Nagisa Ôshima dies

Director broke boundaries with Ai No Corrida

by Jennie Kermode

Nagisa Ôshima, director of ome of the most admired and controversial films in the history of cinema, has died of pneumonia in a hospital near Tokyo. He was 80 years old.

Ôshima, who began making documentaries in 1960 and swiftly progressed to feature films, is best known for his remarkable erotic epic Ai No Corrida, or In The Realm Of The Senses, which is still unavailable uncut in the UK, having only recently been certificated at all. Aside from its vivid and unrestrained sexual content, it is noteable for its sumptuous imagery and for its potent mobidity, which functioned as a comment on Japanese society of the time. Alongside works like Death By Hanging and Diary Of A Shinjuku Thief, it took on issues which made the director's peers distinctly uncomfortable, but proved too striking to ignore.

Celebrated as an artist even at his most controversial, Ôshima was acclaimed Best Director at Cannes in 1978 for the noirish Empire Of Passion. He went on to work with David Bowie on Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence and subsequently became president of the Directors' Guild Of Japan, where he served for many years despite suffering from increasing ill health. Always outspoken, he won belated praise for his work tackling racism and homophobia, and was prepared to admit quite openly that he hated almost all Japanese cinema.

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