Tuesday, June 19, 2012

RIP Kaneto Shindô, 1912-2012

A late RIP this, for Japanese film director Kaneto Shindô who died a few weeks ago (May 29), a month after his 100th birthday (on April 22). Born 1912, he directed some 48 films and wrote 238 scripts in a career lasting sixty years (his final film as director was last year's Postcard). He directed films in all genres throughout his long career. When asked in an interview last year by actor Benicio Del Toro what was the most important thing he had learnt from his mentor, the Japanese director Kenji Mizoguchi, Shindô replied 'never give up'.

Shindô's most famous film and one of my all-time favourites is Onibaba, made in 1964, the same year as the similarly-themed and just as extraordinary The Woman of the Dunes. In equal parts chilling and erotic, Onibaba is a tale of sexual jealousy with two women, a mother and her daughter-in-law, who make a living by killing passing samurai warriors and selling their armour and weapons. When the mother uses a demon mask to scare her daughter-in-law from her lover, she finds the mask stuck to her face. Set in medieval, rural Japan, and based on a Buddhist parable, the film is notable for its sumptuous black and white photography, constant rustling sounds of the reeds and symbolism – holes, masks – Freud could have written a book about.

• The BFI are currently showing a season of films by Kaneto Shindô and his close collaborator Kozaburo Yoshimura.

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