Japanese Director Koji Wakamatsu Dies at 76 Following Traffic Accident

Koji Wakamatsu on the set of 11.25 The Day he Chose his own Fate
Koji Wakamatsu on the set of 11.25 The Day he Chose his own Fate
 

Japanese director Koji Wakamatsu died at 11 p.m. Wednesday from injuries he sustained Oct. 12, when he was struck by a taxi while crossing a busy road in central Tokyo. He was 76.

Earlier this month Wakamatsu had been to Busan International Film Festival in Korea to receive the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award for 2012.

Wakamatsu told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview on Friday, Sept. 28, two weeks before the accident, that his left-wing, anti-authority political views, which had got him harassed by the police in the 1960s and 1970s, had never faltered.

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“My thinking has never changed. Some people say my films are difficult, but that’s just my personality, so it can’t be any other way,” said Wakamatsu.

Leaving his native Miyagi, in Japan’s northeast, to come to Tokyo as a teenager with no job or money, Wakamatsu ended up working with gangsters in the capital, leading to a six-month stretch in prison.

Having been bullied by guards while incarcerated, Wakamatsu’s anti-establishment views were hardened, something he resolved to express through film after his release. Using his gangland connections, he got his start in the entertainment business, going on to direct dozens of soft-core ‘pink eiga’ – though he always rejected the pornography tag. He filled even these erotic films with social and political messages.

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In recent decades, with films such as Caterpillar, United Red Army and 11.25 The Day he Chose his own Fate, his work began to be taken more seriously around the world and screened at festivals including Venice and Berlin.

“Once I got to 50, I decided I wanted to make films that people can look back at in 50 or 100 years and think, “That’s what it was like in those times.” That’s the kind of films I’m trying to make,” said Wakamatsu. 

Age had not diminished his passion or energy, having released three films this year, he was talking about his next two projects weeks before his death, an individualist to the end.  

STORY: Koji Wakamatsu Named Asian Filmmaker of the Year by Busan Festival

“I was planning to make something about the nuclear accident and TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company, operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant that melted down last March following the giant tsunami in Japan], but everyone’s doing stuff about that now, so I’ve changed my mind,” Wakamatsu told The Hollywood Reporter.    

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