One of my favorite Japanese actors turned 72 yesterday so I thought I’d make some time to wish Akira Kobayashi a very happy belated birthday. Earlier this year I had planned on paying tribute to Kobayashi during the Japanese Cinema Blogathon but at the last minute, I decided to write about director Yasuharu Hasebe instead due to his unfortunate death. After mentioning this I received a few comments and emails from readers who expressed their admiration for Akira Kobayashi and asked if I would write something about him in the future so I thought I’d use his recent birthday to do that.
Akira Kobayashi is an extremely handsome and multi-talented star who is well-known throughout Japan for his acting chops as well as his singing abilities. Kobayashi was born on November 3rd in Tokyo in 1937 and began acting early in life. At age four he was part of a children’s theatre company and while he in high school, he became an accomplished Judo champion. His father worked in film as a lighting director so it’s not too surprising that Kobayashi was encouraged to pursue an acting career. Kobayashi joined Nikkatsu Studios in 1956 at age 19 and quickly rose to stardom with a group of young Japaneses hopefuls that included Joe Shishido, Tetsuya Watari and Yujiro Ishihara.
By 1958 Akira Kobayashi was becoming a popular star due to his good looks and obvious acting talents and in 1959 he was teamed up with Joe Shishido for a series of films called the Wandering Guitarist or Rambling Guitarist (aka Wataridori) series. In these popular films Akira Kobayashi and Joe Shishido played wandering heroes that save small villages from gangsters and other criminals. Kobayashi’s character resembled a singing cowboy in the old Hollywood tradition and he’d often whip out his guitar to belt out a tune during the Wandering Guitarist films. The series was so popular that it spawned similar films starring Akira Kobayashi such as The Rambler (aka Nagaremono) series.
Continue reading “Akira Kobayashi Turns 72”
Left: Joe Shishido & Reiko Sasamori in Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!
Right: Hiroyuki Nagato & Jitsuko Yoshimura in Pigs and Battleships
We’re only four months into 2009 and the year is already becoming more interesting in terms of DVD releases than 2008. I’ve been impressed with Warner’s decision to open up their film archives and I’m glad that Facets is now offering a mail order rental option for their vast selection of rare films on DVD and video. And if you’re interested in Japanese cinema some of the most exciting news is coming from Synapse, KINO and Criterion. All three companies are planning to release some of the most highly anticipated and previously hard-to-see Japanese films on DVD next month and I couldn’t be more happy about it! Continue reading “Spend Springtime in Japan”
Tetsuya Watari and Joe Shishido Last week the Nikkatsu Action Film Series made its way to San Francisco and the nice guys over at the Outcast Cinema site who manage the event were kind enough to remind me with a friendly email. Unfortunately due to my current work schedule, ongoing apartment maintenance and various family obligations, which are leaving me with very little free time … Continue reading Nikkatsu Action
One of the great action stars of Japanese cinema turns 74 today and I’d like to wish Joe “Dirty Joker” Shishido a very Happy Birthday! It’s hard to put into words all the joy that Joe has managed to give me over the past 18 years or so since I first discovered his work, but I will say that whenever I’m asked what my favorite … Continue reading The Dirty Joker Turns 74
I didn’t want to just list the 12 films I sent in for inclusion that didn’t make the final list of nominees for the Foreign Language Films List without writing a bit about them and why I love them so much. My entire list is filled to the brim with Japanese, Italian and French films and that’s not just because they’re easily available. It means … Continue reading 12 Favorite Foreign Language Films
Seijun Suzuki on the set of Gate of Flesh (a.k.a. Nikutai no mon), 1964 To put things simply, Gate of Flesh is one of Seijun Suzuki’s greatest films and without a doubt one of the best films produced in Japan in 1964. Seijun Suzuki (Branded to Kill, Tokyo Drifter, Youth of the Beast, etc.) shot Gate of Flesh for Nikkatsu studios at the time as … Continue reading “Dead man coming through!”