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SHOHEI IMAMURA

Japan

Born: Tokyo, Japan, 15 September 1926.


Shohei Imamura (JPG, 15 KB)

After failing his entrance exams for agricultural studies at the university, he attended a technical school to avoid the draft, then majored in Occidental history at Tokyo's Waseda University. On graduating, in 1951, he went to work for the Ofuna Studios of the Sochiku film copmany as an assistant director, serving his apprenticeship under Yasujiro Ozu and others. Frustrated by the company's rigid promotion system, which hindered his progress, he moved over in 1954 to the Nikkatsu studios, where he was finally given his first chance to direct in 1958. From the start, Imamura's films displayed some of the qualities that would later characterize his work: robust energy, sensuous earthiness, and a ribald, often outrageously off-color, sense of humour. Gradually he emerged as one of the leading figures of postwar Japanese cinema, an insightful, creative artist with a near-scientific interest in Japanese culture and society, new and old, and a flair for depicting the human condition audaciously and entertainingly. He is known as a slow and meticulous worker who spends a great deal of time researching and planning his projects. His films are often peopled with strong female protagonists who outperform males in the battle for survival. Bold eroticism, even incest, are recurring elements. But his films vary widely in theme and style. He collaborated on his own scripts and on several films by other directors. In 1965 he formed his own company, Imamura Productions, and subsequently often served as his own producer. Imamura won the Palme d'Or at Cannes for The Ballad of Narayama (1983). In recent years, he has focussed much of his attention on administering and teaching at the Broadcast and Film Institute, which he founded in Yokohama in 1975.

Ephraim Katz, The Film Encyclopedia



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