Kinji Fukasaku

Active - 1961 - 2003  |   Born - Jul 3, 1930   |   Died - Jan 12, 2003   |   Genres - Action, Adventure, Drama

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Biography by AllMovie

Known primarily in the West for directing such features as Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and the controversial Battle Royale (2000), maverick Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku established himself early on with a series of Toei Studio yakuza movies before gaining international recognition after taking over for Akira Kurosawa when the legendary director abandoned Tora! Tora! Tora!. Fukasaku was born in Mito, Japan, in 1930, and made his film debut with 1961's High Noon for Gangsters. A studio director who separated himself from the pack by opting to craft socially critical contemporary crime films as opposed to the popular period samurai efforts, his early efforts provided the perfect outlet for a director frustrated with the grim realities of post-war Japan. Taking a cue from Italian neorealism, Fukasaku continued to craft a unique style that would flourish throughout the 1960s. Later helming the visually explosive Black Lizard, it soon became apparent that Fukasaku was a director whose talents were limited by the suffocating restraints of the Japanese studio system. Exploring the dark underworld of crime and continually blurring the line between good and evil in his "Battle series," (which began with 1973's Battles Without Honor and Humanity) the director's brutal and abrasive films captured the life of crime as rarely seen by the general Japanese public. Persuaded by the studios to continue making similarly themed crime films long after he had exhausted those creative outlets, Fukasaku began to explore other realms following the collapse of the studio system. Though he would subsequently dabble in samurai cinema for a brief period, it was soon time to film the biggest-budgeted Japanese film to date, the international co-production Virus (1980). Headlined by an all-star cast of American and Japanese actors, the film told a grim tale of world destruction on an epic scale. The Fall Guy (1982), filmed shortly thereafter, proved the celluloid manifestation of Fukasaku's frustrations with the restrictive studio system, and found the director the recipient of numerous awards. Continuing to work steadily through the following decade and into the new millennium, Fukasaku released the most controversial film of his career in 2000. Once again exploring his frustrations with Japanese society, Battle Royale sparked a firestorm of controversy both in Japan and abroad with it's striking and disturbing images of children locked in graphic mortal combat. Issued as a dire warning to the youth of Japan, Battle Royale ultimately proved a substantial hit at the box office and it wasn't long before a sequel went into development. Sadly, it was shortly before production began on Battle Royale 2 that the aging director announcing that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Soldiering on despite continually declining health, Fukasaku was admitted to a hospital in late December and died soon after on January 12, 2003. Despite the fact that the director himself would not be able to complete work on his final effort, son Kenta Fukasaku would complete the film for a 2003 release.

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