You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Director Yoshimitsu Morita dies

Won acclaim at film festivals over three decades

Japanese helmer Yoshimitsu Morita, whose films depicted the absurdity and vulnerability of everyday life in conformist Japan, died of acute liver failure in Tokyo on Wednesday. He was 61.

Morita won international acclaim over his prolific 30-year career for movies that were distinctly Japanese, depicting the fragile beauty of the nation’s human psyche and visual landscape while daringly poking fun at its ridiculous tendency for rigid bureaucracy and ritualistic hierarchy.

After starting as an indie filmmaker working in 8 mm, Morita made his 35 mm feature debut in 1981 with “Something Like It.” His international breakthrough, however, came with 1983 black comedy “The Family Game,” starring Yusaku Matsuda as a sardonic home tutor who takes over a dysfunctional middle-class family.

Its striking cinematography, focusing on rows and rows of identical apartments and people dining solemnly sitting side by side, was an exhilarating parody of Japanese family values.

He later reunited with Matsuda for “And Then,” a 1985 drama based on a novel by Soseki Natsume. The pic won five Japanese Academy Awards and scored a director nomination for Morita.

Early regarded as a young Turk leading a new wave of Japanese cinema, Morita soon took a more commercial turn, though he continued to make arty prize winners as well.

His biggest hit was “Paradise Lost,” a 1997 drama about a middle-aged adulterous couple who end up committing double suicide. The pic was the No. 2 domestic B.O. earner for the year while scooping armloads of prizes.

Morita’s 1999 courtroom drama “Keiho” was screened in competition as Berlin, while his 2003 family “Like Asura” drama was invited to the Montreal World Film Festival. Both were literary adaptations.

He also had a more experimental, trendy side, however as shown in “Haru,” a 1996 drama about two lovers who begin and pursue their affair by email, and “Copycat Killer, ” a 2002 mystery-thriller about a serial killer who uses such tech tools as voice scrambling and webcam to advertise his crimes to the media, while baffling the cops.

Morita’s “Take the ‘A’ Train,” a comedy about train lovers starring Kenichi Matsuyama of Tran Anh Hung’s “Norwegian Wood,” will be released posthumously in the spring, film studio Toei said Wednesday.

Morita is survived by his wife Misao.

(Associated Press contributed to this report.)

More Film

  • Contract Placeholder Business

    Hollywood Agents Blast Writers Guild Over New Proposals

    The war between the Writers Guild of America and Hollywood agents has escalated as the two sides battle over the rules on how writers are represented. The latest volley emerged Friday from Karen Stuart, president of the Association of Talent Agents, who accused WGA leaders of misleading its members and asserted that the guild leaders [...]

  • Xavier Legrand Custody

    Cesar Awards: Xavier Legrand’s ‘Custody’ Wins Best Film

    Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody,” a tense portrait of a family torn by domestic violence, won best film, actress (for Lea Drucker), and original screenplay at the 44th Cesar Awards, which took place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The awards are France’s highest film honors. “Custody,” which marks Legrand’s follow up to his Oscar-nominated [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    'Crazy Rich Asians,' 'Late Show With Stephen Colbert' Win Publicity Campaign Awards

    Hollywood publicists have selected “Crazy Rich Asians” as the top movie publicity campaign for 2018 and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” as the best television campaign. Warner Bros.’ “Crazy Rich Asians” topped the campaigns for Disney’s “Black Panther,” Fox’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Paramount’s “A Quiet Place,” Sony’s “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” and Universal’s “Halloween” for [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Tessa Thompson Nnamdi Asomugha

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha to Star in 'Sylvie'

    Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha are set to star in the feature film “Sylvie.” Eugene Ashe has written the screenplay and will direct with production currently underway. The film is described as a love story set in the cool jazz era of New York City in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s. Sylvie (played by Thompson) meets aspiring [...]

  • Night Fury dragon Toothless and Hiccup

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Soaring to $50 Million-Plus Launch

    “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is soaring toward a $53 million launch weekend at 4,259 North American locations, early estimates showed on Friday. That estimate is well above Universal’s forecast in the $40 million range at 4,259 sites — and ahead of its predecessors, 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon,” which made [...]

  • Actors With Disabilities Deserve a Hollywood

    Dreaming of a Hollywood Ending for Actors With Disabilities (Guest Column)

    Picture a world in which an actor with a disability wins an Academy Award. Sadly, that storyline remains no more than a Hollywood fantasy. In recent years, the #OscarsSoWhite trending hashtag campaign has shed light on the lack of diversity in the movie industry. Yet ahead of this year’s Oscars on Feb. 24, society’s definition [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content