Takao Saito, cameraman on many of Akira Kurosawa‘s biggest films, died on Dec. 6 of lymphocytic cancer at the age of 85.
Saito began working with Kurosawa soon after he entered Toho Studio following the end of the Second World War, cutting his teeth on One Wonderful Sunday. He went on to become a member of the so-called ‘Kurosawa-gumi,’ a group of cast and crew that the legendary director collaborated with on many of his films.
Operating the secondary “B camera” on such classics as the Seven Samurai, Saito’s footage would often catch Kurosawa’s eye and end up in the final cut. On 1961’s Yojimbo, a majority of the film was reported to have consisted of roll from Saito’s camera, even though the main cinematographer was longtime Kurosawa collaborator Kazuo Miyagawa.
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Saito also worked closely with Kurosawa as he made the transition to shooting in color, beginning with 1970’s Dodes’ka-den. Saito received Academy Award and BAFTA nominations, along with his first mentor, Asakazu Nakai, and Masaharu Ueda, for their cinematography on samurai epic Ran (1985).
The collaboration with Kurosawa was to last for 18 productions over nearly half a century, until the director’s final film, Madadayo (Not Yet), in 1993, which won Japan’s Academy Awards for Saito.