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Ken Ogata dies

Japanese actor Ken Ogata has died of liver cancer aged 71

I was saddened today to hear of the death of Japanese actor Ken Ogata.

Although I only know him from Schrader's Mishima, this one work alone has firmly placed him in my memory. The DH and I watch Mishima a couple of times a year - a masterpiece of a film about an amazing, disturbing man. The scene where the walls dissolve as the young samurai goes to kill his teacher is one of those moments in cinema you don't easily forget. 

Ogata himself plays Mishima, seen on his last day on earth, as he attempts a death-or-glory coup that will lead either to the return to a more feudal Japan, or death at his own hand. Driven along by a beautiful, mesmerising score by Philip Glass, Mishima is a triumph of the cinematic art. 

Ogata was the star of many Japanese films with which I'm not familiar, but today's obit in the Guardian makes me want to run screaming to Amazon to find them. In particular, I am fascinated by mention of The Ballad of Narayama, which I am ashamed to say I have not heard of, given that it won cinema's greatest prize, the Palme D'Or.

The story of a man who takes his mother up a mountain to die according to local custom, it sounds like one of those amazing Japanese works of art that make you think again about life and death. I can't wait to see it.




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