Hiroshi Teshigahara 1927-2001
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
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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