• Donald Richie, 1924–2013

    By Kim Hendrickson

    Today we mourn the loss of Donald Richie, writer, critic, curator, cultural explorer, and my friend since 2001. I met him when he came to New York to record a commentary track for our DVD edition of Rashomon. It was the beginning of our friendship and of many collaborations. Over the years, we recorded Donald’s insights about Yasujiro Ozu’s A Story of Floating Weeds, Mikio Naruse’s When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and Kon Ichikawa’s Fires on the Plain, to name just a few.

    I visited Donald this past December in Tokyo, to say hello and, knowing he was declining, to say good-bye. He greeted me as he always did, with that incomparable smile and a slight twinkle in his eye. Donald taught me much about Japanese cinema, but that pales in comparison with what I learned from him in other ways. The first thing I did today was to look at this interview he did for us, about not a Japanese movie but Robert Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar. Below are the beautiful final four-and-a-half minutes of that interview, which remind me what a humane man Donald was. I will miss him deeply.

    Photo by Grant Delin, 2012.

31 comments

  • By Chris Ryan
    February 20, 2013
    01:44 AM

    I am so shocked and sad. One of my greatest heroes. I have learned so much from his magnificent books.
    Reply
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  • By Gord
    February 20, 2013
    08:39 AM

    I loved Donald Richie; one of the most insightful and entertaining of critics. He was an asset to every Criterion disc he was on and to the film community in general - requiescat in pace.
    Reply
  • By Craig J. Clark
    February 20, 2013
    09:03 AM

    Very sad news. Time to break the seal on the copy of Rashomon I bought months ago.
    Reply
  • By Cnuts
    February 20, 2013
    09:34 AM

    I never went to film school, never sat in on a film lecture. But I've listened to and read Donald Richie, and so, I truly have. Thank you.
    Reply
  • By Chanel
    February 20, 2013
    09:35 AM

    In the words of Paul Schrader, "Whatever we in the West know about Japanese film, and how we know it, we most likely owe to Donald Richie".
    Reply
  • By Batzomon
    February 20, 2013
    11:32 AM

    Thank you, Mr. Richie, for teaching the rest of the world what Japanese cinema and most especially Ozu had to offer.
    Reply
  • By ingrasp
    February 20, 2013
    12:12 PM

    I did not know Donald Richie personally yet I feel as if I've lost a dear friend. My secret hope was that he would live forever...
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  • By John Gillespie
    February 20, 2013
    03:27 PM

    Thank you for sharing, please post (and write) more! Despite only in passing a filmaker, in my opinion Donald Richie deserves a whole Criterion Collection of his own — even an interview with him on film is worth it’s weight in gold. One can only hope there are many unscreened works still to come from this genius humanist, just as there are censored journals now free to be fully published.
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    • By Lucille Carra
      February 20, 2013
      04:39 PM

      John, we made the film version of THE INLAND SEA with Donald Richie narrating. Hope you can see it! We have an additional interview, as well.
  • By Joseph
    February 20, 2013
    05:57 PM

    Terrible news. If it wasn't for Richie, I would not have gotten into Japanese cinema. Without him, I would never have bought movies by Kurosawa, Kobayashi, Mizoguchi and Ozu. Rest in peace, Donald Richie and thank you for being such a huge inspiration for movie lovers everywhere.
    Reply
  • By Nellie
    February 20, 2013
    09:37 PM

    I shed a tear today hearing the news. I fell in love with Japanese cinema in large part to Mr. Richie's insightful reviews and analyses. I hope he knew the extent to which he was loved and respected by so many. We lost a giant - may he rest in peace.
    Reply
  • By David G Cercone 2
    February 20, 2013
    10:54 PM

    NO! I'm sobbing. Richie was the last of the Gentleman Scholar Wits, someone you'd think came to life from a Saki story or one of Wilde's plays, such erudition breathe of knowledge and compassionate humour. He informed my life so deeply and has influence my studies more than I can say.... I hope he is drinking and laughing in Heaven with Ozu and Mfune right now...I hope he understood how many of us who never had the honour of meeting him loved and respected him from afar.
    Reply
  • By Naoki
    February 21, 2013
    03:50 AM

    The first book I read on both Japanese and English was his book, "The films of Akira Kurosawa". After 20 years, the beauty of his writing and insight for films still inspires me. He also made some interesting short films. I hope those will be available sometimes in U.S. R.I.P, my sensei.
    Reply
  • By Terry Pagitt
    February 21, 2013
    08:44 AM

    He will be sorely missed. His volume 100 Years of Japanese Cinema is indispensable though I came to it long after I had watched many Japanese films. It is ironically fitting that he goes out talking about Bresson. The contextual way he saw cinema and its emotional power not just by the Japanese Masters but all of them. R.I.P
    Reply
  • By Bradford Pomeroy
    February 21, 2013
    05:28 PM

    I learned so much from this man. He was a professor at Temple, but only at the Tokyo Campus so I never had a chance to meet him. I did correspond with Dr. Joan Mellen a bit and had hoped to meet him at least once after I moved to Japan later this year if only to thank him. He was living treasure trove of culture and information. Thankfully he wrote some of that down which will continue to inspire others for generations to come. This marks the end of an era. Rest in peace Richie-san. どうもありがとうございました.
    Reply
  • By Loren Schoenberg
    February 21, 2013
    06:55 PM

    I too owe so much to Richie from his books and film commentaries and to Criterion for introducing...us. Thank you both!
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  • By Miranda Appel
    February 21, 2013
    09:18 PM

    adieu Balthazar, adieu Richie-san.... a most poignant tribute to someone who made dvd viewing such an in depth, meaningful experience.
    Reply
  • By Daniel Bojckov
    February 22, 2013
    02:07 PM

    All That Jazz on blu ray PLEEEEEZE!
    Reply
  • By Don n.
    February 24, 2013
    06:26 PM

    The first book on Ozu I read, probably in 1980, was Donald Richie's. I greatly admire the later books on Ozu by David Bordwell and David Desser, but for me Richie's remains the warmest.
    Reply
  • By Don
    March 03, 2013
    04:37 PM

    I suggest that friends of Ozu and Donald Richie would enjoy Richie’s novel Companions of the Holiday (1968). It's an intimate depiction of household life in Japan in the 1950s. This is Ozu’s ground in his great postwar movies, and the ground of many other Japanese novelists and film-makers. The characters in Companions of the Holiday are Japanese servants in the house of a foreign businessman in Tokyo. A year of apparently quotidian life passes slowly. Some of these maids, housekeepers and delivery boys are devoted to each other and to their pre-war view of a servant’s proper role in society. Others scheme against each other for the master’s preference, basing their schemes on wild, complacent and hilarious misunderstandings of how foreigners think. All this Richie shows with care, humor, insight and respect, entirely free of sentimentality or condescension. Part of the book appeared in The Donald Richie Reader (2001).
    Reply
  • By Mimdap
    January 08, 2014
    11:41 PM

    I love the lines, "You go to a city where you like yourself. I think, maybe, you go to a movie where you like yourself." Interesting thought and beautiful interview.
    Reply

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