Film

Focus on Koji Yakusho


Focus on Koji Yakusho

Part of JAPAN CUTS 2012

Koji Yakusho, Japan’s leading acting man, born on January 1, 1956 in Isahaya City, Nagasaki Prefecture, became a highly acclaimed star in 1983 while playing the role of Oda Nobunaga in NHK’s drama Tokugawa Ieyasu. Yet, it was originally Maxim Gorky’s The Lower Depths which stimulated Yakusho’s theatrical “obsession.” Yakusho’s first big breakthrough came in 1978 when '60s actor and icon Tatsuya Nakadai selected him and 3 others out of 800 applicants to study at the Mumei-juku (“Studio for Unknown Performers”). In reference to his experience as a civil servant, Nakadai gave him the stage name “Yakusho”, which means either “municipal office” or "acting versatility." In 1986, he played the nameless “Man in the White Suit”, who gleefully transgresses all social norms in some of the most memorable scenes of Juzo Itami's Tampopo (1985). Yakusho’s passionate acting earned him much praise, and in 1998 he received a special award from the Japan Minister of Education, Science, Sports and Culture extolling his phenomenal contribution to Japanese culture.

In the mid-90s, Yakusho’s rise to superstardom seemed irresistible. Masayuki Suo’s Shall We Dance? (1996), an instant classic, spurred a Japan-wide fascination with dance. The following year, The Eel won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and Yoshimitsu Morita's erotic drama A Lost Paradise was the second largest-grossing film at the Japanese box office. In cult favorite Cure (1997), directed by celebrated auteur Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Yakusho went on to play a cop pushed to the edge of the abyss by his search for a string of seemingly unconnected murders. Several collaborations with Kurosawa followed, to international acclaim (License to Live, Charisma). His performance in Shohei Imamura’s Warm Water Under the Red Bridge earned him the award for Best Actor at the Chicago International Film Festival in 2001.

After featuring in Rob Marshall’s Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) and Alejandro Iñárritu’s Babel (2006), Yakusho gained international recognition and a new wave of international admirers. In addition to acting, Yakusho made his début behind the camera with Toad’s Oil in 2009.

In June 2012, Yakusho received the Medal with Purple Ribbon from the Emperor of Japan for "outstanding achievement in the creative field." He is the Guest of Honor of this year's Japan Cuts. We will be paying tribute to his impressive body of work with a special focus on his acting career, premiering, among other things, his latest feature films The Woodsman and the Rain and Chronicle of my Mother as well as 2010 samurai hit 13 Assassins during the festival, and presenting him with the first Japan Cuts prize ever, the CUT ABOVE award for excellence in film.


View the complete JAPAN CUTS 2012 film line-up >>

Co-presented with Subway Cinema.

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