Renowned movie director Keisuke Kinoshita died of a stroke early Wednesday at his home in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, his family said. He was 86.
Born in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Kinoshita joined what is now Shochiku Co. in 1933 and directed his first film, “Hanasaku Minato” (“The Port Where Flowers Bloom”) in 1943, the same year Akira Kurosawa directed his first film, “Sugata Sanshiro.” Kurosawa died Sept. 6 at age 88.
After their debut, the two were considered rivals and led the nation’s film industry. While Kurosawa liked to direct stories of tough men, Kinoshita directed many movies with tender heroines. But Kinoshita’s movies were not just melancholic dramas.
His wartime movie “Rikugun” (“The Army”), which described a mother’s sorrow, was criticized by the Imperial Japanese Army for “turning the nation’s high spirits down.” But such critical and humanitarian spirit remained throughout his carrier.
Kinoshita was fond of themes related to contemporary social problems, and he portrayed them in comedies, like “Karumen Kokyo ni Kaeru” (“Carmen Comes Home”) of 1951, Japan’s first color film, and in tragedies such as “Nihon no Higeki” (“A Japanese Tragedy”) of 1953. His most successful film, “Nijushi no Hitomi” (“Twenty-Four Eyes”), an antiwar drama that depicted a school teacher and her 12 students in a small school on Shodoshima Island, Kagawa Prefecture, won the Kinema Jumpo Award for best film in 1954.
He had already won the same prize for “Osone-ke no Asa” (“Morning for the Osone Family”) in 1946. He was again named director of the year’s best film for “Narayama-Bushi Kou” (“The Ballad of Narayama”) in 1958.
He directed a total of 49 films. After 1964, however, he was involved almost exclusively in TV dramas. He produced several popular family drama series for Tokyo Broadcasting System Inc.
Kinoshita returned to directing films in 1976 and regained his reputation in “Shodo Satsujin, Musukoyo” (“Impulse Murder, My Son”) of 1979, which called for state compensation for victims of unsolved murders.
He received the Order of the Rising Sun, Golden Rays with Rosette in 1984 and was named a person of cultural merit in 1991 by the government.
Kinoshita once described himself as a director who portrays people living ordinary lives in Japanese society. “There are so many greater but unknown people in this world,” he was quoted as saying.