Auteur Nobuhiko Obayashi to Be Showcased at Tokyo Film Fest

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'Labyrinth of Cinema'

The veteran director was a pioneer of Japanese experimental cinema who financed many of his films through his work on thousands of TV commercials.

Japanese auteur Nobuhiko Obayashi will be this year's director in focus at the Tokyo International Film Festival, where his latest film Labyrinth of Cinema, will premiere.

Born in Hiroshima in 1938, Obayashi was set to follow his family's traditional path into medicine, only to change course and make a name for himself with experimental films while a student at Tokyo's Seijo University in the late 1950s.

He would continue to develop his distinctive rich visual style through the 1960s and 1970s, while making thousands of TV commercials, including some featuring Charles Bronson, Sophia Loren and Catherine Deneuve.

Obayashi's 1977 film House became a cult classic and his later independent productions went on to win acclaim and awards both domestically and overseas.

"I have been making personal films with funds earned by creating TV commercials for 60 years. Invited by the major studio Toho, despite being an outsider, I shot House, which allowed me to recognize that even an aesthetic literary work could be adapted to the commercial film genre," said Obayashi.

His Onomichi trilogy, named for the town of his birth, of I Are You, You Am Me (1982), The Little Girl Who Conquered Time (1983) and Lonely Heart (1985), would be later followed by his war trilogy: Casting Blossoms to the Sky (2011), Seven Weeks (2014) and Hanagatami (2017).

The three-hour-plus Hanagatami, which embodies his style of dreamlike sequences and symbolism, was shot while the director battled lung cancer. Obayashi had wanted to make the film since the 1970s and many expected it to be his last.

Tokyo International Film Festival programming adviser Kohei Ando said of Obayashi, "In recent years, once again deploying experimental and distinctive narratives, he has continued to create fresh films, pursuing themes around pacifism and humanism. Obayashi's films depict the shadows of loved ones, lost history, lost youth, memories and imaginary happy endings that people dream of, followed by the reality."

The 32nd Tokyo International Film Festival is set to run Oct. 28-Nov. 5 in central Tokyo.