Nagisa Oshima, a Japanese director internationally acclaimed for his films Empire of Passion and In the Realm of the Senses, has died of pneumonia. He was 80.
His office, Oshima Productions, said Oshima died Tuesday afternoon at a hospital near Tokyo after being in and out of hospital since he was struck by a stroke more than a decade ago.
A former student radical from Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto, Oshima debuted in 1959 with A Town of Love and Hope, quickly earning a reputation of a “new wave” director with social and political themes during the 1960, often depicting youths raging against the society. He tackled controversial social issues throughout his career, ranging from capital punishment and racism to homosexuality.
But he is probably best remembered for his 1976 film In the Realm of the Senses, a story based on a psychotic murder case set in pre-World War II Japan, which stirred public indecency debate in Japan and elsewhere because of explicit sex scenes. Two years later, Oshima won best director award at the Cannes International Film Festival with Empire of Passion.
In 1961, Oshima directed The Catch, based on Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe’s novel about an African-American soldier who was captured in a wartime Japanese village. His 1968 film Death By Hanging was his criticism against capital punishment and racism.
His 1983 film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, a drama of war prisoners’ camp starring David Bowie, comedian-director Takeshi Kitano and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, was also a major international hit.
Despite suffering a stroke in 1996, Oshima briefly returned to filmmaking in 1999 with Taboo, a story of gay samurais set at the end of the Edo period, which became his last work.
Oshima also was a popular guest on television quiz and talk shows, often triggering fiery debate. Soichiro Tahara, a journalist and talk show host who often argued with Oshima, tweeted his message of condolence.
“I was scared of him but he was also like a very supportive brother. He taught me many things, scolded me and yelled at me. But his words were always affectionate,” Tahara wrote. “Mr. Oshima did not care about taboo or compliance, not even a bit. He said what he wanted to say, what he had to say. It’s hard to find a person like him anymore. “