Koji Wakamatsu Reflects on His Career in Final Interview Before His Death

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In his last interview before his death on Oct. 17 at age 76, the Japanese director talked to THR about being named Filmmaker of the Year at the Busan film festival and weighed in on five of his most important works.


The Embryo Hunts in Secret (Taiji ga Mitsuryo Surutoki) 1966

Wakamatsu calls the film, “representative of the films I made in the 1960s,” which to some means cheap, exploitative sex films, to others, biting social commentary on the human condition. Set in an apartment, a woman is held against her will and abused by her boss, though the film suggests that she is the one controlling her disturbed and obsessed captor. “I shot this all in one room with just two actors, on a really low budget.”

Go, Go, Second Time Virgin (Yuke Yuke Nidome no Shojo) 1969

This dark story of rape and revenge is often cited as a classic example of Wakamatsu’s many exploitation adult flicks. Shot in grimy black and white, with color used sparingly for the teenage protagonists’ flashback scenes, the 66 minutes of the film make for far from easy viewing. “It was a film of its time, when all the eyes of the world were on the Vietnam War, I wanted to show there were still other issues. We used almost no money to make the film, and it was shot on the roof of our office in Tokyo.”

United Red Army (Jitsuroku Rengo Sekigun) 2008

Clocking in at more than three hours, the film is a documentary-style look at the self-destruction within a group of the revolutionary Japanese Red Army. The story is based on the events of the Asama-Sanso Incident, when members of the faction killed each other, took hostages and ended up in a fatal shoot-out with the police. “Those young people thought they would change Japan. Young people now don’t have that kind of feeling at all. If you look at the anti-nuclear demonstrations in Japan now, it’s all old people. The young now just play games, watch movies based on manga comics and use smarthphones.”

Caterpillar 2010

This anti-war epic, which competed for the Golden Bear at Berlin in 2010, is the story of a soldier who returns from the Second World War with all his limbs amputated. “There were really people like that who came back from the war; I want people to know that. Nation states are the cause of wars, they need to be got rid of. The dispute now over the Senakaku Islands is a typical example, fighting over lines on the map. They should blow the whole place up and then there would be nothing to argue over.”

The Millennial Rapture (Sennen no Yuraku) 2012

The story centers around Japan’s bunraku caste – of which the author of the original stories was a member - who did what were considered "unclean jobs" in centuries gone by, and whose descendants still face occasional prejudice in Japan today. “Based on Kenji Nakagami's novel [English Title: A Thousand Years of Happiness], the film was shown at the Venice Film Festival this year. It’s the story of an old person who has faced discrimination throughout an entire lifetime.”

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