February 17, 1924|
Yonago, Tottori, Japan
|Died||February 19, 2005
Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan
|Occupation||Film director and screenwriter.|
Born in Yonago, Okamoto attended Meiji University, but was drafted into the Air Force 1943 and entered World War II, an experience that had a profound effect on his later film work, one third of which dealt with war. Finally graduating after the war, he entered the Toho studies in 1947 and worked as an assistant under such directors as Mikio Naruse, Masahiro Makino, Ishirō Honda, and Senkichi Taniguchi. He made his debut as a director in 1958 with All About Marriage.
Okamoto directed almost 40 films and wrote the scripts for at least 24, in a career that spanned almost six decades. He worked in a variety of genres, but most memorably in action genres such as the jidaigeki and war films. He was known for making films with a twist. Inspired to become a filmmaker after watching John Ford's Stagecoach, he would insert elements of the Western in war films like Desperado Outpost (1959) and Westward Desperado (1960), and eventually even filmed his own samurai Western in East Meets West (1995). A fan of musicals, he made over-the-top films such as Oh Bomb (1964), a gangster Noh musical, and Dixieland Daimyo (1986), about jazz musicians entering Bakumatsu Japan. Over all, he took on "a very rhythmic approach to filming and editing action sequences. Carefully timed placement of sound effects and music combined with camera movement and movement within the frame to form a very rhythmic, almost musical whole." His basically critical stance towards Japanese society led him to often pursue satire and black comedy, with his The Age of Assassins (1967) becoming so dark and absurd, Toho initially refused to release it.
Okamoto could also be serious. His samurai films, such as Samurai Assassin (1965), starring Toshiro Mifune, about a group of 19th century political agitators planning to kill an important government official, The Sword of Doom (1966), or Kill! (1968), were often critical of Bushidō and Tokugawa era Japan. Yet he approached this critique from his own perspective. Toho entrusted him with the epic Japan's Longest Day (1968), a cinematic version of what happened to official Japan at the end of the war, but the next year he also made The Human Bullet for Art Theatre Guild, a more personal and satirical vision of an everyman's experience of World War II. To pursue some of his projects, Okamoto formed Okamoto Productions. His wife, Mineko Okamoto, often worked as producer on his later works.
He won the 1992 Japan Academy Prize for Director of the Year for Rainbow Kids. Alongside Masaki Kobayashi, Okamoto was also a candidate for directing the Japanese sequences for Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) but instead Kinji Fukasaku and Toshio Masuda were chosen.
On February 19, just two days after his 81st birthday, Kihachi died at home from esophageal cancer.
- All About Marriage (結婚のすべて Kekkon no subete) (1958)
- Desperado Outpost (独立愚連隊 Dokuritsu gurentai) (1959)
- Westward Desperado (独立愚連隊西へ Dokuritsu gurentai nishi e) (1960)
- Sengoku Yarō (戦国野郎) (1963)
- Oh Bomb (ああ爆弾 Aa bakudan) (1964)
- Samurai Assassin (侍 Samurai) (1965)
- The Sword of Doom (大菩薩峠 Daibosatsu Tōge) (1966)
- The Age of Assassins (殺人狂時代 Satsujinkyō jidai) (1967)
- Japan's Longest Day (日本のいちばん長い日 Nihon no ichiban nagai hi) (1967)
- Kill! (斬る Kiru) (1968)
- The Human Bullet (肉弾 Nikudan) (1968)
- Red Lion (赤毛 Akage) (1969)
- Zatoichi and Yojimbo (座頭市と用心棒 Zatōichi to Yōjinbō) (1970)
- Battle of Okinawa (激動の昭和史 沖縄決戦 Gekidō no Shōwashi: Okinawa Kessen) (1971)
- Sugata Sanshirō (姿三四郎) (1977)
- Blue Christmas (ブルークリスマス Burū Kurisimasu) (1978)
- Dixieland Daimyo (ジャズ大名 Jazu daimyō) (1986)
- Rainbow Kids (大誘拐 Daiyūkai) (1991)
- East Meets West (1995)
- Mes, Tom (12 April 2005). "A Tribute to Kihachi Okamoto". Midnight Eye. Retrieved 29 June 2011.
- Bergen, Ronald (18 March 2005). "Kihachi Okamoto". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 June 2011.
- "Okamoto Kihachi". Nihon jinmei daijiten+Plus. Kōdansha. Retrieved 29 June 2011.
- Onchi, Hideo; Okamoto Kihachi (1998). "Waga eiga jinsei: Okamoto Kihachi kantoku" (in Japanese). Directors Guild of Japan.
- "第 15 回日本アカデミー賞優秀作品" (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize. Retrieved 2011-01-13.
- Kihachi Okamoto at the Internet Movie Database
- Kihachi Okamoto at the Japanese Movie Database (Japanese)