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Japanese Film Director Kon Ichikawa Dies

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

TOKYO —  Kon Ichikawa, the Japanese director who married artistic technique with humanistic spirit in such films as the Oscar-nominated "Harp of Burma" and "Tokyo Olympiad," has died. He was 92.

Ichikawa died of pneumonia in a Tokyo hospital on Feb. 13, said Chizuko Wagatsuma, a spokeswoman with Toho Co., the company that released "The Makioka Sisters" and many of his other films over a long directing career that began in 1945.

He had been hospitalized since late January, she said.

Known for his artistic technique and the wide range of genres in which he worked, Ichikawa won a jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960 for his movie, "Kagi."

He also received a lifetime achievement award in 2001 from the World Film Festival of Montreal.

"Ichikawa surely stands alongside Akira Kurosawa and Keisuke Miyashita as one of Japan's great directors," said noted Japanese film critic Tadao Sato.

"He made not just art films, but also melodramas, documentaries, mysteries and others ... and he brought to all of them a technique and craft that showed he took the works seriously no matter the subject," Sato said. "Even his light entertainments had class."

Ichikawa first attracted attention outside of Japan with the Oscar-nominated 1956 drama, "Harp of Burma." Based on a novel, the film told the story of Japanese soldier at the end of World War II who, overwhelmed by the sight of his dead comrades in arms, vows to live a life of prayer and bury the dead.

"Humanism was at the core of all of Ichikawa's movies. He thought it was important to show that there was good in everyone, but to show that in a war movie, too, made it unique," Sato said.

Ichikawa also drew wide notice for "Tokyo Olympiad," a documentary on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics that earned an out-of-competition screening the following year at Cannes.

"The athletes are seen not as national symbols but as people enjoying themselves, and he showed not just the winners but the losers, too. It was the opposite of what viewers expected from a film about the Olympics," Sato said.

Ichikawa is survived by two children, both sons, said Toho spokesman Atsuhi Minamikawa. His wife passed away in 1983.

Ichikawa's elder son, Tatsumi, is planning to hold a funeral for family and close friends, with a public memorial service to be held at a later date, Toho said in a statement.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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