Japan politico laments film decline

TOKYO — Japan’s education minister said she wants to help revive the country’s declining film industry, which reached its peak in the 1960s.

“On the occasion of the centennial of filmmaking next year, I would like to ask the opinions of specialists on how to promote Japanese movies,” Education Minister Ryoko Akamatsu told reporters after a regular cabinet meeting.

Akamatsu said many Japanese films had once won the praise of critics around the world but that the domestic film industry has stagnated recently.

A total of 547 movies, including Akira Kurosawa’s “Warui Yatsu Hodo Yoku Nemuru” (The Bad Sleep Well), were produced in 1960, but only 240 were made in 1992.

A recent survey here found that 125.6 million people went to movie theaters in 1992, the lowest figures since 1955, and the number of movie theaters had fallen by 60 to 1,744.

The minister said she was planning to set up an advisory panel, probably comprising more than 10 film directors and specialists, to the director general of the Cultural Affairs Agency next month.

In a related move, Toei, one of Japan’s big film companies, decided at least temporarily to stop making yakuza (gangster) movies because such movies have gone out of fashion.

An official of the film company said their last yakuza movie, “The Man Who Killed the Don,” will be shown in June. It will be Toei’s 252nd yakuza movie since the series started in 1963, the official said.

But he added his company could produce yakuza movies again if the situation changes.

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