Japanese Director Wakamatsu Koji Dies After Collision With Taxi

James Marsh, Asian Editor

Legendary Japanese director Wakamatsu Koji has died, it is being reported, after succumbing to injuries sustained last Friday, when he was hit by a taxi in Tokyo. The 76-year-old filmmaker, oft-compared to French New Wave pioneer Jean Luc Godard, had over 100 films to his credit, with his latest, The Millennial Rapture, having just premiered at the Venice International Film Festival last month, and 11.25: The Day Mishima Chose His Fate set to play the Hong Kong Asian Film Festival in November.

Wakamatsu made a name for himself in the 1960s and 70s, as a driving force of the pinku-eiga softcore porn industry. Titles such as Go Go Second Time Virgin (1969) and Ecstasy of the Angels (1972) are widely revered as classics of the genre. In later years, Wakamatsu's films turned more political, but he also achieved more widespread critical acclaim.Recent works such as 2007's United Red Army and 2010's Caterpillar were both received extremely well. As recently as this month, he was named Asian Filmmaker of the Year by the Busan International Film Festival. 

In 2008, the Hong Kong International Film Festival screened a small retrospective of his films, and the programme described Wakamatsu's work thus:

"Wakamatsu's long career can be seen as one spent hurling cinematic bombs onto the cultural battlefield...abandoning cinematic cool for a frenzied portrayal of anarchy that both frees and destroys."

Jasper Sharp, author of Behind The Pink Curtain and co-founder of Midnight Eye, had this to say:

"Wakamatsu, as I write in the forward of Behind the Pink Curtain, was effectively my entry point into Japanese film. His work in the 1960s was utterly unique and a real insight into the spirit of the times. It's great that there was huge renaissance of interest in his work with the release of United Red Army back in 2007, but it's fair to say his life was definitely cut short way way way prematurely."

Marc Walkow, noted festival programmer and Japanese film promoter, wrote this on his Facebook wall earlier:

"Not sure which is sadder: that filmmaker Koji Wakamatsu passed away earlier than he should have, or that almost none of his films have ever been released in the US. Life is always short. But art & film are meant to live forever, assuming there are people or companies brave enough to archive and release the works that deserve it. I can't think of another Japanese filmmaker whose genius and legacy has been so ignored and mistreated in the English-speaking West. Maybe this tragedy will finally galvanize some into action."
Around the Internet:
  • Niels Matthijs

    A real shame. Go Go Second Time Virgin is my all-time favorite classic, what's even worse is that his latest films were still as challenging as his early work. A unique director with a unique voice, you'll be missed Mr Wakamatsu.

    Hopefully his death will prompt distributors to pick up some of his lesser known works for a Western release.

  • Jimi LaMort

    Another great loss to inspired and provocative cinema.

  • cuttermaran

    Rest in Peace

  • Brian Clark

    I've never been the same since I saw Go go, Second Time Virgin. Rest in Peace.

  • Dustin

    This is sad news indeed. Under the guise of pinku, he made some of the most subversive, anti-authoritarian films. He made two of my favorite Japanese New Wave: Running in Madness, Dying in Love and Go Go, Second Time Virgin.

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