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Shohei Imamura

Shohei Imamura

Writer, director, and producer, Shohei Imamura was born in Tokyo in 1926. The son of a doctor, he had a conventional upper-middle-class education. Influenced largely by his brother, Imamura became intensely interested in modern theater while still in middle school, although he had first contemplated a career in agriculture. After failing his entrance exams for agricultural studies, he attended a technical school to avoid the draft, then majored in Occidental history at Tokyo's Waseda University. Upon graduating in 1951, Imamura went to work for the Ofuna Studios of the Shochiku film company as an assistant director, serving his apprenticeship under the master Yasijiro Ozu, among others. Frustrated by the company's rigid promotion system, which hindered his progress, in 1954 he moved to the Nikkatsu studios, where he was finally given the chance to direct in 1958. From the start, Imamura's films displayed some of the qualities that would later characterize his work - robust energy, sensuous earthiness, and a crude, often outrageously off-color, sense of humor.

Gradually, Imamura emerged as one of the leading directors of postwar Japanese cinema, an insightful filmmaker with a keen interest in Japanese culture and society, both new and old, and a talent for depicting the human condition audaciously and with dark humor. He is also known as a slow and meticulous worker who spends a great deal of time researching and planning his projects to deeply dig and reveal the undercurrents of Japanese society, and all of it sensual and irrational energy. His films often feature strong female protagonists who outperform the men in their battle for survival. Eroticism and incest are recurring themes, yet his films always vary in theme and style to reflect the contradictory nature of the very human characters he chooses to portray.

In 1965, Imamura formed his own company, Imamura Productions, and subsequently served as his own producer. In recent years, he has focused much of his attention on administering and teaching at the Broadcast and Film institute, which he founded in Yokohama in 1975. His latest film KANZO SENSEI, premiered at the 1998 Cannes International Film Festival.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2002.

Shohei Imamura Facts

OccupationDirector, Writer, Composer
BirthdaySeptember 15, 1926
BirthplaceTokyo, Japan
Date of deathMay 30, 2006 (age 79)

Selected Filmography

Warm Water Under a Red Bridge
The Eel
Pigs, Pimps, and Prostitutes: 3 Films by Shohei Imamura
The Ballad of Narayama
Vengeance Is Mine
September 11
A Man Vanishes
Black Rain
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