On May 30, it was reported that Japan’s oldest movie director Shindo Kaneto passed away at 9:24 am on May 29 JST.
Shindo, who just celebrated his 100th birthday in April, never stopped making movies since starting his career during the pre-war period. He never lost his urge to create and his love for movies. He released his latest movie ‘Ichimai no Hagaki‘ at the end of 2011 at the age of 99, which earned him many awards.
According to the official statement, his granddaughter Shindo Kaze (a movie director herself), with whom he had been living, noticed that something was wrong and called their family doctor, but Shindo had already passed away before the doctor arrived. His last public appearance was at his birthday party on April 22. At the beginning of May, Shindo had become bedridden for most of the day and was only able to leave it for meals.
Shindo had lived a life full of ups and downs. In 1934, he entered the Shinko Kinema film studio and began to study under movie director Mizoguchi Kenji. After the Second World War, he started to work as a scriptwriter and made a name for himself by writing the script for Kinoshita Keisuke’s ‘Ojo-san Kanpai!‘ (‘Let’s Toast the Young Lady‘). However, when he was taunted for not being commercially successful, he founded the independent film company Kindai Eiga Kyokai in 1950 in order to have more freedom and not be pressured by big film studios.
In the following year, he made his directorial debut with ‘Aisai Monogatari‘, starring the late Otowa Nobuko who later became his wife. After some more or less successful independent movie projects, he released the low-budget movie ‘Hadaka no Shima‘ (‘The Naked Island‘) in 1960, which earned him a lot of praise at the Grand Prix at the Moscow International Film Festival. It was his personal revival as a director and writer.
His private life had just as many ups and downs. He married three times and had to experience bereavement just as many times. In 1978, he married Otowa Nobuko, who was diagnosed with liver cancer in 1994. Despite the cancer, Otowa decided not to pull out as the supporting actress in Shindo’s movie project ‘Gogo no Yuigon-jo‘ (‘A Last Note‘), which later won multiple awards at the 1996 Japan Academy Awards, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress. Otowa, however, already died after the filming had ended. Shindo stated, “She found her happiness by being able to work until the very end.”
Shindo received the Order of Culture for his life’s work in 2002.
In his final years, his desire to make movies continued to be as strong as ever. Not even his diabetes, which put him in hospital, the cataract which caused his right eye to become blind, or the impairment of his legs were able to stop him from making movies. ‘Ichimai no Hagaki’ was the last movie he was able to finish in his 100 years.
He directed a total of 49 movies during his career and wrote the scripts for more than 250 other movies.
May he rest in peace.