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KON ICHIKAWA

Japan

Born: Uji Yamda, Japan, 20 November 1915.


Kon Ichikawa (JPG, 13 KB)

After graduating from a commercial school, he studied animation and made his entry into Japanese cinema in 1946 with a puppet film, A Girl of Dojo Temple, the negative of which was confiscated and destroyed by the American Occupation authorities. His early feature films were often satirical comedies, a rarity in Japanese cinema, and revealed a wry sense of humour that prompted some local critics to call him the "Japanese Frank Capra." He continued injecting doses of black humour into many of his later films, but made his greatest impact on Western audiences with a number of rather bleak dramas of the late 50s and early 60s, which were typically peopled with obsessional characters at odds with a spiritually aberrant environment. Especially notable are his two powerful antiwar films, The Burmese Harp (1956), in which a soldier experiences a Buddhist spiritual awakening and becomes obsessed with the need to bury the war dead, and Fires on the Plain (1959), which depicts the horrors of war in graphic, chilling terms, showing cannibalism among defeated Japanese soldiers.

Among his other major films are Enjo / Conflagration (1958), about a student priest who burns down his temple to save it from becoming contaminated by industrial pollution; Odd Obsession (1959), which deals with the sexual aspect of obsession; Alone on the Pacific / My Enemy the Sea (1963), which explores heroism with a light touch; and An Actor's Revenge (also 1963), the story of a Kabuki impersonator in which Ichikawa surpasses his own high standards of technical brilliance. Ichikawa is a highly proficient film craftsman with a keen eye for visual texture. He is ameticulous technician who labours long and carefully on every scene in advance of production. Even though few of his films have been widely exhibited in the West, his reputation as one of the leading directors of Japanese and world cinema is secure.

Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia



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