Ichikawa Jun

News reports related the sad fact that the director Ichikawa Jun suddenly died on the 19th of a brain hemorrhage. He was only 59 and was working on his new film, Buy a Suit, an independent work he had been making with non-professional actors.

Ichikawa was one of a new line of film directors who, like Obayashi Nobuhiko before and Nakashima Tetsuya afterwards, started out making television commercials. (Some can be seen on You Tube here and here.) This was the 1980s, when TV CM's were being celebrated by intellectuals like Yoshimoto Ryumei (Banana's father). Ichikawa debuted as a film director in 1987 with Bu Su. 

He was a much better director than the critics and the festivals who defined his international reputation thought. While I didn't like all of his films (he could reiterate his style too insistently), he was always a skilled director and consistently pursued at least two important aesthetic issues: the cinematic rendering of the city, and the aesthetics of the long take. He was one of the central directors in the rise of long shot, long takes in Japanese independent cinema from the 1990s (after Somai Shinji, of course). I also think he was the best director to adapt Murakami Haruki, and it would have been nice to see him tackle him again. He thus had a peculiar but fascinating mix of the old and nostalgic and the postmodern.

I remember seeing a press screening of his Tokiwa-so no seishun at a preview room in Kyobashi, a marvelous film about the young manga artists who congregated around Tezuka Osamu in the 1950s. While the film covers Akatsuka Fujio, the Fujiko Fujio pair, etc., its focus is on Terada Hiroo, an artist who got left behind because his manga did not follow Tezuka's more "cinematic" style which breaks up space with the equivalent of editing. His manga was in fact closer to Ichikawa's style, so what you saw here was a loving match of Ichikawa's cinema and Terada's manga, one which nostalgically made you think about the two media. Tezuka's wife was at the screening and asked me afterwards on the street what I thought of it. I said it was great, but I couldn't manage to tell her that this film, in its essence, was enamored of another kind of manga than her husband's. Yet the application of that in cinema was yet again something new.

A sad loss.

Everything © Aaron Gerow. Send comments and suggestions to webmaster@aarongerow.com