Sadao Nakajima

Biography

Born in Chiba in 1934, Nakajima joined Toei in 1959, and was promoted to director there in 1964. He has never directed outside the studio since, and has been well regarded there as one of Toei's most prolific and dependable hitmakers. In the 1960s, Nakajima concentrated on samurai films, but found his true metier in the 1970s with the explosion of second-generation yakuza movies. These so-called jitsuroku (true record) stories were far more violent than their yakuza movie counterparts of the 1950s and 60s, and none more so than Nakajima's. Rape, torture, gunplay, nothing was off-limits in a typical Nakajima scenario, such as the fitful, hysterically violent Bakamasa Horamasa Toppamasa (1976) and the amazingly raw and passionate Riot at Shimane Prison (Bodo Shimane Keimusho, 1975), which actually caused a controversy in Japan for its realistic portrayal of prison brutality. The violence in Nakajima's work is often accompanied by a deep-running sentimentalism: he is considered by Japanese critics to be a "wet" director, as compared to the "dry", cynical style of fellow Toei yakuza-helmer Kinji Fukasaku. Exemplary among his pictures which balance sudden explosions of violence with moments of startling sentimentality is his 1979 hit Sochiyo no Kubi, a lengthy meditation on the end of an era (the yakuza immediately before Japan's war in China broke out and escalated into World War II). As his career moved on, Nakajima's work grew increasingly more elegiac: his 1985 movie Seburi's Story was selected by the Berlin Film Festival, and several of his more recent films have examined the plights of women among the yakuza, a theme usually ignored in his hypermacho work in the 1970s. Despite the often sordid nature of his pictures, Nakajima has managed to work with much of the top acting and technical talent in Japan, and has garnered much of the best work of their respective careers from Toei's top stars Hiroki Matsukata and Tsunehiko Watase.

Filmography

Movie Name Release Date
Mifune: The Last Samurai November 25, 2015