Monday, February 1, 2010

Sogo Ishii has ended - Long live Gakuryu Ishii!

by Chris MaGee

It was a little while ago that I was chatting online with Jasper Sharp and Outcast Cinema's Marc Walkow about "Burst City" and "Electric Dragon 80,000V" director Sogo Ishii. My question was, "What the hell has Ishii been up to lately?" to which Marc Walkow replied that he has been teaching the Kobe Design University, but that he hasn't been doing much filmmaking for about six or seven years. I thought, "Good for Ishii for passing on his knowledge, but too bad for us that he's not making films at the moment." And that was the end of the story.

Then a couple of days later I caught wind of a new and surprising development on the Ishii front from Tidepoint Pictures founder and owner Testuki Ijichi that Sogo Ishii was no longer Sogo Ishii. In an update last month on his official blog Ishii announced that he has changed his name to Gakuryu Ishii. The announcement actually came in the form of a poem:

Some people should know,
[My] stage name changed.

Sogo Ishii has ended.
Long time, thank you.

In the future,

All activities will be in this name, will do the job.

I intend to work actively as a rookie
Thank you very much.

Ishii has also changed the name of his official website to This won't be the first name change for the 52-year-old filmmaker. At the age of 19 Ishii changed his given name from Toshihiro to Sogo and bean his career as the chronicler of Japan's punk movement with films like "Charge! Hooligans of Hakata" and "Panic in High School" before gaining widespread recognition for his 1980 film "Crazy Thunder Road" (above).

So does this third name change indicate a return to filmmaking for Ishii? The poem certainly hints at an artistic rebirth of sorts with Ishii stating that "I intend to work actively as a rookie." Well, all I can say is - Sogo Ishii has ended! Long live Gakuryu Ishii!

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