Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi died Friday in Tokyo of lung cancer. He was 82.
Born in Onomichi, a port on Japan’s Inland Sea, in 1938, Obayashi began making films as a child, using a projector and film owned by his physician father.
A pioneering experimental filmmaker in the 1960s, Obayashi went on direct nearly 3,000 TV commercials in a long career, many with international talent including Charles Bronson and Catherine Deneuve.
In 1977 he made his feature debut with “House,” a free-spirited, wildly imaginative horror-fantasy that was a hit on its release in Japan and later became a cult favorite abroad.
In Japan, Obayashi is best known for a trilogy of films he shot in Onomichi: “Exchange Students” (1982), “The Girl Who Leapt through Time” (1983) and “Lonely Heart” (1985).
These and other films he made in the 1980s and after typically starred young female talents and had sci-fi and fantasy elements. Obayashi also worked a more serious vein, including the 1989 “Beijing Watermelon” about the lives of Chinese students in Japan, and the 1994 “Turning Point,” a drama about a middle-aged female journalist who struggles for recognition in a male-dominated business.
His films were widely screened at Berlin, Moscow and other festivals. In 2016 the Udine Far East Film Festival presented an Obayashi tribute section with the director in attendance.
Diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in August 2016 and given three months to live, Obayashi went on to make two more films with antiwar themes, the 2017 “Hanagatami” and this year’s “Labyrinth of Cinema,” whose April 10 opening was postponed because of coronavirus.