Ken Ogata 1937 – 2008

Ken Ogata in Vengeance Is Mine (1979)

I was disappointed to learn that the talented Japanese actor Ken Ogata has passed away at the age of 71. Last year I spent a lot of time watching and writing about some of his earlier films and I was happy to discover that Criterion had recently released Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, which stars Ken Ogata as the legendary Japanese author Yukio Mishima.

I first became familar with Ken Ogata’s work in the ’90s in films such as Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985), Takashi Ishii’s Gonin 2 (1996) and Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book (1996). But it wasn’t until more recently that I really started appreciating his acting abilities after seeing his impressive performances in earlier films like The Demon (1978) and Vengeance Is Mine (1979).

The Japanese newspaper Mainichi Daily has a brief report about Ken Ogata’s death and Criterion currently has a nice tribute to the actor on their website. The Daily Greencine has also collected some links to various articles about Ogata’s death as well.

Update: From The Japan Times “Screen great Ken Ogata dead at 71 .”

Left: Yukio Mishima
Right: Ken Ogata in Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (1985)

Some links:
– My review of The Demon (1978)
– My review of Vengeance Is Mine (1979).

6 thoughts on “Ken Ogata 1937 – 2008

  1. wow, that’s sad news… nice to see the little tribute though… as a hardcore fan of ogata’s work with shohei imamura, i strongly urge you to check out the ballad of narayama, which was just *finally* released on DVD and lived up to its reputation as imamura’s masterpiece. and i say that as someone who thinks he made several masterpieces. a really beautiful film!

  2. Thanks so much for the tip about The Ballad of Narayama, Dan! I didn’t know it had been released on DVD and I really want to see it. I love all of Imamura’s films that I’ve seen so far and I really wish Criterion or some other company would make an effort to release the director’s early films.

  3. Very sad news which I hadn’t heard. My best to his friends, fans and of course family. Lots of great ones passing on lately…

  4. Kimberly, this is indeed sad news. Paul Schrader tells a couple of good stories about Ogata in the dvd commentary for Mishima. Apparently, Schrader’s casting decision was much questioned before shooting began because Ogata comes from a working-class background and most Japanese associates of Schrader’s couldn’t imagine that he’d be very good at playing Mishima, who was from an aristocratic background. They were wrong, of course.

  5. Jeremy – Sad news indeed!

    Girish – Thanks for sharing that story about Mishima. I’m looking forward to seeing the new Criterion release of the film. I’m also curious to hear what else Paul Schrader has to say during the commentary. I’ve been fascinated with Mishima for a many years so I suspect I’ll find the DVD commentary and DVD notes really interesting!

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