Monday, February 16, 2009

Director Yoji Yamada featured as one of NHK's "100 Year Interview" subjects

by Chris MaGee

This sounds like a neat idea. Since 2007 NHK's HDTV digital satellite service has been running a series titled "100 nen intabyuu" or "100 Year Interview" that features one-on-one discussions with various Japanese cultural luminaries who the folks at NHK believe will be relevant a century from now.

Now is reporting that NHK will be releasing four of these programs on DVD on February 27th. These include musician and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, chess master Yoshiharu Habu, kabuki actor Zyuurou Dan Ichikawa and from the world of film Yoji Yamada.

I can hear a lot of you now, "Yamada? Why not someone like Takashi Miike, or Takeshi Kitano or even Hirokazu Kore-Eda?" Think about this for a second though. As much as Miike enjoys a lot of love here in North America he's frankly not that well known in Japan itself, Kitano could definitely be included in the series, but he's better known in Japan for his monopoly of the TV airwaves on nearly every comedy and panel show there is. As for Kore-Eda, there's a feeling among some Japanese that his films have been made for the foreign film festival market and not for the Japanese movie audiences at home.

Now, if you look at Yoji Yamada's career which has included starting out as an assistant director to Yoshitaro Nomura at Shochiku before making his directorial debut in 1961 with "Nikai no Tanin (Stranger Upstairs)", producing four Best Film Winners at the Japanese Academy Awards, "The Yellow Hankerchief" in 1977 "My Sons" in 1991, "A Class to Remember" in 1993 and "The Twilight Samurai" in 2002, as well as racking up myriad Blue Ribbon and Kinema Junpo honours, and that's not even touching on his crwoning achievement, the longest running film series in history, the "Otoko Wa Tsurai Yo (It's Tough Being a Man)" Tora-san series that saw an astounding 48 installments released between 1969 and 1995. With those kind of credentials it's hard to pick any other living director who could qualify to represent Japanese cinema at the moment.

Obviously Yamada had a lot to say during his interview for this series, in fact his DVD is apparently 90 minutes long, but if you're curious about the series in general make it a point to head over to NHK's website for it here.

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