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Review: Seijo Story - 60 Years of Making Films

A huge portion of this year’s Japan Cuts lineup is dedicated to honoring the legacy of the late Nobuhiko Obayashi—painter, pianist, photographer, and filmmaker—and Seijo Story - 60 Years of Making Films is, without a doubt, the festival’s most charming tribute.

This documentary is, in part, the exact sort of cinematic biography that you’d expect: it explores the esteemed director’s humble beginnings as an indie trailblazer beloved for his shot-on-8mm art house projects (which were often financed by his work on television commercials), then proceeds to outline his entire career, all the way through his then-ongoing struggle to complete the ultra-ambitious Labyrinth of Cinema while battling the cancer that would ultimately claim his life. But the movie is also so much more than that, thanks to the presence of Kyoko Obayashi, who tirelessly supported the auteur's creative endeavors from behind the scenes as his longtime producer—and as his wife (indeed, her innumerable contributions to his success are reminiscent of Filmworker’s Leon Vitali). Their heartwarming relationship elevates the material, lending it a touch of humanity and romance that reminds the viewer that both film production and life itself are collaborative processes.

(The cameo appearance by Obayashi’s friend and fellow octogenarian Yoji Yamada—who helmed all but two of the Tora-san franchise’s fifty installments—is also quite lovely.)

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