Hiroshi Teshigahara 1927-2001

MileFilms@aol.com MileFilms
Wed Apr 18 17:42:05 EDT 2001

We have received the sad news from the Sogetsu Foundation in Tokyo that the 
great Japanese filmmaker, Hiroshi Teshigahara, died this Saturday, April 14 
at 11:45 am at the Keio University Hospital in Tokyo. Suffering from acute 
leukemia, Mr. Teshigahara died at the age of 74.

Farewell ceremonies will take place from 2 to 6 pm on May 12, and from 11 am 
to 6 pm on May 13 at the Sogetsu Kaikan.

He is best known for being the director of the Academy Award-nominated "Woman 
in the Dunes" as well as being the headmaster of the Sogetsu school, which 
was founded by his father in 1927. I have included below a brief biography we 
had written several years ago upon our re-release of two of his films. If you 
need any further information, I would be glad to provide it to you or connect 
you to the proper authority on his multi-faceted work.

For further information in Japan, you can contact the Public Relations Office 
at the Sogetsu Foundation. The phone number is 011-81-3-3408-1158 and the fax 
number is 011-81-3-3405-4957. The email address is info at sogetsu.or.jp

Dennis Doros
Milestone Film & Video
PO Box 128
Harrington Park, NJ 07640
Phone: (201) 767-3117 or (800) 603-1104
Fax: (201) 767-3035
Email: milefilms at aol.com

Hiroshi Teshigahara, Director

"During Hiroshi Teshigahara?s over-thirty-year career as a filmmaker, the 
theme of his work has been remarkably consistent. From his first feature, The 
Pitfall, on through his finest work, Woman in the Dunes, The Face of Another, 
and Summer Soldiers, he has consistently asked the same question: how can man 
come to terms with society? ?

Society itself changes from film to film. In Woman in the Dunes, the 
engulfing sand is consumer society; in The Face of Another it is other 
people; in Summer Soldiers it is the US military and the Japanese police. 
Rikyu and Basara find individuals struggling against the social power of 
Hideyoshi, of Nobunaga, of Ieyasu.

The answers are various, but they are also similar. Jumpei Niki in Woman in 
the Dunes finds in the sand itself a reason for living, for discovering 
himself as a creator? An answer to the demands of the human condition is to 
learn to be freely human."
? Donald Richie, "Cinema and Hiroshi Teshigahara"

Hiroshi Teshigahara is known in the United States as a filmmaker, but that is 
far from the extent of his interests and achievements. In his 70 years, he 
distinguished himself as a ceramist, a painter, a Chinese calligrapher and, 
as he puts it, "a bamboo instalationist." 

Teshigahara was born in Tokyo on January 28, 1927, the same year his father, 
Sofu Teshigahara, founded the Sogetsu School of Ikebana ? the now-legendary 
institution for studying the art of flower-arranging. In 1950, he graduated 
with a degree in oil painting from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music. 
Three years later, he finished directing his first documentary Hokusai, on 
the famous wood block artist. In 1958, Teshigahara founded the Sogetsu Art 
Center, which became a leading force in the Japanese avant-garde until his 
departure twenty-three years later. In 1959, he directed his second 
documentary, on famed New York boxer, Jose Torres. On this film, he hired a 
young composer, Toru Takemitsu, with whom he continued to collaborate until 
the latter?s death. Teshigahara directed a second film on Torres in 1965.

Teshigahara?s first dramatic feature, Pitfall, was awarded the NHK New 
Directors Award. Two years later he burst upon the scene with his most famous 
film, Woman in the Dunes. Influenced by the surrealist films of Luis Bu?uel 
(particularly Los Olvidados and L?Age D?or) along with his own 
existentialist ideas, Teshigahara created a highly original use of eroticism, 
structure and especially, texture. The film was a startling revelation to 
audiences, filmmakers and critics around the world and went on to win the 
Special Jury Award at Cannes and was nominated by the Academy Awards? for 
Best Foreign Film. The next year Teshigahara was nominated for the Oscar? as 
Best Director ? the first Asian director so honored. Teshigahara?s 
masterpiece continues to be recognized as one of Japan?s greatest films. 

Other features followed, including Ako ? White Morning (1965, 28-minute part 
of an omnibus film on adolescence) The Face of Another (1966), The Man 
Without a Map (1968), Summer Soldiers (1972), Antonio Gaudi (1984, also 
distributed by Milestone Film in a new 35mm print), Rikyu (1989) and Basara ? 
The Princess Goh (1992). 

In 1973, Teshigahara founded the Sogetsu Ceramic Kiln at Miyazaki, Fukui and 
in 1980, he followed in his father?s footsteps to become Iemoto (Master) of 
the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, which he heads to this day. He was expected 
from birth to take on the responsibility of running the Sogetsu School and 
continuing its traditions ? a situation, he has noted, that is ironically 
similar to that of the protagonist of Woman in the Dunes. Also in 1980, his 
one-man exhibition "Sculpture en Argile ? Echizen" premiered at the Espace 
Pierre Cardin in Paris. Teshigahara has since designed work in several art 
forms for exhibitions and installations around the world, including the 
renowned "Magicians of the Earth" show at the Centre Georges Pompidou. 

In 1992, Teshigahara was awarded the Japanese government?s "Order of the 
Purple Cordon" for his artistic contributions. The same year, he created and 
directed a stage installation of Puccini?s Turandot at the Lyon Opera, and 
produced a massive exhibition of tea ceremonies with pavilions designed by 
top Japanese architects Tadao Ando, Arata Isozaki and Kiyonori Kikutake.

In 1994, he produced the city of Nagano?s performance at the Winter Olympics 
in Lillehammer and "Banquets of Flowers and the Noh" at the Avignon Festival 
in France. In 1996, Teshigahara made one of his rare appearances in the US, 
creating a large-scale environmental sculpture of bamboo at the Kennedy 
Center in Washington, DC. Teshigahara?s use of bamboo in many of his 
installations is based on his own artistic ideas and differentiates his work 
from previous Ikebana traditions. Also in 1996, after many appearances and 
exhibitions in France, Teshigahara was decorated with the "Order of Arts and 
Letters" from the French government. 

As many critics and authors have noted, Hiroshi Teshigahara and his co-author 
on several films, Kobo Abe, shared an interest in portraying their characters 
as insects under a scientist?s microscope ? an approach shared by Japanese 
new-wave directors Oshima and Imamura (one of whose features was called 
Insect Woman). It is not by accident that the schoolteacher in the novel and 
movie Woman in the Dunes is an amateur entomologist.

"Twenty-five years ago, a young unknown Japanese director named Hiroshi 
Teshigahara sent tremors through the world of cinema with a film of stunning 
originality, awesome power and technical brilliance ? It was at home that he 
remained most active, directing a series of distinctly original films that 
helped bring to world attention the creativity of the contemporary Japanese 
 ? Peter Grilli, New York Times, September 24, 1989

"Teshigahara is a complex man. Internationally famous ... he is also an 
intensely private man devoted to the Japanese arts of ceramics and flower 
arranging. He has a modest, serene appearance not unlike the Buddhist priest 
in his film Rikyu. Yet when I asked him about the scar that runs a good four 
inches up from his left eyebrow, he grinned, steering with his hands on an 
imaginary wheel, and said, ?I used to drive my sports car too fast.?" 
? Charlie Ahearn, Interview Magazine, August 1990

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