Nakadai Tatsuya on the Golden Age of Japanese Film: Conclusion


The decline of film, the rise of television, and the transition to an internet society—the world has seen a tremendous amount of change in the past half century or so. While the Golden Age of Japanese Film has long since passed, many of the works from that time have found their way onto formats like VHS and DVD, still surviving today. “Revival houses” and similar movie theaters are still going strong, featuring unique films in their showings, and you can easily find plenty of video rental stores in town.

I admit, I do miss the big screen of times past, and so I like to go to the movies to see those works whenever I can. But regardless of whether or not it’s a film that I myself appeared in, whenever I’m watching those old movies, the thing I find the most moving is the realization of how so many of those actors have passed away. I often find myself counting them on my fingers. “Ah, that actor just passed last month…” “Oh, he’s not here anymore either…”

I’m going to be 85 this year so I suppose it’s only obvious, but now even actors from the generation below me have started to pass away. As an old man, it very much breaks my heart to see these faces I hold dear to me departing one after the other. But just as Zeami Motokiyo likened the actor’s craft to that of a flower, so it must also be the fate of a flower that has within its lifespan blossomed in full glory to one day wither and disappear. It is, after all, the law of nature.

Be that as it may, there certainly were a lot of actors in the past who truly had “taste.” They didn’t have to say a word or even move an inch—their presence alone would speak volumes about these people. Am I alone in thinking there just aren’t many actors like that around anymore? In other words, by “taste” I mean the flavor of life. No two flavors are ever quite the same. Being able to convey that in one’s performance… For an actor, that must be the mark of true excellence.

Nakadai Tatsuya

5 thoughts on “Nakadai Tatsuya on the Golden Age of Japanese Film: Conclusion

  1. Very much an excellent read. Ngl, I teared up at the end. Thank you for taking the time to translate this!

    – He who shall remain anonymous

    • Cheers! I’m happy you enjoyed the book.

      I had the privilege of seeing Mr. Nakadai Tatsuya perform in-person last month when Mumeijuku were doing their play “Hidari no Ude” in Tokyo. He was absolutely fantastic. Truly one of the greats.

      I also visited a limited time gallery they were doing at the theater, celebrating his 70th (!) anniversary as an actor. Among the many things on display, one thing that especially left an impression on me were Nakadai’s original scripts for films like “Yojimbo,” “Harakiri,” “The Human Condition,” etc, with words he’d highlighted with a pencil over 60 years ago… Man.

      • Wow! I’d probably never have the privilege to see him in real life much as I’d want to due to geographical reasons. But man, you’re so dang lucky, good for you!

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