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Biography

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Overview (2)

Date of Birth 15 September 1926Tokyo, Japan
Date of Death 30 May 2006Tokyo, Japan  (liver cancer)

Mini Bio (2)

Shohei Imamura's films dig beneath the surface of Japanese society to reveal a wellspring of sensual, often irrational, energy that lies beneath. Along with his colleagues Nagisa Ôshima and Masahiro Shinoda, Imamura began his serious directorial career as a member of the New Wave movement in Japan. Reacting against the studio system, and particularly against the style of Yasujirô Ozu, the director he first assisted, Imamura moved away from the subtlety and understated nature of the classical masters to a celebration of the primitive and spontaneous aspects of Japanese life. To explore this level of Japanese consciousness, Imamura focuses on the lower classes, with characters who range from bovine housewives to shamans, and from producers of blue movies to troupes of third-rate traveling actors. He has proven himself unafraid to explore themes usually considered taboo, particularly those of incest and superstition. Imamura himself was not born into the kind of lower-class society he depicts. The college-educated son of a physician, he was drawn toward film, and particularly toward the kinds of films he would eventually make, by his love of the avant-garde theater. Imamura has worked as a documentarist, recording the statements of Japanese who remained in other parts of Asia after the end of WWII, and of the "karayuki-san"--Japanese women sent to accompany the army as prostitutes during the war period. His heroines tend to be remarkably strong and resilient, able to outlast, and even to combat, the exploitative situations in which they find themselves. This is a stance that would have seemed impossible for the long-suffering heroines of classical Japanese films. In 1983, Imamura won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for The Ballad of Narayama (1983), based on a Shichirô Fukazawa novel about a village where the elderly are abandoned on a sacred mountaintop to die. Unlike director Keisuke Kinoshita's earlier version of the same story, Imamura's film, shot on location in a remote mountain village, highlights the more disturbing aspects of the tale through its harsh realism. In his attempt to capture what is real in Japanese society, and what it means to be Japanese, Imamura used an actual 40-year-old former prostitute in his The Insect Woman (1963); a woman who was searching for her missing fiancé in A Man Vanishes (1967); and a non-actress bar hostess as the protagonist of his History of Postwar Japan as Told by a Bar Hostess (1970). Despite this anthropological bent, Imamura has cleverly mixed the real with the fictional, even within what seems to be a documentary. This is most notable in his A Man Vanishes (1967), in which the fiancée becomes more interested in an actor playing in the film than with her missing lover. In a time when the word "Japanese" is often considered synonymous with "coldly efficient," Imamura's vision of a more robust and intuitive Japanese character adds an especially welcome cinematic dimension.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Daniel Yates <kamerad76@hotmail.com>

Imamura's father was a doctor. During the war, his father could not be drafted but his two brothers were. As a result, his eldest brother got killed in action. Imamura spent his youth in the middle of small-time hoods and prostitutes at a time when black market was rampant. He later enrolled in a technical school in Tokyo which he left for the Waseda university where, for six years, he studied Western History. During this period he wrote plays which he directed and interpreted at the university, often in the company of Shôichi Ozawa, Kazuo Kitamura and Takeshi Katô, later to become three of his favorite actors when he became a movie maker. After graduating in the year 1951 he joined Shochiku first, then Nikkatsu, where he was soon a talented assistant director for Ozu, Yamamura, Kawashima and Tanaka. He has directed twenty films to this day and also produced or written a few others. In 1965, he set up his own independent production company "Imamura Production" and founded in 1975 "The Institute of Cinema and Television" (now called "Japanese Visual Arts Academy"). A major figure of Japanese cinema indeed.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Guy Bellinger

Spouse (1)

Akiko (? - 30 May 2006) (his death) (3 children)

Trivia (5)

Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985". Pages 451-458. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
Mentor to Takashi Miike, who attended Imamura's own film school in Yokohama.
Father of Hirosuke Lmamura and Daisuke Tengan who collaborated on screenplays for his last three films.
Father of Hirosuke Mamura and Daisuke Tengan who collaborated on screenplays for his last three films.
He is one of a select band of directors to have won the Palme d'Or twice at the Cannes Film Festival. The others are Francis Ford Coppola, Alf Sjöberg, Bille August, Emir Kusturica, Jean-Pierre Dardenne & Luc Dardenne and Michael Haneke.

Personal Quotes (4)

[on his friendships with prostitutes and bar hostesses] They weren't educated and they were vulgar and lusty, but they were also strongly affectionate and they instinctively confronted all their own sufferings. I grew to admire them enormously.
[on his encounters with ruling class students] I despised them, and remember thinking that they were the kind of people who would never get close to the fundamental truths of life. Knowing them made me want to identify myself with working-class people who were true to their own human natures. At that age, though, I probably still thought of myself as being innately superior to working-class people.
I am interested in the relationship of the lower part of the human body and the lower part of the social structure on which the reality of daily Japanese life obstinately supports itself.
I like to make messy films

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