During the 1980s maverick Japanese director Yanagimachi Mitsuo made some of the most compelling films in the world. They are at once rugged and delicate, bitter and moving. His vast work Himatsuri is subtly structured around the conflict between individualism and group conformity: Tatsuo, a gruff-mannered woodsman who lives in the mountains near a Japanese coastal town, refuses to sell his land for a planned tourist theme park – the only resident to oppose the project.
The unsentimental portrait of this isolated protagonist is set against a satirical study of the village community, where even the priests have long since become real estate agents. An air of animistic belief wafts through this film, also due to the extreme sensuousness of Tamura Masaki’s shots of nature: at the Fire Festival that gives the film its title, the hero, imbued with the spirit of nature, sacrifices himself in a ritualistic, cleansing, murderous act.
Born in Ibaraki prefecture, Yanagimachi aspired to becoming a filmmaker while studying in the law department at Waseda University. After graduating and starting work, it was not until 1970 that he returned to his dream and became a freelance assistant director. Later, received guidance from Atsushi Yamatoya at Toei Film Company’s education department. In 1974 he started his own production company, “production Gunro” (Wolf Production Team) and started a documentary project following the lives of motorbike gangs. After two years of production, his first work, God Speed You! Black Emperor, was completed in 1976. Despite an initially low-key release, the documentary received critical acclaim, and went on to a much wider theater tour. In 1979, Yanagimachi adapted A Nineteen Year Old’s Map (written by Kenji Nakagami) to make his first screen drama. His first original scenario came in 1982, with a story set in Kashima, Ibaraki prefecture – Yanagimachi’s home ground. In 1985 he collaborated… read more