Richie was as valuable a guide to classical Japanese film as one could reasonably hope to have. His taste becomes increasingly cranky as we move closer to the present, as his critical generosity seems to diminish and his frustrations grow over time (notable exception, for understandable reasons: Koreeda, whom he rightly reveres). But for anything pre-1975ish, Richie is exceptionally valuable. My understanding is that he played a considerable role in getting Japanese films out to the world as well. I have some differences with his global interpretation of Ozu, but the book is fantastic; excellent essays not just on Ozu’s individual films but on his technique and working habits, is a fascinating read. (His account of Ozu’s script writing process is fascinating: take collaborator up to his remote mountain home, stay there, drinking heavily, until its done. He kept a meticulous journal tracking a) progress on script and b) alcohol consumed. The entry at the end of the Tokyo Story script writing: “Finished. 103 days, 43 bottles of Sake.”) 100 Years of Japanese Film is quite valuable (although the DVD guide is happily out of date). I’ve never seen any of his own films, which I am made aware of only through Wikipedia. In fact, I’ve only ever known Richie through his film writings, so I’m learning a great deal about him from his obituaries.
2009 interview on Japanese directors here, with his thoughts and insights on Kurosawa’s decline, and the Kurowawa/Mifune falling out, amongst other things.