, Ishii Teruo, Kato Tai, Kitano Takeshi, Miike Takashi, Mochizuki Rokuro and Suzuki Seijun - of key actors, and concludes with 123 reviews of yakuza films. The profiles are supported by interviews, but not for all. Only 5 of the 7 directors are interviewed, and only 3 of the 14 actors are.

Important for this review is of course Kitano Takeshi. While Schilling notes upon the influence of Kitano Takeshi in the introduction: “Kitano has exerted a strong influence on many younger Japanese filmmakers… But he is less a gang-genre director than a sui generis talent, who happens to find gangsters convenient vehicles for his existential meditation on life and death.”, the directorial profile is surprisingly brief, only 2½ pages, reads more like a general introduction to Kitano and lacks a discussion of his use of the yakuza genre, even though Schilling ends the profile noting, “There is no one else like Kitano in the history of the yakuza movie genre – or for that matter, Japanese film.

With two such strong statements, in the introduction and the conclusion in the profile, one would expect that Schilling had used the profile to note upon Kitano’s approach to the genre, his depiction of the yakuza and how his existentialism, and the Kitanoesque pendulum, noted upon the ninjo-giri concept of the genre, but no such thing. Also missing is an interview with Kitano. Schilling did previously interview Kitano for his book “Contemporary Japanese Film” (Weatherhill, 1999) and quotes Kitano’s view on the Takakura Ken films on the first page of his introduction, but if Schilling indeed considers Kitano such an important figure, why doesn’t he go to greater depth in the profile?

The reviews of the three Kitano films, Sonatine, 3x4 Jugatsu and Brother, does somewhat make up for the lackings of the profile. Here Schilling briefly notes upon Kitano approach to yakuza life and ninkyo. Kitano is further mentioned indirectly in the reviews of Gonin and Zankyo. Curiously some films are missing, like Furuhata’s Yasha, starring both Kitano and Takakura Ken, and Takamori’s Anego, starring Kitano as a yakuza hit man. Sadly, the book was written before Kitano’s Zatoichi, which would have made an interesting footnote to the yakuza genre.

Also in general, the review section has some gaps. As already noted, Anego and Yasha are missing, but also films like Iishi’s Samehada otoko to momojiri onna, while Freeze me is reviewed, Gonin 2, while Gonin is reviewed, and Miike’s Agitator, while Ichi the Killer is reviewed, are missing, not to mention the huge amount of V-cinema yakuza films. Additionally, at least of in reference to “Japan Times”, the reviews seems to be boiled down versions of his reviews, where Schilling has cut out non essential introductionary text. While this is a positive thing, one could have wished, that Schilling would have rewritten the reviews in order to pinpoint their relation to the yakuza genre.

While the book lacks a much needed index and reference towards the films availability on DVD or VHS, it has two very welcomed features: a glossary on Japanese yakuza terms and chapter on DVD and VHS sources, where Schilling explains various ways of finding material and where to buy films online. The decision to replace index with director and actor finding guides was Schillings, who believes its easier to use than a standard index, and the critic of no index should be seen in terms of what one is used to, as the guides work quiet well as intended.

But despite its gaps and shortcomings, “The Yakuza Movie Book” is a key book towards Japanese cinema, a must have reference book. Covering the entire yakuza genre is quiet a task, and while one would have loved each and every film, as well as favorite director, to be covered in minute details, one has to draw the line on what is important. And Schilling does so very intelligently. It reads beatifully and it allows readers not only to become familiar with the genre, but offers great insight and perspective towards understanding and appreciating a very important element of Japanese cinema, which until this book was basically virgin territory. It is a book most welcomed and one should thank Schilling for the effort.

[Review by Henrik Sylow]
   

Title: "Beat" Takeshi vs. Takeshi Kitano
Publishing company: Muae Publishing/Kaya Press
Country: USA
Release date: 15/11/2004
Writer: Abe Casio
Language: English
Pages: 272
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon
Price: $ 22.50
Notes: Despite his impact on contemporary cinema, very little critical work on Kitano's films exists in the United States. Abe’s book, originally published in Japan, combines a detailed look at Kitano’s filmography with an incisive critique of the consumerist culture which Kitano's films play against. It is also purportedly Kitano’s favorite book on his own work. This translation of Abe’s writings on Kitano has been updated with articles that discuss Kitano’s most recent releases, up to and including Dolls (2002), as well as extensive appendices and footnotes. Abe is one of Japan's preeminent cultural critics, and his book gives a rare and insightful look into the workings of one of the largest media cultures in the world. This will be the first book devoted exclusively to Kitano’s work to be published in the United States. Beat Takeshi vs. Takeshi Kitano is the first volume in Kaya’s "Wicked Radiance" series, which examines the work of a new wave of Asian filmmakers who are reshaping contemporary cinema. (Review from Amazon)

Essay by Casio Abe
Foreword by Daisuke Miyao
Introduction by Lawrence Chua
Afterword by William Gardner
Paperback, 5.5 x 7 in. / 272 pgs / 40 b&w
   

Title: Directing
Publishing company: Focal Press / Elsavier Publishing
Country: USA
Release date: 01/04/2001
Editor: Mike Goodridge
Language: English
Pages: 176
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon
Price: $24.47
Notes: Based on 15 in-depth interviews with the world's top practitioners, this book takes a candid view of what life is like in the director's chair. The interviews are lavishly illustrated with storyboards, marked up scripts, shooting schedules, production shots, workbooks and stills revealing the creative processes behind some of the most influential films ever made. Through detailed interviews and numerous examples, this book offers the reader insight into the craft and talent of some of the industry's top directors. This insight is not limited solely to their work habits or methodology, but also explores how their talents have evolved over the years, thus giving the aspiring director or film enthusiast both inspiration and a blueprint for success. The 500 color photos include stills from world famous films, and contributors include Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies), Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Sense and Sensibility), Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown), and Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July; Platoon).

Introduction; Pedro Almodovar; Roman Polanski; Takeshi Kitano; Mike Leigh; Lars von Trier; Steven Soderbergh; Jan Campion; Ang Lee; Oliver Stone; Ken Loach; Wim Wenders; David Lynch; James Ivory; Bernardo Bertolucci; Milos Forman; Picture Credits; Index
Comments:
   

Title: Art by Film Directors
Publishing company: Mitchell Beazley
Country: United Kingdom
Release date: 23/09/2004
Editor: Karl French
Language: English
Pages: 208
Format: Hard cover
Etailer: Amazon [UK]
Price: £17.50
Notes: Many of the greatest film directors began their careers as graphic designers, painters, or illustrators, but aside from the few established artist-directors such as Derek Jarman and Jean Cocteau, little is known of their creative work outside the medium of film. For the first time, film writer Karl French presents the exciting, diverse artwork of over 20 international directors, offering a fascinating new perspective on their work.

The book contains art by directors: Jean-Jacques Beineix, Charles Chaplin, Jean Cocteau, Sergei Eisenstein, Federico Fellini, Mike Figgis, Terry Gilliam, Peter Greenaway, Alfred Hitchcock, Dennis Hopper, John Huston, Derek Jarman, Kitano Takeshi, Stanley Kubrick, Kurosawa Akira, Fritz Lang, Alan Parker, Gordon Parks, Satyajit Ray, Martin Scorsese, Josef von Steinberg, Jan Svankmajer and Wim Wenders.
Comments: An overall very nice coffee-table book. Each director is noted upon by a short biography, followed by notes towards their respectable art besides directing.

This is first of all a book about art. As pointed out in its introduction, the intention of the book is to show works of art, little known and rarely seen. Looking thru the names, several very artistic directors, as Orson Welles, David Lynch and Tim Burton, are missing. Likewise, there are no female directors in the book. These directors weren't excluded by choice, but because their art for various reasons was impossible to obtain. What's left, in lack of a better word, is still an impressive collection of directors, from big names as Alfred Hitchcock and Kurosawa Akira to more esoteric ones like Jan Svankmajer.

One of the intentions of the book is, that the reader will re-examine the directors work from a different angle. But as the book doesn't go into detail about the artistic elements of the director, in terms of composition and choice of expression, the intention relies solely on the readers willingness to research on his own.

The book consists of 23 chapters, one to each director. Each chapter has a brief biography and notions towards their non-film art. For most film knowledgeable readers, these biographies are already common knowledge, thus the book does not adress them, but rather a general public, with little or no knowledge about these directors. That the text doesn't go into detail about the art is dissapointing. For instance, where Kitano has experimented with various styles, for instance pointilism and naivism, and shows influence by Chagall, neither is noted here. As such, the text side of the book is poor and seems only to fill out the blank spaces between the pictures.

The illustrations are on the other hand impressive. Ranging from story board sketches, cartoons, photography to paintings, they allow a rare glance at an artistic outlet from these directors. Each picture is accompanied by a caption, explaining the intention or origin, noting upon the directors persona and relationship to cinema. Some of the directors chosen are questionable. For instance the chapter on Martin Scorsese consists of story board excerpts, which really doesn't allow any new light to be shead upon his work, as there is no text explaining his frame composition or mise-en-scene. Opposite to him, the story board excerpts of Alfred Hitchcock are accompanied by drawings noting upon his sense for shadow and detail.

The chapter dedicated to Kitano Takeshi spans 8 pages (112-119). The illustrations are all from his art book "Hana-Bi" and the selection ranges from the very well known paintings (suicide, fireworks, angel) to those demonstrating the persona of Kitano.

[Review by Henrik Sylow]
   

Title: The Cinema of Japan and Korea
Publishing company: Wallflower Press
Country: USA
Release date: 30/09/2004
Editor: Justin Bowyer
Language: English
Pages: 288
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon
Price: $24.50
Notes: The Cinema of Japan and Korea is the second volume in the new 24 Frames series of studies of national and regional cinema, and focuses on the continuing vibrancy of Japanese and Korean film. The 24 concise and informative essays each approach an individual film or documentary, together offering a unique introduction to the cinematic output of the two countries. With a range that spans from silent cinema to the present day, from films that have achieved classic status to underground masterpieces, the book provides an insight into the breadth of the Japanese and Korean cinematic landscapes. Among the directors covered are Akira Kurosawa, Takeshi Kitano, Ki-duk Kim, Kenji Mizoguchi, Kinji Fukusaku, Ki-young Kim, Nagisa Oshima and Takashi Miike. Included are in-depth studies of films such as Battle Royale, Killer Butterfly, Audition, Violent Cop, In the Realm of the Senses, Tetsuo 2: Body Hammer, Teenage Hooker Becomes a Killing Machine, Stray Dog, A Page of Madness and Godzilla. Justin Bowyer is the director of Boxfish Media, the author of Conversations with Jack Cardiff (2003) and a screenwriter and film critic. [Wallflower Press]
Comments: Thru 24 chapters, each dedicated to one specific film representing either Korean or Japanese film historically, the book may have taken too large a bite to chew. Where the intention of the book is to present a selection of 24 films which best represents the diversity of each country in terms of style, historically and narrative, the absence of directors as Ozu, Imamura, Naruse or Kobayashi is questionable, as these are directors, who, along with here represented directors as Kurosawa and Mizoguchi, shaped the style of Japanese film. Where Japanese film easy could fill out the 24 chapters by itself, Korean film is still relative unknown to the general audience and perhaps not as prolific as Japan. Justin Bowyer comments on these elements, as well as other problems editing this book, in his introduction, and gives reasonable and wellconsidered answers.

The essays are about: "A Page of Madness", "Sayon's Bell", "Hurrah! for freedom", "Stray Dog", "The Life of Oharu", "The Guest and my Mother", "Aimless Bullet", "Branded to Kill", "In the Realm of the Senses", "Killer Butterfly", "Fire Festival", "Violent Cop", "Tetsuo/Testsuo 2", "Sopyonje", "Perfect Blue", "The Power of Kangwon province", "Nowhere to hide", "My own breathing", "Audition", "The Isle", "Teenage Hooker became killing machine", "Battle Royale" and "Joint Security Area".

Being introductionary essays, the overall quality of each essay is quiet high. With one exceptions, the writers really know what the write about, have alot of insight and bring both perspective and reference. Where several of the essays are great academic work, for instance Jasper Sharp's analysis of "A Page of Madness" and Nina Caplan's feminist reading of "The Life of Oharu", the majority of the essays are personal critical and very insightful approaches to a director and his work.

The essays are heavy on contemporary films, as 11 of the 24 essays cover the last decade, leaving the remaining 13 essays to cover seventy years. This dilutes the overall historical value and intention of the book, as it more becomes an introduction to comtemporary cinema than cinema as such. Furthermore, while important classical directors are missing, I wonder why important contemporary directors such as Japanese Kurosawa Kiyoshi or Miyazaki didn't make the list. The absence of seminal directors in favor of promoting trendy contemporary films is the books main weakness, but considering how little introductionary material is available on these two countries, the book is still very recommendable, despite its obvious limitations.

Kitano Takeshi is represented thru an essay by Donato Totaro on "Violent Cop" (pp 129-136). This is the weakest essay in the book and reads more like a summation put together from reading up on Kitano. Its not because Totaro is a bad writer, his essay on "The Isle" is quiet good, its more that he really doesn't seems to know much about Kitano. For instance, Totaro ends with noting, that "...'Violent Cop' remains Kitano's purest yakuza film", never noting upon neither "Sonatine" nor "Hana-Bi". Considering the narrative of these three films and the statement, I wonder what happend to "Brother". The most horrible comment is however, "To fully understand the impact of 'Violent Cop' on the gangster genre, one must remember that the film was made five years before 'Pulp Fiction'", which is followed by some half assed parallelism to Tarantino, curiously resulting in noting Kitano's use of violence as an antidote to John Woo, rather than going into detail about Kitano's use of elliptic editing and approach to violence in general. As an introduction to Kitano, this essay is extraordinary poor.

[Review by Henrik Sylow]
   

Title: The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film
Publishing company: Stone Bridge Press
Country: USA
Release date: 12/10/2004
Editor: Tom Mes, Jasper Sharp
Language: English
Pages: 376
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon
Price: $22.95
Notes: According to Tom Mes, an attempt to write the definitive book on today's Japanese film scene, the book has 19 in-depth chapters are devoted to such great names as Takeshi Kitano, Takashi Miike, Shinya Tsukamoto, Studio Ghibli and Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and 97 reviews of contemporary Japanese films.
Comments: Before I even opened the book, I decided only to read the chapter on Kitano Takeshi, to get an impression of the book, meaning, if the chapter on Kitano was good, then the rest of the book probably would be good as well, and then to wait reading more until it was quiet enough to do so. Yet, before beginning to read, I briefly browsed thru the book and within minutes I found myself completely away reading, and before I even realised it, an hour had passed, and I still hadn’t read the chapter about Kitano.

Reading “The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film” is simply a pleasure. Authors Jasper Sharp and Tom Mes seems to write with such ease, that one word just takes the other. Their knowledge about contemporary Japanese film is astonishing. One does get a general idea of both their writing skills and insight by reading their site, midnight eye, but to me the real eye-opener was, when I read Jasper’s great analysis of A Page of Madness in “The Cinema of Japan and Korea” and when listening to Tom’s commentaries on Miike DVDs.

The book itself covers 19 directors thru profiling articles with reviews of selected films, and 31 additional directors thru in-depth reviews of a selected film. Each director profile is accompanied by a filmography.

The directors in profiled are: Suzuki Seijun, Imamura Shohei, Fukasaku Kinji, Ishii Sogo, Harada Masato, Kurosawa Kiyoshi, Studio Ghibli, Hayashi Kaizo, Tsukamoto Shinya, Kitano Takeshi, Hashiguchi Ryosuke, Miike Takashi, Shinozaki Makoto, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Aoyama Shinji, Kawase Naomi, Sabu, Nakata Hideo and Shiota Akihiko.

The book is completed by a bibliography on general reading and on specific sources used for each of the 19 directors.

What’s important for this review is of course the chapter on Kitano Takeshi. Written by Jasper Sharp, it begins with a brief introduction to the situation of Japanese cinema in the early 90s, from a western perspective, as introduces Kitano, in one of the most flattering ways I yet have read, by stating, “That the [Japanese film] industry managed to survive at all in the Western perception is entirely due to one man – Takeshi Kitano.

Sharp continues his profiling of Kitano by going back and forth between biographical and production technical elements and putting them into perspective by drawing reference to films, books, TV and social elements. Throughout the profile, the admiration for Kitano shines thru, and Sharp makes some, for an introductionary account of a director, unexpected but welcomed detours, like noting upon “Comaneci”.

Its important to note, that this isn’t a biography, but a profile of a director, thus Sharp only briefly touches upon biographical data, only enough to set things into perspective. The main object is to present Kitano, his films and what is behind them to the general reader.

However, as a profile of Kitano, the text has some shortcomings. Sharp never notes upon specific motifs employed by Kitano, such as the waterfront (the sea in general), even though his section on Hana-bi describes the scene, where Horibe contemplates suicide while watching the sea, and is a bit to careful not to imply interpretations of thematic elements, and thus notes, “Perhaps Kitano’s sense of his own human frailty had been triggered…”, notion towards how Kitano’s 1994 accident affected especially Hana-bi. On the other hand, Sharp does briefly notes towards Kitano’s use of cause and effect editing and on his juxtaposition of tenderness and destruction.

But all in all, this is by far one of the best profiles on Kitano I have read. It introduced Kitano to the general reader and puts him into context of Japanese cinema. A truly brilliant introductionary text.

Sharp finishes the chapter on Kitano by reviewing four of his films: Violent Cop, A Scene at the Sea, Sonatine and Getting Any?

The reviews are very economical: A brief introduction, synopsis and general thoughts, and each film has credits and availability on DVD and VHS. As such, there are some, for me as a Kitano scholar important, aspects of the films reviewed which never are noted upon, like the reference to Godard’s Pierror le fou and the dispute between Kitano and Okuyama (head of Shochiku) in Sonatine, or the cinematic suicidal quality of Getting Any? But reading the other reviews, which for the vast majority are similar, and which I find great, it is more than likely that I am too demanding here.

In addition, the profile of Shinozaki Makoto also has information about Kitano, here specifically towards Shinozaki's Jam Session: The Making of Kikujiro. Further information on Kitano one can find in the review of Fukasaki's Battle Royale, Iishi's Gonin and Oshima's Gohatto.

As a fan of Japanese cinema, “The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film” is a most welcomed addition to my library. It reads astonishing easily and gives a unique perspective on contemporary Japanese cinema thru very informative profiles of key directors and reviews of key films. It certainly is the definitive book on today’s Japanese film scene.

[Review by Henrik Sylow]
   

Title: Eiga "Chi to Hone" no Sekai (The World of "Chi to Hone")
Publishing company: Shinkansha
Country: Japan
Release date: 31/12/2004
Editor: Yoichi Sai, Wi-Shing Chong, Sogil Yan
Language: English
Pages: 198
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: Amazon [Japan]
Price: YEN 1,890
Notes: Three interviews from Yoichi Sai, Wi-Shing Chong, and Sogil Yan about the film "Chi to Hone". The three of them talk about the film after the completion of production. The complete shooting script is also included in this book.
   

Title: Ciné-Manga par Takeshi Kitano
Publishing company: Cahiers du Cinéma
Country: France
Release date: 06/04/2005
Editor: Jean-Michel Frodon
Language: French
Pages: 50
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: None
Price:
Notes: A supplement for the anniversay issue number 600. The cover is painted by Kitano especially for this booklet.
Comments: With their issue number 300, Cahiers du Cinéma began a tradition of inviting a grande cinéaste as guest editor for their double-zéro anniversary issues. The first guest editor was Jean-Luc Godard, which was followed by Wim Wenders, then Martin Scorsese.

For their issue number 600, Cahiers du Cinéma invited Kitano Takeshi as guest editor, who due to a busy schedule declined, but instead proposed an unique idea, in form of a game to united some of the worlds greatest cinéaste. Kitano would take 69 pictures, from which the directors then should pick 4 and from them create a storyline. The result became "Ciné-Manga par Takeshi Kitano".

The Ciné-Manga begins with an introduction of the game and the rules, a presentation of all 69 pictures, followed by 14 stories by Kitano himself, to demonstrate the game. Below is one of Kitano's stories:

Translation: Two foreigners come in Japan with the intention to meet the yakuza. They meet a yakuza who owns a katana. But they are cut down. A great number of yakuza attend their funeral.

The cunning eye will know, that the two foreigners are none other than Tony Rayns and Simon Field, the two distinguished gentlemen, who were the first westerners to realise the genius of Kitano and who brought him to Europe.

Following Kitano's own stories are a story from each of the invited directors: Oliver Assayas, Bertrand Bonello, Catherine Breillat, Arnaud des Pallières, Arnaud Desplechin, Jacques Doillion, Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci Lucchi, Hong Sang-Soo, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Claude Lanzmann, Rithy Panh, Gus van Sant and Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Rules are made to be broken, thus not all follow them. Arnaud Desplechin only uses three images, Claude Lanzman makes two stories using three and five images, and Jacques Doillon uses six images to tell his story. Also their supporting text varies, from Rithy Panh, who only adds one short sentence, over Arnaud des Pallières who writes complete dialogue, to Arnaud Desplechin who comments with a small essay.

Where some of the stories are mere constructions of the images, some of the directors used the images to create small almost storyboard like stories, which even uses cinematic techniques. One such is the story by Thai cinéaste Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who with three images creates a beautiful comment on the differences between poor and wealthy, using one image twice, thus making the third image a subjective insert.

The result of the game is 30 stories demonstrating with what simple means one can express thoughts and ideas. Following the stories is a 12 page conversation between Kitano and Shiguehiko Hasumi, made especially for this issue. It is nothing less than one of the best interviews yet made of Kitano, where he notes upon editing, his ouevre, on history versus zatoichi, on Godard and finally on his goals as professor. One has to be familiar with Kitano and his work to take full advantage of it, but for those, it is very insightful and rewarding reading.

With "Ciné-Manga par Takeshi Kitano", Kitano has contributed more to the understanding and love for cinema than he ever could have done as a mere editor. His 69 pictures are very personal images, some are of very close and beloved friends, as for instance Tony Rayns, Simon Field and of Kumasan, one of Kitano's closest friends, who owns not only his favorite restaurant but also the worlds largest collection of Kitano paintings.

A must have for all Kitano fans.

[Review by Henrik Sylow]
   

Title: Yakuza Cinema. Crisantemos y dragones
Publishing company: Calamar Ediciones
Country: Spain
Release date: 01/05/2005
Editor: Carlos and Daniel Aguilar
Language: Spanish
Pages: 160
Format: Soft cover
Etailer: None
Price: € 17.00
Notes: Accompanied by more than 150 illustrations, "Yakuza Cinema" begins with a historical introduction of the yakuza, describing its criminal activities from the 15th century until today, and its connections with the average politicians and celebs. Following this comes a introduction to yakuza in films, from the beginning, the sixties and Ken Takakura, the female yakuza, the remodeling of the yakuza genre by Teruo Ishii and Seijun Suzuki, its influence on western cinema (Sergio Leone, Jean-Pierre Melville and Quentin Tarantino), and finally discussing modern auteurs like Takeshi Kitano and Takashi Miike.

"Yakuza Cinema" also has filmographies, essential bibliography and an introduction written by Ken Takakura.
Comments: "Yakuza Cinema. Crisantemos y dragones" is a book that almost begs to be read. The cover displays Ken Takakura in a pose from Sydney Pollack's Yakuza, next to the relief pressed title "Yakuza" in gold.

After a brief introduction by Ken Takakura, writers Carlos and Daniel Aguilar introduce first the term yakuza and the history of the yakuza, then early film history of yakuza eiga, going back to such early films as Shimizu no Jirocho from 1911, before begining to discuss the major figues of yakuza eiga.

The central chapters of the book detailed discuss the cinema of Seijun Suzuki and the yakuza films by Nikkatsu, Teruo Ishii, Ken Takatura and the Toei films, the yakuza killer (both male and female), how the motifs of yakuza eiga can be seen in international films, both indirectly in films as Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samouräi, but also directly in Sidney Pollack's Yakuza, amongst others, and finally the three central directors of modern yakuza eiga, Takashi Ishii, Takeshi Kitano and Takashi Miike.

The Kitano section of the chapter is quiet brief. An biographical introduction, brief notes upon his films and style, and thats it. If you don't know anything about Kitano, it is a fair introduction, but for those who know Kitano, even only casual, it doesn't say anything new. In fact, this final chapter of the book, is the weakest. While it is important to note upon Ishii, Kitano and Miike towards new trends in yakuza eiga, writers Carlos and Daniel Aguilar spend most of the 14 pages summoning up filmographies and biographies, and how the three directors differ in style and motifs, but never goes deeper than brief comments and quoting reference.

Opposite to it, the early chapters are very well researched and very informative. The strongest chapter is "Desmitificacion, Internacionalizacion. La tumba del honor", where they discuss the influence of yakuza eiga and its motifs, themes and mise-en-scene on films outside of Japan. This is clearly something Carlos and Daniel Aguilar has spend alot of time investigating and researching, and shows how style influences others.

A beautiful book in its lay-out, "Yakuza Cinema. Crisantemos y dragones" is a good book as introduction to yakuza eiga. It's historical notes upon the origin of the yakuza and early yakuza films is very well researched and superior to the introduction in Mark Schilling's "The Yakuza Movie Book : A Guide to Japanese Gangster Films", but the chapter on Nikkatsu and Suzuki stands, as the rest of the book, in the shadow of the writings of Mes, Sharp and Schilling. However, it is very welcomed that an esoteric topic as yakuza eiga is written about in Spanish film literature.

[Review by Henrik Sylow]