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Hiroshi Teshigahara

Hiroshi Teshigahara

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Also Known As: Died: April 14, 2001
Born: January 28, 1927 Cause of Death: leukemia
Birth Place: Japan Profession: Director ... director screenwriter documentarian film critic director of photography editor artist
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BIOGRAPHY

Although primarily noted in the West as a filmmaker, Hiroshi Teshigahara was also a celebrated ceramist, artist and self-described "bamboo instalationist" in his native Japan. His father, Sofu Teshigahara, was the founder of the noted Sogetsu School of Ikebana (flower arranging), a man who passed along his artistic sensibilities to his two children. While his daughter was the first to succeed him as the head of the Sogetsu School, his son eventually would hold the position as well, but not before making his own mark on world cinema.

Teshigahara attended Tokyo University of Fine Art in 1950 and within three years was working in film, directing a documentary about woodblock artist Hokusai. He would simultaneously pursue dual careers as an artist and movie maker, achieving success in both areas. Perhaps inspired by his own father, in 1958 Teshigahara founded the Sogetsu Art Center, which became one of the centerpieces for Japan's avant-garde for some two decades. Continuing to experiment with motion pictures, he directed a second documentary, this time on NYC-based boxed Jose Torres in 1959. (He later filmed a second profile of the fighter in 1965.)

As the 60s dawned, Teshigahara moved into feature filmmaking with the well-received drama "Otoshi Ana/Pitfall" (1962), which initiated his collaboration with novelist-turned screenwriter Kobo Abe. The pair's second film, an adaptation of Abe's novel "Suna no Onna/Woman in the Dunes" (1964), is arguably their masterpiece. A haunting allegory filled with erotic imagery, "Woman in the Dunes" microscopically examined the odd relationship between an entomologist who becomes the prisoner of a woman trapped in a sandpit. After earning a prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the film went on to be nominated for the 1964 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and in a surprising development, Teshigahara became the first Asian filmmaker to receive a Best Director Oscar nomination in 1965, after the picture had received a wide release in the USA.

Throughout the 1960s, he and Abe continued to collaborate, turning out such acclaimed efforts as "Tanin no Kao/The Face of Another" (1966) and "Moetsukita Chizu/The Ruined Map" (1968). Teshigahara's worldwide reputation was on the rise and he became almost an unofficial ambassador for the Japanese film industry. When his culture clash drama about US soldiers stationed in Japan who desert rather than face being sent to Vietnam opened in 1972, though, the material was too close to home for American critics who either ignored the film's potent themes or dismissed them. At that point, the director left film to concentrate on his art, founding the Sogetsu Ceramic Kiln in Miyazaki Mura in 1973. For much of the next decade and a half, Teshigahara exhibited his art work (including ceramics, bamboo installations, and paintings throughout the world, but mostly in Japan. By 1980, he had succeeded his late father and his late sister as the head of the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, going on to create numerous garden installations as well.

Although he had made a 1985 documentary about Spanish avant-garde architect Antonio Gaudi, Teshigahara did not make a fictional feature until 1989, when he wrote and directed "Rikyu", about the conflict between a Buddhist monk who specialized in the ancient art of the tea ceremony and a warlord who was planning aggressive action against China. He would make only one more feature, 1992's lavish epic "Goh-hime/Basara: Princess Goh" which revisited some of the same themes as "Rikyu". Whether in arranging flowers or crafting ceramics or making movies, Teshigahara had one goal: to reinvent traditional Japanese culture. One can easily say he was more than successful in that endeavor.

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