Obayashi Nobuhiko’s Once Seen Movie Theater


It was a great thrill welcoming the illustrious film director Obayashi Nobuhiko to Yale last fall and helping the Japan Society do a long-awaited retrospective of his work. Not only was it wonderful re-encountering his films, but it was an honor getting to know him and his family during his visit to the States. They are truly warm and generous people. When we were back in Japan this summer, they even treated me and my family to some very fine tempura near Futako Tamagawa.

His foreign fans might not know this, but Obayashi is a prolific writer, one who has published over two dozen books. His most recent tome has just been published, and it is huge: a two-volume work totaling 1368 pages! Entitled Itsuka mita eigakan (roughly translated as “Once Seen Movie Theater” or “Theater of Movies I Once Saw”), it is basically a collection of Obayashi’s thoughts on 121 films ranging from Preston Sturges' Sullivan’s Travels to Ozu Yasujiro’s Equinox Flower. The majority of films are foreign, but range in genre from Westerns to films featuring music. A few other essays are included, particularly about war and cinema, and an extra bonus is a DVD entitled “The Truth and Lies of John Wayne.”

The first volume begins with some words of praise and encouragement by a number of critics and directors, including Yamada Yoji, Tsukamoto Shin’ya, Kawamoto Saburo, Iwai Shunji, Sato Tadao, Takahata Isao, Sono Shion, and Yamada Taiichi. I was asked to write something (which ended up being about Obayashi watching one of my son’s films), as were a couple of other foreign participants, including Marc Walkow, Alex Zahlten, and Roland Domenig. 

It’s a bit pricey, but it is a great way to learn about what movies Obayashi liked and how he looks at films.

  • Itsuka mita eiga kan いつか見た映画館 
  • Nanatsu Mori Shokan 七つ森書館, 2016, ISBN 9784822830304

You can purchase it at Amazon Japan

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