Michael Kerpan wrote:I don't know what your problem is jimaku.
Richie has acknowledged that he did a lot of stereotyping in his earlier work -- things that he doesn't really agree with anymore. He has learned a lot since the 1950s -- and lots more study has been done by others since then.
What makes _you_ think that he _still_ considers Japanese actors naturally hammy? You might want to look at his more recent work and see if this one of the notions he carries over from 1959 into the present. I don't think you will find any comments remotely like this in his most recent work.
Why? Because that statement exists in print and I haven't heard him say otherwise, either in print or in person. And he still, alas, does have a penchant for sweeping generalizations about "the Japanese." Sorry, it's not my responsibility to substantiate your
That said, his observation at the time was based on a lot of time spent watching Japanese films (both in the theater and on set) and a lot of time spent among the Japanese. He had a great deal of vivid, lived experience of what constituted "normal" or "natural" or "understated" behavior in Japanese society at that time against which to compare the acting that he was seeing--a great deal of which, apparently, was quite hammy. I'm not sure I agree with his culturalist explanation for the phenomenon--it might just be that Japan didn't really have a conservatory system to speak of and most film actors had to learn their craft "on the job" so to speak (certainly true of Mifune and Nakadai)--but the observation was still based on experience, a kind of experience that's no longer available to us--even to Richie himself, except in the fading vestiges of memory. As for the situation today, have you watched any Japanese dramas lately? Or run-of-the-mill feature productions? Again, I don't think the reason for the atrocious acting is necessarily cultural--today it's just because most so-called "tarento" get chosen more for their looks than for any kind of detectable talent. This is not to dispute that Japan, then and now, had and has some truly outstanding actors.
My "problem," as you put it, is not that I'm particularly wedded to his diagnosis, but that I found your dismissal of it lazy and condescending. For all of his shortcomings, he's one of the giants on whose shoulders we stand, and even his earlier self deserves a little better than snarky little kicks to the head. My problem is with the many contemporary Western specialists of Japanese film who make a pastime of sniping at him to inflate their own sense of importance.