Director Ichikawa, 92, dies

Compiled From Kyodo, AP

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Prominent film director Kon Ichikawa died of pneumonia at a Tokyo hospital early Wednesday, his family said. He was 92.

Ichikawa gained fame for films that include “The Burmese Harp” in 1956 and its remake in 1985, and “Fires on the Plain” in 1959.

After debuting as a film director in 1948, Ichikawa won the International Critics Award at the Cannes Film Festival in France for his 1965 documentary film on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics titled “Tokyo Olympiad.”

Known for his artistic technique and the wide range of genres in which he worked, Ichikawa won a jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his 1960 movie “Kagi.”

Ichikawa, a native of Ise, Mie Prefecture, also received an award for cultural merit from the government in 1994 and a lifetime achievement award at the Montreal World Film Festival in 2001.

His last film was the 2006 remake of his own hit movie 30 years earlier — “Inugamike no Ichizoku” (“Clan of the Inugami”), a mystery featuring the popular private detective Kosuke Kindaichi.

Ichikawa had been hospitalized since late January, said a spokeswoman with Toho Co., which released “The Makioka Sisters” and many of his other films in the 1970s and 1980s.

Ichikawa’s oldest son, Tatsumi, is planning to hold a funeral for family and close friends, with a public memorial service to be held at a later date, Toho said in a statement.

“Ichikawa surely stands alongside Akira Kurosawa and Keisuke Miyashita as one of Japan’s great directors,” said noted Japanese film critic Tadao Sato.

“He made not just art films, but also melodramas, documentaries, mysteries and others . . . and he brought to all of them a technique and craft that showed he took the works seriously no matter the subject,” Sato said. “Even his light entertainments had class.”

Ichikawa first attracted attention outside of Japan with the Oscar-nominated “Burmese Harp” of 1956. Based on a novel, the film told the story of Japanese soldier at the end of World War II who, overwhelmed by the sight of his dead comrades in arms, vows to live a life of prayer and bury the dead.

“Humanism was at the core of all of Ichikawa’s movies. He thought it was important to show that there was good in everyone, but to show that in a war movie, too, made it unique,” Sato said.

Veteran actor Rentaro Mikuni recalled that the most memorable work he did with Ichikawa was “The Burmese Harp.”

“I owe what I am today to that movie,” Mikuni said. Ichikawa “had a modern sense and also was a man who would not budge once he made up his mind.

“Although he was a bit older, I considered (Ichikawa) to be a film artist of the same generation as myself. I don’t think there will be any more film directors like him,” Mikuni, 85, said.