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…”
On the Set of “A Duel Tale”
Text: Kasuga Taichi
“I previously did an NHK period drama called Seizaemon Zanji Tsuroku, based on a Fujisawa Shuhei novel. I played a rather indifferent, retired samurai, and people seemed to like it very much. I feel like A Duel Tale is kind of a continuation on that theme, and reading the original work, it’s quite interesting indeed. It again depicts a rather negative set of circumstances.
There are disparities among samurai, and the rank of the samurai I’m playing is that of “heyazumi,” meaning that he’s now retired and living a quiet life at home where his family consider him a nuisance. It’s a very sad story, different from the typical kind of sword fighting period drama I’ve done in the past. I feel like it was a project fitting for my age.” —Nakadai
Present-Day Nakadai Tatsuya
Nakadai Tatsuya, currently in his eighties, continues earnestly to appear in both theater and film productions as an active duty actor. In both arenas, he has always kept trying, through trial and error, to show audiences a “new side of Nakadai Tatsuya.”
Feeling it imperative to detail Nakadai’s activities in recent years, this segment of the book was compiled from interviews conducted both before and after appearances in some of his major recent works.
Kobayashi Masaki and
The Fall of Japanese Film
“Samurai Rebellion,” “Kwaidan,” “Dunhuang”
It was director Kobayashi Masaki who selected Nakadai Tatsuya to play the leading role in the six-part The Human Condition, elevating him to immediate stardom. Having worked with numerous master directors throughout his career, Nakadai describes especially his partnership with Kobayashi as the “best match” for him. But while Kobayashi made full use of his mastery in the 1960’s, there was a sudden decline in the number of works he produced in the 70’s. He then made a mere two films in the 80’s, and finally zero in the 90’s. You could say it was as if this one director personified the shift from Japanese film’s golden age to its decline.
In this final chapter, Nakadai talks about changes in the world of Japanese cinema throughout director Kobayashi Masaki’s life as it was heading towards its fall.
Kurosawa Akira and Katsu Shintaro
“Kagemusha” & “Ran”
Released in 1980, director Kurosawa Akira’s film Kagemusha won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Previously considered to have been suffering from a slump, the film marked a definite return for the “Master.” By the same token, however, the movie also became known for the surrounding scandal of Katsu Shintaro stepping down from the leading role he was originally supposed to be playing. Nakadai—having close relationships with both Kurosawa and Katsu—found himself in a difficult position having to suddenly “stand in” for Katsu.
In this chapter, Nakadai talks about his friendship with Katsu, and his relationship with Kurosawa since Kagemusha.