Nippon Honor Award, 2022: A Masatoshi Nagase Tribute

After what truly seems like an eternity, Nippon Connection is back where it belongs, in the theaters and art halls of Frankfurt. Not only are our film screenings set to return to the big screen, we also have a new recipient of the Nippon Honor Award. This year, the festival would like to specially recognize longtime actor and singer, Masatoshi Nagase.

Born in 1966, Nagase-San didn’t wait long to begin his career in performance. As early as middle school he was leading a band, and by the age of 17 he managed to be cast in his first film, Shonben Raida by Shinji Somai. Just 6 years later he continued to make waves, this time internationally, with his appearance in the critically-acclaimed Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch.

Since then, he has continued to expand his body of work with a filmography that is over 80 titles long and still growing. He has also never fully given up working in music either- he headed 3 album releases in the 80’s and 90’s, which were accompanied by numerous singles. Though not as large or as well-known as his acting work, the fact that he has managed this while still acting at a constant pace makes this achievement all the more impressive.

He earned his first major awards recognition in 1992 thanks to two of the most important roles of his career, Musuko and Mo No Shigoto. Between these two performances he netted numerous festival awards, including two Japanese Academy Awards (for Best Newcomer and Best Supporting Actor). Later awards have included Best Supporting Actor at the 2008 Yokohama Film Festival for Funuke domo, kanashimi no ai wo misero and the Japanese Critics Award in 2010 for Mainichi Kaasan, which was his first award for a leading performance. In addition to his more internationally-recognized work with filmakers like Jim Jarmusch and Fridrik Fridriksson, he has also worked with many of the biggest names in Japan’s auteur scene, including Sion Sono, Shinji Aoyama, and Yoji Yamada.

The length and breadth of roles he has taken on means that Nagase has been able to leave an indelible imprint within the world of Japanese independent film. Known early on in his career for usually filling „hipster“ roles (beginning with his star-making turn as an Elvis fan in Mystery Train), by the late 2000’s he was being praised by critics like Todd Brown for being an „unsung hero of Japanese film,“ a reliable performer with an „unerring“ taste in which projects he does. This reputation has only grown in the years since, and as such it is only fitting for him to finally be formally recognized here at Nippon Connection.

Though he cannot be present at the festival to receive the award, Masatoshi Nagase will still provide on Online Film Talk during the festival. In addition, both a classic role of his (Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train) will be shown at the Film Museum, as well as one of his new projects (Just The Two of Us, Keita FUJIMOTO). Be sure to come and check them out, and enjoy the return of Nippon Connection!

-Noah Franc

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