Film director Yoshida Kiju (formerly Yoshida Yoshishige) died on Thursday of pneumonia at age 89, Japanese media sources have revealed.
Together with Oshima Nagisa and Shinoda Masahiro, Yoshida was part of the Shochiku-backed Nouvelle Vague of the late 1950s and early 1960s that had a major impact on Japanese cinema both then and in succeeding decades.
A graduate of the elite University of Tokyo, where he studied French literature, Yoshida joined the Shochiku studio in 1955 and served as assistant director to Ozu Yasujiro and Kinoshita Keisuke.
In 1960 he made his directorial debut with the youth drama “Good-for-Nothing.” This and his following films “Blood Is Dry” (1960) and “Bitter End of a Sweet Night,” with their unsparing depictions of contemporary social ills, marked Yoshida, together with fellow Shochiku up-and-comers Oshima and Shinoda, as rebels against studio convention. The trio came to be grouped under the label Shochiku Nouvelle Vague, a nod to the French New Wave that was their influence and inspiration.
In 1962 Yoshida directed rising star Okada Mariko in the romantic drama “Akitsu Springs” and in 1964 married her. In 1966, he left Shochiku to found his own production company, Gendai Eigasha, with Okada as a frequent star.
His 1969 “Eros+Massacre,” a formally ambitious and visually sumptuous portrait of a 1920s anarchist, became Japan’s nominee for a best foreign language film Oscar. It was the first of a trilogy about revolutionary figures, including the 1970 “Heroic Purgatory” and the 1973 “Coup d’Etat.”
After the latter film, Yoshida left feature filmmaking to direct a series of documentaries for television, among them a 1977 program on baseball star Sadaharu Oh. In 1986 he returned to the big screen with “A Promise,” which screened in the Cannes Un Certain Regard section, and the 1988 “Wuthering Heights,” which premiered in the Cannes competition. His final Cannes selection was the 2002 Hiroshima-atomic-bombing-themed drama “Women in the Mirror.”
Yoshida was also active as an author, publishing a novel on Nazi leader Rudolf Hess, an analysis of the works of Ozu and, with co-author Funahashi Atsushi, a book on film theory.