Donald Richie Uncovers Traces of a Lost Japan

Inside Criterion / Sneak Peeks — Aug 16, 2019


In making her nonfiction film The Inland Sea (1991), a poetic chronicle of a journey around the Japanese islands of the eponymous body of water, director Lucille Carra relied on a tried-and-true itinerary. A 1971 travelogue by Donald Richie, also called The Inland Sea, served as the inspiration for the movie, which returns to many of the places that the prolific cultural critic, essayist, novelist, and film scholar described visiting in the book. Along the way the film captures the natural splendor of the seaside landscapes and encounters traces of the traditional ways of life that Richie had observed decades earlier. In the above excerpt from a supplement on our new edition of Carra’s beautifully impressionistic film, Richie—who died in 2013 and is renowned for having helped introduce Japanese cinema to postwar Western audiences—tells of his initial surprise that it was the fictionalized journal entries of The Inland Sea, and not any of the more formally straightforward stories he had written, that Carra wanted to bring to the screen. Richie, whom the director eventually also asked to narrate the film, goes on to describe the challenging process of paring down his own book into voice-over form.