Japanese filmmaker Shohei Imamuradied yesterday of liver cancer at the age of 79. Though his name is perhaps not well know in mainstream America, Imamura was a master of his craft, directing such shocking (then, and often now), anti-establishment films as The Pornographers and Vengeance is Mine, Palme d'Or winners The Ballad of Narayama and The Eel, and Black Rain, an award-winning, fictional exploration of the personal impact of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Though he started his career as an assistant to the great Yasujiro Ozu (he worked on Tokyo Story, as well as two other films), his sensibilities differed dramatically from those of his temporary mentor; once Imamura set out on his own, his films went in a very different direction than those of Ozu. In place of Ozu's careful composition and strict control, Imamura offered "gritty social issues," set in the "chaotic reality of postwar Japan." His films and their interest in the lower social classes, along with the works of fellow New Wavers Seijun Suzuki and Masahiro Shinoda, were largely responsible for forcing Japanese cinema to go in less traditional, more spontaneous directions, and everyone who came after owes him a debut of gratitude.
categories Cinematical