Juzo Itami (伊丹 十三, Itami Jūzō), born Yoshihiro Ikeuchi (池内 義弘, Ikeuchi Yoshihiro, May 15, 1933 – December 20, 1997), was a Japanese actor, screenwriter and film director. He directed eleven films (one short and ten features), all of which he wrote himself.

Juzo Itami
伊丹 十三
Itami in 1992
Born
Yoshihiro Ikeuchi (池内 義弘)

(1933-05-15)May 15, 1933
Kyoto, Japan
DiedDecember 20, 1997(1997-12-20) (aged 64)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter, actor
Years active1960–1997
Spouse(s)Kazuko Kawakita (1960–66)
Nobuko Miyamoto (1969–1997)
Parent
RelativesHikari Ōe (nephew)

He is the namesake of the Juzo Itami Award, founded in 2009 to honor his legacy.

Early life edit

Itami was born Yoshihiro Ikeuchi in Kyoto.[1] The name Itami was passed on from his father, Mansaku Itami, a renowned satirist and film director before World War II. In his childhood, he went by the name Takehiko Ikeuchi (池内 岳彦).[2]

At the end of the war, when he was in Kyoto, Itami was chosen as a prodigy and educated at Tokubetsu Kagaku Gakkyū [ja] ("the special scientific education class") as a future scientist who was expected to defeat the Allied powers. Among his fellow students were the sons of Hideki Yukawa and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga. This class was abolished in March 1947.[citation needed]

He moved from Kyoto to Ehime Prefecture when he was a high school student. He attended the prestigious Matsuyama Higashi High School, where he was known for being able to read works by Arthur Rimbaud in French. Due to his poor academic record, he had to remain in the same class for two years; it was here that he became acquainted with Kenzaburō Ōe, who later married his sister.

When he was unable to graduate from Matsuyama Higashi High School, he transferred to Matsuyama Minami High School and graduated thereafter.[citation needed] After failing the entrance exam for the College of Engineering at Osaka University, Itami worked at times as a commercial designer and writer, illustrator, television reporter, and essayist.[3] He was also the editor-in-chief for the 1980s psychoanalytic magazine Mon Oncle.[4][5]

In his early acting days, Itami lived in London. By the time he became a director, he spoke English near-flawlessly, although preferred to use an interpreter during interviews.[6]

Itami was the brother-in-law of Kenzaburō Ōe and an uncle of Hikari Ōe.

Acting career edit

 
Itami and Miyamoto in 1992

Itami studied acting at an acting school called Butai Geijutsu Gakuin in Tokyo. In January 1960 he joined Daiei Film and was given the stage name Itami Ichizō (伊丹 一三) by Masaichi Nagata. In May 1960, Itami married Kazuko Kawakita, the daughter of film producer Nagamasa Kawakita. He first acted on screen in Ginza no Dora-Neko (1960). In 1961 he left Daiei and started to appear in foreign-language films such as 55 Days at Peking. In 1965 he appeared in the big-budget Anglo-American film Lord Jim. In 1965 he published a book of essays which became a hit, Yoroppa Taikutsu Nikki ("Diary of Boredom in Europe"). In 1966 he and Kazuko agreed to divorce.

In 1967, when working with director Nagisa Ōshima on the set of Sing a Song of Sex (Nihon Shunka Kō) he met Nobuko Miyamoto. He and Miyamoto married in 1969 and he became the stepfather to her two children.[7] Around this time, he changed his stage name to "伊丹 十三" (Itami Jūzō) with the kanji "十" (ten) rather than "一" (one), and with 十三 meaning "thirteen", and worked as a character actor in film and television.

In 1968 he played Saburo Ishihara, the father of Takeshi and Koji during the second season of the children's series Cometto-san. He became well known for this role in many Spanish-speaking countries, along with Yumiko Kokonoe who played the lead role.

In the 1970s, he joined the TV Man Union television production company and produced and presented documentaries for television, which influenced his later career as a film director. He also worked as a reporter for a TV program called Afternoon Show.

In 1983, Itami played the father in both Yoshimitsu Morita's The Family Game and in Kon Ichikawa's The Makioka Sisters, roles for which he won the Hochi Film Award and Best Supporting Actor at the Yokohama Film Festival.

Along with his acting career, he translated several English books into Japanese, including Papa, You're Crazy by William Saroyan, The Kitchen Sink Papers: My Life as a Househusband by Mike McGrady, and The Potato Book by Myrna Davis and Truman Capote.[8][9]

Director edit

Itami's debut as director was the movie The Funeral (Osōshiki) in 1984, at the age of 51. This film proved popular in Japan and won many awards, including Japanese Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. However, it was his second movie, the 1985 "noodle western" Tampopo, that earned him international exposure and acclaim.[10]

His following film A Taxing Woman (1987) was again highly successful. It won six major Japanese Academy awards and spawned a sequel A Taxing Woman's Return in 1988. The central character, played by his wife Nobuko Miyamoto who appeared in all his films, became a pop culture heroine.[11] This was followed by his fifth film A-Ge-Man: Tales of a Golden Geisha.

Itami directed the anti-yakuza satire Minbo: the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion as his sixth feature. On May 22, 1992, six days after the release of the film, Itami was attacked, beaten, and slashed on the face by five members of the Goto-gumi, a Shizuoka-based yakuza clan, who were angry at Itami's film's portrayal of gang members. In an interview with the New York Times, he described the attack, saying, "They cut very slowly; they took their time. They could have killed me if they wanted."[12] This attack led to a government crackdown on the yakuza.[12]

His subsequent stay in a hospital inspired his next film Daibyonin (1993), a grim satire on the Japanese health system.[13] During a showing of this film in Japan, a cinema screen was slashed by a right-wing protester.[14]

Before his death, he directed another three films: A Quiet Life (based on the Kenzaburō Ōe novel), Supermarket Woman, and Woman in Witness Protection.

Recurring cast members edit

Itami frequently re-cast actors whom he had worked with on previous films.

Recurring cast members in Juzo Itami's works
Actor
Work
The Funeral
Tampopo
A Taxing Woman
A Taxing Woman's Return
Tales of a Golden Geisha
Minbo
The Last Dance
Shizuka na Seikatsu [ja]
Supermarket Woman
Marutai no Onna [ja]

Death edit

Itami died on December 20, 1997[15] in Tokyo after falling from the roof of the building where his office was located. On his desk was found a suicide note written on a word processor[16] stating that he had been falsely accused of an affair and was taking his life to clear his name. Two days later, a tabloid magazine published a report of such an affair.[17]

However, no one in Itami's family believed that he would have taken his life or that he would be mortally embarrassed by a real or alleged affair. In 2008, a former member of the Goto-gumi yakuza group told reporter Jake Adelstein: "We set it up to stage his murder as a suicide. We dragged him up to the rooftop and put a gun in his face. We gave him a choice: jump and you might live or stay and we'll blow your face off. He jumped. He didn't live."[18][19] The attack is thought to have been due to the topic of Itami's next film, which was rumored to have been focusing on connections between the Goto-gumi and the cult-like Soka Gakkai religious group.[20]

Tributes edit

His brother-in-law and childhood friend Kenzaburō Ōe wrote The Changeling (2000) based on their relationship.[21]

There is a Juzo Itami museum in Matsuyama. The memorial museum was designed by architect Yoshifumi Nakamura and contains a special exhibition, rotating its displays every 1–2 years, a permanent exhibition, divided up into thirteen sections to reflect the "thirteen" meaning of Itami's name, and an outdoor courtyard. It also houses a cafe named "Café Tampopo" after the film.[2][22]

Filmography edit

As an actor edit

Year Title Role Notes
1960 Ginza no dora-neko
1961 A False Student Soratani (as Ichizō Itami)
1961 Her Brother Son of Factory Owner Uncredited
1961 The Big Wave Toru
1961 Ten Dark Women Hanamaki
1963 Onna no tsuribashi Saburô Ôki (Episode 2)
1963 55 Days at Peking Col. Shiba
1964 Shûen Takuji Yoshii
1965 Lord Jim Waris
1966 Otokonokao wa rirekisho
1967 Sing a Song of Sex Ôtake
1967 Choueki juhachi-nen: kari shutsugoku
1968 Shôwa genroku Tokyo 196X-nen
1968 Ah kaiten tokubetsu kogekitai
1968 Ah, yokaren Miyamoto
1969 Kinpeibai Hsi Men Ching
1969 Eiko e no 5,000 kiro
1969 Heat Wave Island Iino
1970 Hiko shonen: Wakamono no toride Ishizaka
1971 Yasashii Nippon jin
1973 Kunitori Monogatari Ashikaga Yoshiaki TV series
1973 Shinsho Taikōki Araki Murashige TV series
1974 Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance Ransui Tokunaga
1974 Imôto Kazuo Wada
1974 Waga michi
1975 Wagahai wa neko de aru Meitei
1979 Collections privées (segment "Kusa-Meikyu")
1979 No More Easy Life Takamizawa - Landlord
1979 Grass Labyrinth Principal / Priest / Old man Short
1980 Yūgure made Sasa
1981 Slow na boogie ni shitekure Lawyer
1981 Shikake-nin Baian Sahei Oumiya
1981 Akuryo-To Ryuhei Ochi
1982 Kiddonappu burûsu (Kidnap Blues)
1983 The Makioka Sisters Tatsuo Makioka, Tsuruko's husband
1983 The Family Game Mr. Numata, the father
1983 Meiso chizu Itakura
1983 Izakaya Chōji Kawara
1984 Make-up Kumakura
1984 MacArthur's Children (Setouchi shonen yakyu dan) Hatano
1985 The Excitement of the Do-Re-Mi-Fa Girl Professor Hirayama [23][dead link]
1985 Haru no Hatō Itō Hirobumi TV series
1989 Sweet Home Yamamura (final film role)

As director edit

Year Title Notes
1962 Rubber Band Pistol Short film
1984 The Funeral
1985 Tampopo
1987 A Taxing Woman
1988 A Taxing Woman's Return
1990 Tales of a Golden Geisha
1992 Minbo
1993 The Last Dance
1995 Shizuka na Seikatsu [ja] "A Quiet Life"
1996 Supermarket Woman
1997 Marutai no Onna [ja] "Woman in Witness Protection"

Awards edit

References edit

  1. ^ Kirkup, James (23 December 1997). "Obituary: Juzo Itami". The Independent.
  2. ^ a b "About the ITAMI JUZO MUSEUM". ITAMI JUZO MUSEUM. Archived from the original on 2023-06-08. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  3. ^ "DVD-『13の顔を持つ男-伊丹十三の肖像』". 伊丹十三記念館オンラインショップ (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2023-06-10. Retrieved 2023-06-20.
  4. ^ "Juzo Itami: mon oncle Weeks Hardcover Book". Hobonichi Techo. Archived from the original on 2023-06-21. Retrieved 2023-06-20.
  5. ^ "〝伊丹十三〟を知らなかったぼくの伊丹十三体験記 | 特集『伊丹十三』vol.6". ぼくのおじさん|おじさんの知恵袋マガジン|MON ONCLE (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2023-03-13. Retrieved 2023-06-20.
  6. ^ Canby, Vincent (1989-06-18). "What's So Funny About Japan?". The New York Times. p. 26. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on 2023-06-21. Retrieved 2023-06-20.
  7. ^ "記念館の展示・建物 → 企画展 「おじさんのススメ シェアの達人・伊丹十三から若い人たちへ」". ITAMI JUZO MUSEUM. Archived from the original on 2023-06-21. Retrieved 2023-06-20.
  8. ^ "伊丹十三コーナー". Archived from the original on 2023-06-08. Retrieved 2023-06-20.
  9. ^ "伊丹十三記念館 記念館便り 『ポテト・ブック』". ITAMI JUZO MUSEUM. 2014-06-23. Archived from the original on 2023-06-21. Retrieved 2023-06-20.
  10. ^ Vincent Canby (March 26, 1987). "New Directors/New Films; 'Tampopo,' A Comedy from Japan". The New York Times.
  11. ^ Bornoff, Nick (4 May 1989). "The king of comedy". Far Eastern Economic Review. pp. 60–61.
  12. ^ a b The New York Times
  13. ^ Jameson, Sam (1993-05-31). "A Master at Mixing Comedy, Commentary : Movies: Director Juzo Itami has been thinking about death. The result: 'Daibyonin,' which lashes out against the priority that science has won over human beings in Japan". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  14. ^ "Man Slashes Movie Screen in Protest". Associated Press. May 30, 1993. Archived from the original on Dec 29, 2018.
  15. ^ Crow, Jonathan. "Juzo Itami". AllMovie. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
  16. ^ Adelstein, Jake (2010). Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan. New York: Vintage Books. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-307-47529-9. OCLC 500797270.
  17. ^ "Filmmaker's Notes Allege Magazine Slur". Chicago Tribune. 22 December 1997.
  18. ^ "Reposted: The High Price of Writing About Anti-Social Forces – and Those Who Pay. 猪狩先生を弔う日々 : Japan Subculture Research Center". www.japansubculture.com. 9 January 2015. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  19. ^ Adelstein, Jake (2009). Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan (1st ed.). New York: Pantheon Books. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-307-37879-8.
  20. ^ Djabarov, Aidan (2017-06-07). "Juzo Itami vs. The Yakuza". Filmed in Ether. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  21. ^ Tayler, Christopher (June 12, 2010). "The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe". The Guardian.
  22. ^ Jones, Connie (2016-09-22). "See "Itami Juzo Museum" as architecture". Triplisher Stories. Archived from the original on 2023-06-16. Retrieved 2023-06-20.
  23. ^ Fandango.com[full citation needed]

External links edit