Kōji Wakamatsu  

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Kōji Wakamatsu (1 April 1936 – 17 October 2012) was a Japanese film director who directed such pinku eiga films as Ecstasy of the Angels and Go, Go Second Time Virgin. He also produced Nagisa Ōshima's controversial film In the Realm of the Senses (1976). He has been called "the most important director to emerge in the pink film genre," and one of "Japan's leading directors of the 1960s."

His 2010 film, Caterpillar, was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.

Early life

Kōji Wakamatsu was born in Wakuya, Miyagi, Japan on 1 April 1936. Wakamatsu worked as a construction worker before beginning his film career with Nikkatsu in 1963.


Between 1963 and 1965, he directed 20 exploitation films for the studio, based on sensational topics of the day. He became interested in the Pink Film genre after the success of Tetsuji Takechi's 1964 Daydream. Nikkatsu submitted his Skeleton in the Closet (also known as Secrets Behind the Wall) (1965) to the 15th Berlin International Film Festival while the film was still under review by Eirin, the Japanese film-rating board. This submission before passing Eirin's review was doubly embarrassing for the government since pink films, though already emerging as the dominant domestic cinematic genre, were not regarded as worthy of critical attention or international export. The film received an enthusiastic reception at the festival, but Nikkatsu, fearful of governmental retaliatory action, gave it a low-profile domestic release. Disappointed, Wakamatsu quit the studio to form his own company.

Wakamatsu's independent films of the late 1960s were very low-budget, but often artistically done works, usually concerned with sex and extreme violence mixed with political messages. Some critics have suggested that these films were an intentional provocation to the government, in order to generate free publicity resulting from censorship controversies. His films were usually produced for less than 1,000,000 yen (about $5,000), necessitating extreme cost-cutting measures including location shooting, single-takes, and natural lighting. His early films were usually in black and white with occasional bursts of color for theatrical effect.

His first self-produced film was The Embryo Hunts In Secret, a story of a man who kidnaps, tortures and sexually abuses a woman until she finally escapes and stabs him to death. Freeze-frames, flash-backs, hand-held camera and locations limited to two rooms and a hallway add to the film's disturbing, claustrophobic atmosphere. Vagabond of Sex was a parody of Imamura's A Man Vanishes (1967). In Wakamatsu's film, a man leaves his family in Tokyo to travel and engage in various sexual escapades. When he returns home he finds out that his wife is starring in Imamura's documentary about her search for her missing husband.

Violated Angels was based on the murder of eight nursing students in the U.S. by Richard Speck. Dark Story of a Japanese Rapist was based on a serial-rapist case in Japan after World War II. Go, Go Second Time Virgin is loosely based on the Tate-LaBianca murders by the Manson Family in the same year. With Sex Jack, he tried "to show how the revolutionary movements are always infiltrated by the moles working for the government". One of his most critically esteemed films is Sacred Mother Kannon, which has been called a "'text book example' for the use of metaphor and symbolism in contemporary cinema."

United Red Army was based on the "Asama-Sansō incident". Long and harsh, this movie includes a long documentary part about the political background that led to this tragedy and the self-destruction of the Japanese radical left.

While directing many successful and critically praised Pink Films, Wakamatsu also became known for giving young filmmakers their first experience in working in the industry. Among those whose early careers were helped by Wakamatsu are Banmei Takahashi, Genji Nakamura and Kan Mukai.

His 2010 film, Caterpillar, competed for the Golden Bear at the 60th Berlin International Film Festival.

In 2011, a new film on the last days of acclaimed novelist and political activist Yukio Mishima, focusing on the stream of events leading to the so-called Ichigaya incident of November 25th, 1970, was announced as being on its stage of full completion. The film entitled 11.25 Jiketsu No Hi, Mishima Yukio To Wakamonotachi [11.25自決の日、三島由紀夫と若者たち] features Japanese actor Arata as Mishima.

Wakamatsu died after being hit by a taxi cab in Tokyo on October 17 2012.

Partial filmography

English title Japanese Year
Secrets Behind the Wall 壁の中の秘事 1965
The Embryo Hunts in Secret 胎児が密猟する時 1966
Vagabond of Sex 性の放浪 1967
Violated Angels 犯された白衣 1967
Go, Go Second Time Virgin ゆけゆけ二度目の処女 1969
Dark Story of a Japanese Rapist 日本暴行暗黒史 1969
Sex Jack 性賊 1970
Ecstasy of the Angels 天使の恍惚 1972
Sacred Mother Kannon 聖母観音大菩薩 1977
Ware ni utsu yoi ari われに撃つ用意あり 1990
Perfect Education 6 完全なる飼育 赤い殺意 2004
United Red Army 連合赤軍 2008
Caterpillar キャタピラー 2010
11:25 The Day He Chose His Own Fate 11・25自決の日 三島由紀夫と若者たち 2012

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