Okamoto Kihachi dead at

Aaron Gerow gerowaaron at sbcglobal.net
Sat Feb 19 10:15:39 EST 2005

News reports relate that film director Okamoto Kihachi, one of Japan's 
great action and comedy directors, died on the 19th at the age of 81. 
Okamoto worked at Toho for much of his career, first starting out as an 
assistant director for Makino Masahiro, Naruse Miko and Honda Ishiro 
before getting his first chance to direct in 1958. He quickly gained a 
reputation as a skilled action film director, but one who often added a 
comedic, parodic, even absurdist touch to his scenes. His "Gurentai" 
series combined WWII, the Western and comedy, while Satsujinkyo no 
jidai (1967) about hired killers created a brilliantly surreal world of 
absurdist black comedy. Always interested in music, his films often 
achieved a rhythmic, almost musical-like quality, especially in work 
like Aa bakudan (1964, a Noh musical comedy!) and Jazz daimyo (1986). 
His comedy ventured into the realm of political critique in such 
anti-war films as Nikudan (1968), one of a couple of films he made for 
ATG, and he was always interested in playing with genre, even venturing 
off to the USA to make a samurai Western in East Meets West. I must 
confess that the films of his available with subtitles in the USA, such 
as the serious Sword of Doom (1966) and Samurai Assassin, are not 
completely representative of his genius. His wife, Okamoto Mineko, 
helped produce some of his last films and was one of the more prominent 
women film producers in Japan. He has published a number of books and 
the book Kihachi: Four Beat no Artisan (Toho, 1992) is the best 
reference work on him, even if a bit out of date.

He will be missed and deserves another look.

Aaron Gerow
KineJapan owner

Assistant Professor
Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
Yale University

For list commands, send "information kinejapan" to
listserver at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
Kinema Club: http://pears.lib.ohio-state.edu/Markus/Welcome.html

More information about the KineJapan mailing list