Okamoto Kihachi dead at
Sat Feb 19 13:36:35 EST 2005
Very sorry to learn of Okamoto Kihachi's death.
(Thank you, Aaron, for sending out this first report about him).
Despite his frail body, Okamoto was a man of great energy and creativity.
In his offbeat quirky comic way, he was a great humanist -- like a Japanese
Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut..
.... or even Cervantes!
He'll be missed. And, yes, he definitely deserves another look!
(I haven't found any news reports yet in English, but for readers of
Japanese, here's the first announcement from the Yomiuri Shimbun:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Peter M. Grilli
President, Japan Society of Boston
One Milk Street, Boston, MA 02109
E-mail: grilli at us-japan.org
From: owner-KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu
[mailto:owner-KineJapan at lists.acs.ohio-state.edu]On Behalf Of Aaron
Sent: Saturday, February 19, 2005 7:16 AM
Subject: Okamoto Kihachi dead at
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reference work on him, even if a bit out of date.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.
Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
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