Kobayashi Satoru

Roland Domenig roland.domenig
Thu Nov 29 07:49:24 EST 2001

I just saw a notice that director Kobayashi Satoru died of cancer on
November 15 at the age of 71. Kobayashi was, with more than 500 films to his
credits (some sources speak of more than 700 films), the most productive
film-director after the war and the 'founder' of the pink eiga genre.

Kobayashi was born in 1930 in Matsumoto. After a literature study at Waseda
University, in 1954 he became assistant-director for Omi-Production, the
production company of Omi Toshiro, the youngest brother of Shintoho
president Okura Mitsugi. In 1959 he made his debut as film director with
'Kurutta yokubo' for Shintoho. He went on to make films for Shintoho, among
them the ghost-film 'Okinawa kaidan/Shina kaidan' that is highly regarded by
cult-film-fans. When Shintoho collapsed he followed Okura to the new Okura
Production where in 1962 he directed 'Nikutai no ichiba', the film that is
generally regarded to be the first pink eiga. Two days after its release the
film was confiscated by the police on charges of obscenity and stirred a
scandal. In 1965 Kobayashi went to Taiwan where he lived until 1971 and
where he directed a dozen films, most of them kung-fu-films, comedies and
ghost films. He returned to Japan in 1972 and directed mainly pink eiga for
Okura Production and the Shochiku offshot Tokatsu. In the late 1970s every
month three (!) new films were released either under his real name or under
the pseudonyms Kobayashi Kei, Matsumoto Chino, Hidari Jiro and Niikura
Naoto. In 1984 he returned to Taiwan to direct the big-budget war film 'War
after War' (with Tsuruta Koji in one of his last films). The film was never
released in Japan, however, and is one of the many 'maboroshi no eiga' that
still wait to be unearthed. In the 1980s and 1990s Kobayashi went on to
direct pink eiga on a high base mostly for Okura. In 1999 he worked as
producer of Ishii Teruo's film 'Jigoku'. Last year he founded his own
production company. Kobayashi's last film, 'Miko no bihada', that was
finished shortly before his death, will be released on December 22. The
posthumous work 'Sakuragai no amai mizu' that was planed to commemorate the
40th anniversary of 'Nikutai no ichiba' and 40 years of pink eiga will be
released next spring.

Kobayashi may not be the most interesting film-director but he was a
key-figure for the pink eiga genre and his films can tell us much about the
difficulties as well as the possibilities of film production in Japan.

Roland Domenig
Institute of East Asian Studies
Vienna University

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