Japanese director Kaneto Shindo died of natural causes in the morning hours of May 29 at the age of 100, local media has reported.
Kaneto was Japan’s oldest director, and had been considered the world’s second-oldest working director after Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira.
Born on April 22 1912 in Hiroshima prefecture, Shindo entered the film industry in 1934 working as a film developer, assistant director and screenwriter. He collaborated with the likes of Kenji Mizoguchi and Keisuke Kinoshita before leaving the studio system to make his feature directorial debut with 1951’s The Story Of A Beloved Wife.
That film’s star, Nobuko Otowa, began a lifelong personal and professional relationship with Shindo, most famously appearing in Shindo’s internationally renowned films The Naked Island (1960) and Onibaba (1964).
In addition to directing over 40 films in his career Shindo continued to write scripts for other directors, particularly early collaborator Kozaburo Yoshimura, producer of Shindo’s Children Of Hiroshima. Many of his films were funded independently through Kindai Eiga Kyokai (Modern Film Association), established by Shindo, Yoshimura and actor Taiji Tonoyama.
Aside from numerous awards in Japan over the decades, Shindo steadily won critical praise overseas backed by a close relationship with the Moscow International Film Festival where The Naked Island shared the grand prix with Russian film Chistoe Nebo in 1961. The same film was nominated for a BAFTA in 1963. Shindo’s Live Today, Die Tomorrow! (1970) and Will To Live (1999) also took top awards in Moscow with other of his films competing and winning lesser prizes.
Shochiku’s 1987 hit Hachiko Monogatari, directed by Seijiro Koyama, was written by Shindo with his screenplay serving as the basis for Lasse Hallström’s 2009 Hollywood remake Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, itself a success in Japan.
One of Shindo’s notable fans is actor Benicio Del Toro. Last year Del Toro presented retrospectives of Shindo’s work both in Los Angeles and Puerto Rico as well as filming an interview with the director and coming to Japan to celebrate Shindo’s 100th birthday. A retrospective of Shindo’s and Yoshimura’s work screens at London’s BFI from June 1-July 31.
Shindo’s final film, WWII drama Postcard, won the special jury prize at the 2010 Tokyo International Film Festival and was selected as Japan’s official entry for the best foreign-language film category of the Academy Awards last year. It was also nominated for best film and screenwriter at this year’s Asian Film Awards.
Various tributes are expected to be held.