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Live-Action/Anime Film Director Nagisa Oshima Passes Away

posted on by Egan Loo
Earned acclaim for In the Realm of the Senses, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, Band of Ninja

Acclaimed film director Nagisa Oshima passed away in a Fujisawa City hospital on Tuesday, January 15 at 3:25 p.m. due to pneumonia. He was 80. Oshima earned international renown for In the Realm of the Senses, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, Band of Ninja, and other films.

Oshima was born in Kyoto in 1932, and he joined the film company Shochiku as an assistant director in 1954 after graduating from Kyoto University. In just five years, he rose through the ranks to become a full-fledged feature director on such films as Ai to Kibō no Machi (A Town of Love and Hope), Seishun Zankoku Monogatari (Cruel Story of Youth) and Taiyō no Hakaba (Graveyard of the Sun). He became part of the "New Wave" of Japanese filmmakers who helped revolutionize the craft by experimenting with new techniques and explicit storytelling.

He had to finish his 1976 Ai no Corrida (In the Realm of the Senses) film in France due to its unfiltered portrayal of sex that was barred in Japan. His next film, Ai no Bōrei (Empire of Passion, 1978), earned him a Cannes Film Festival award for best director. That led to Senjō no Merry Christmas (Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence), a four-nation production that depicted a Japanese World War II prisoner-of-war camp with actor/musician David Bowie, fellow filmmaker Takeshi Kitano, and composer/actor Ryuichi Sakamoto.

In addition to dozens of live-action films, Oshima also directed an experimental 1967 anime film called Ninja Bugeicho (Band of Ninja). It adapted Sampei Shirato's 1957 manga about a young boy from a noble family who joins a peasant rebellion to avenge the death of his father. Rather than just using the manga as the basis for the film's plot, Oshima shot pictures of the actual manga pages, added camera pans to give an illusion of movement, and had actors read the dialogue and narration. Versions of the same technique were later used by Gainax director Hideaki Anno in His and Her Circumstances and by other directors in FLCL, another Gainax series.

Sources: Sakigake, NHK via Hachima Kikō

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