Guest in Focus: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

One of the special guests present at Nippon Connection this year is the renowned director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, this year’s recipient of the Nippon Honor Award. Born in 1955 in Kobe, Kurosawa’s career in film stretches back into the 1980’s, when he got his start making direct-to-video works and “pink films,” before studying in the US in the 1990’s. Known primarily for contributions to the horror genre, his big mainstream breakthrough came in 1997 with what many consider his first masterpiece, Cure. Just over a decade later, he added to his international pedigree by winning the jury prize at Cannes in 2008 with one of his most well-known works, Tokyo Sonata.    

Breaking from his more horror-focused roots, Tokyo Sonata was a dive into the genre of Japanese family melodramas, and also touched on themes of unemployment and economic struggles. The fact that, at the time, both Japan and the world as a whole were suffering from severe economic recession lent its 2008 release a powerful sense of timeliness (although Kurosawa himself later admitted this was mostly coincidence). He returned to Cannes last year and yet again received top award recognition (this time for Best Director) with his latest acclaimed work (and one of the headline titles of this year’s Nippon Connection), Journey to the Shore, starring Tadanobu Asano and Eri Fukatsu.  

Like many directors known for distinct styles, Kurasawa has several favorite actors he particularly enjoys collaborating with, including two that can be seen in several screenings of his work at this year’s festival; Teruyuki Kagawa (Creepy, Tokyo Sonata) and Koji Yakusho (Tokyo Sonata, Cure). Citing earlier leaders of Japanese cinema like Yasujiro Ozu and Shinji Somai as key influences on his work, he is considered by fellow directors the world over (including American legend Martin Scorsese) to be a master of lighting and pacing, using the settings and environments of his shots to create atmosphere in his films in his own unique manner.  

Kurosawa-san was present to formally receive the Nippon Honor Award in this year’s opening ceremony Tuesday evening, which concluded with our first festival screening of Journey to the Shore. If you missed it the first time around, the good news is that there are still several upcoming opportunities at this year’s Nippon to get a taste of it and some of the other key works of Kurosawa’s that have solidified his reputation as one of the premiere directors in Japanese cinema today. 

Thank you for all the great stories you’ve given us, Kurosawa-san!  Gokyouryoku arigatou gozaimasu!



Sunday (29 May):

Tokyo Sonata (Special Film Breakfast)- 10:30am,  Theater Die Käs

-Noah Franc


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