Japanese filmmaker Nobuhiko Obayashi died April 10 in Tokyo as a result of lung cancer at the age of 82. When he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2016, Obayashi was told he had only a few months to live; but he continued to work until his death.
Obayashi was known for his films depicting the horrors of war. A pacifist, his films featured fairy tale imagery, colourful Japanese festivals, dripping blood, marching doll soldiers, winding cobblestone roads, and shooting stars. He was also considered a trailblazer in Japanese television commercials by bringing in non-Japanese stars including Kirk Douglas and Charles Bronson. He reportedly made nearly 3,000 of the ad spots.
His final film “Umibeno Eigakan Kinemano Tamatebako” (“Labyrinth of Cinema”) was originally scheduled for an April 10 release but was moved back due to crowed restrictions because of the Covid-19 virus.
“Labyrinth of Cinema” was one of the films showcased at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year. Obayashi was also honoured as a “cinematic magician” at the Festival.
His work appeared at the Berlin International, Moscow, and Udine Far East Film Festivals.
Fascinated with the piano, Obayashi composed music for a few of his productions “The Girl in the Picture”, “Remembrance”, “Nakesaendo”, “The Wonderful World of Steam Locomotive”, “Death of an Old Mansion”, and “The Deserted City”.
He also worked as a producer, writer, editor, and cinematographer on some of his productions. During his career, Obayashi made nearly 60 films including his 1960 debut “The Girl in the Picture”, the 1977 feature debut “House”, “Take Me Away!”, “I Are You, You am Me”, “The Deserted City”, “Shinjuro”, “The Drifting Classroom”, “The Rocking Horsemen”, “Turning Point”, “I Want to Hear the Wind’s Song”, “The Last Snow”, “Scenery to Remember”, “Seven Weeks”, and his final film “Labyrinth of Cinema”.
Known as a film director, Obayashi appeared as an actor is a handful of films – “The Girl in the Picture”, “House”, “The Visitor in the Eye”, “The Woman”, “Completely…with that Air!”, “Zokubutsu zukan”, “Manuke sensei”, and “Kalina’s Apple: Forest of Chernobyl”.
He was born in pre World War II Japan on January 9, 1938 in the Hiroshima Prefecture of Onomichi the son of an Army doctor. His interest in film making came at a very early age, with a toy movie projector when he was only three years old.
Obayashi’s survivors include his actress Kyoko and his daughter Chigumi who is also an actress.
Feature photo credit: By 文部科学省ホームページ, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83822295