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Japanese director Koji Wakamatsu dead at 76

Legendary Japanese director Koji Wakamatsu has died in hospital of injuries after being hit by a taxi on the night of October 12.

He was 76 years old.

Wakamatsu was struck by the taxi, driven by a man in his 70s, as he crossed a major road in Shinjuku Ward. Wakamatsu suffered injuries to his head and lower back. In the days following his admission to hospital he lost consciousness in the ICU, passing away after 11pm on October 17.

The news of the accident was reported in the Japanese media on October 16, as confirmed by actress Shinobu Terajima, who has appeared in three of Wakamatsu’s latest films including 2010 Berlin success Caterpillar.

Born in 1936 in Miyagi Prefecture, Wakamatsu began his career as an assistant director for TV dramas. He soon moved into the burgeoning “pink film” adult genre, often infusing the experimental, low-budget works with political leanings.

Wakamatsu made an early splash internationally with erotic 1965 Berlin competition entry Secrets Behind The Wall, subsequently setting up Wakamatsu Production. 

Other well-known films in his vast filmography include The Embryo Hunts In Secret (1966), Go, Go Second Time Virgin (1969) and politically charged pink film Ecstasy Of The Angels (1972).

He also famously co-directed Masao Adachi’s 1971 Palestine liberation front documentary Red Army/PFLP: Declaration of World War and produced Nagisa Oshima’s sexually explicit 1976 drama In The Realm Of The Senses.

The last five years saw a renaissance in the fiercely independent director’s career, kicked off by Wakamatsu’s 100th feature United Red Army, which was awarded the NETPAC and CICAE awards in Berlin.

In 2012, Wakamatsu returned to Cannes after 41 years with Un Certain Regard title 11.25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate followed by Venice Horizons entry The Millennial Rapture.

Wakamatsu had just returned to Tokyo after winning the Asian filmmaker of the year award at the recently wrapped Busan International Film Festival. The prize was given to “honour his spirit of independent film as a rebellious auteur and his never-ending passion for cinema”.

Outspoken as always, Wakamatsu criticized a lack of government support for young Asian film makers.

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