A folk-singer-turned-filmmaker who went to France in 1981 to apprentice under his idol François Truffaut, Masahiro Kobayashi may have failed in his quest (he couldn't work up the courage to press Truffaut's doorbell), but after returning to Japan became a prolific scriptwriter for pinku (softcore porn) films.

He later moved on to directing, with the 1996 indie drama "Closing Time." Since then, Kobayashi has become a regular on the foreign festival circuit (highlighted by three consecutive invitations from Cannes) while earning foreign and domestic honors, including an Award of Excellence in Japanese Film prize at the Mainichi Film Awards for his 2010 road movie "Haru to no Tabi (Haru's Journey)."

Kobayashi's new film, "Nihon no Higeki (Japan's Tragedy)," reunites him with "Haru" star Tatsuya Nakadai, the 80-year-old giant of Japanese cinema's Golden Age who made 11 films with another Kobayashi, Masaki, including the 1962 samurai classic "Seppuku (Harakiri)."