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A Baker’s Dozen of Great Japanese Filmmakers

Tatsuya Nakadai in Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakii (1962)

Tatsuya Nakadai in Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakii (1962)

I have written on a number of occasions of my admiration of Japanese films, particularly those of the 1950s and 1960s, when it seems their film industry could do no wrong. Following is a list of my favorite directors followed by my favorites of their films.

If it seems most of the films deal with samurai, it is because I dearly love the genre.

  • Hideo Gosha: Goyokin (1969)
  • Kon Ichikawa: The Burmese Harp (1956), Tokyo Olympiad (1965)
  • Kazuo Ikehiro: Trail of Traps (1965), Castle Menagerie (1969)
  • Hiroshi Inagaki: The Samurai Trilogy (1954-1956)
  • Keisuke Kinoshita: The Ballad of Narayama (1958)
  • Masaki Kobayashi: The Human Condition Trilogy (1959-1961), Harakiri (1962), and Kwaidan (1964)
  • AKIRA KUROSAWA: Just about anything he did, most notably Rashomon (1950), The Seven Samurai (1954), and The Hidden Fortress (1958)
  • Kenji Misumi: Zatoichi Goes to the Fire Festival (1970)
  • KENJI MIZOGUCHI: Just about anything he did, especially Ugetsu Monogatari (1953), Sansho the Bailiff (1954), and Tales of the Taira Clan (1955)
  • Kihachi Okamato: Samurai Assassin (1965), The Sword of Doom (1966)
  • YASUJIRO OZU: Just about anything he did, including Late Spring (1949) and Tokyo Story (1953)
  • Kaneto Shindo: Onibaba (1964)
  • Hiroshi Teshigahara: The Woman in the Dunes (1964)

The directors whose names are in red (Kurosawa, Mizoguchi, and Ozu) are by far the greatest, with Kobayashi not far behind.

 

6 thoughts on “A Baker’s Dozen of Great Japanese Filmmakers

  1. Thanks for the list. I know I’ve watched films by three on your list: Kurosawa (at least ten of his films, of which Roshoman is one of the few films in my collection): Ichikawa (The Burmese Harp which so impressed me that I had to read the novel)’and Kobayashi (Harakiri and Kwaidan).

    I shall have to take a look at some of those I haven’t encountered yet, or don’t remember now.

  2. Great list and great films. Almost all the films I have seen (so far) by all the directors you mentioned are great films. I think Gocha is underrated.
    Have you ever watched Kiju Yoshida’s ‘Onimaru’ (1988). It’s a japanese reading of ‘Wuthering Heights’. It was shot on the mt Fuji, and it’s as strong and impressive as Pasolini’s ‘Medea’. Music by Takemitsu, used as brilliantly as in Kobayashi’s ‘Harakiri’. By the way, ‘Harakiri’ must has what I think is one of the most impressive opening of the history of cinema. It sounds and look so barbarous, that we’re already conditioned to expect some awful happening. One of my favourite samourai movies.

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