Nakahira Ko (中平康)
Ko NAKAHIRA (January 3, 1926-September 11, 1978) was a film director. His father was Toranosuke TAKAHASHI who was an oil painter. Mami NAKAHIRA, his daughter, is a writer. He was called a film director of the modern school as well as Yasuzo MASUMURA, Kihachi OKAMOTO, Kon ICHIKAWA, Tadashi SAWASHIMA, Seijun SUZUKI., and so on. He was known as a director who was good at film techniques for an up-tempo storyline with a sophisticated touch. He treated film as if it were a purely visual art and emphasized how to show the subject rather than what to show by the dramatic impact of 'style' and 'technique' the essences of a film. His major works were "Kurutta Kajitsu" (Crazed Fruits), "Getsuyobi no Yuka" (Monday Girl), "Gaito" (Streetlight), "Kurenai no tsubasa" (Crimson Wings) and "Koroshita no wa dareda" (Who Committed Murder?).
Biography and personal profile
Before his debut
On January 3, 1926, he was born in Takinogawa Ward, Tokyo City. His father was Toranosuke TAKAHASHI, an oil painter. He succeeded the maternal surname of Nakahira because his mother was only daughter of Nakahira family. As his grandmother graduated from a music school and taught violin, he grew up in a family that encouraged him to become an artist.
He became enthusiastic about films since he was a junior high school student and studied it by watching the same film ten times including his favorite one directed by Rene Clair. When he was a student preparing for a school entrance exam a year after having failed the one the previous year and upon graduating high school, he contributed a satirical scenario to a public magazine 'Ningen Kigeki' (Human Comedy), which won a prize as one of the five honorable mentions (the title was 'Mr. Goemon'). In 1948 he entered the Department of Art of the Faculty of Letters, University of Tokyo. He belonged to a movie club of which Masahiro OGI, Yusuke WATANABE, and Eijiro WAKABAYASHI were members.
When he was an assistant director
In 1948, he dropped out of Tokyo University and applied to become an assistant director at Shochiku Ofuna Studios, a position that was being advertized for the first time since the war, because he adored the film director Yuzo KAWASHIMA. He was selected as one of the eight members (Seijun SUZUKI, Zenzo MATSUYAMA, Buichi SAITO, Kazuo INOUE, Chisato IKOMA, Yugoro IMAI, and Tadashi ARIMOTO) among 1,500 applicants and entered Shochiku Co., Ltd. He worked as an assistant director not only in the films directed by Kawashima but also in those directed by Yasushi SASAKI, Keisuke KINOSHITA, Hideo OBA, Kenkichi HARA, Minoru SHIBUYA, Akira KUROSAWA, and so on. He stylishly dressed wearing a beret and overalls with many pockets in which he put in Nanatsu-dogu (suite of required tools) and ran around the studio. His style attracted attention and the beret was seen as his trade mark all through his life.
He was known as a very efficient assistant director and especially Akira KUROSAWA and Yuzo KAWASHIMA, who were film directors he desired to assist, treated him kindly. While many assistant directors emphasized studying scenario when they taught juniors, Nakahira strongly insisted on learning editing techniques at the same time, which showed his obsession with film techniques since he was an assistant director. It is said that when he directed the movie trailer "Shinjitsu Ichiro" (path of sincerity) directed by Yuzo KAWASHIMA as the chief assistant director, Masahiro SHINODA and Osamu TAKAHASHI, beginning assistant directors, watched it, they were astonished at Nakahira's outstanding talent.
Nakahira strongly desired to become a film director as early as possible so he moved to Nikkatsu Studios which started making films again in 1954, offered by Katsumi NISHIKAWA. At Nikkatsu Studios, he worked as an assistant director to Kaneto SHINDO, Tomotaka TASAKA, Katsumi NISHIKAWA, Eisuke TAKIZAWA, So YAMAMURA and so on.
His early works after being promoted to film director
His talent was recognized by Takiko MIZUNOE, who was a producer, in 1956 and he made the whole set of the back streets in the Ginza, a stage of a murder, as an assistant director and directed "Nerawareta Otoko" (Targeted man) by using Deep focus (released after "Kurutta Kajitsu"), a horror film of medium length that was unique for a new film director.
He was known as a 'stubborn' film director who didn't make do. His second film "Kurutta Kajitsu" which was shot in only 17 days after the hit film of "Taiyo no Kisetsu" (Season of the Sun) (directed by Takumi FURUKAWA) in 1956, was highly praised for its up-tempo storyline, fresh cutting, sensational subject by the writers of Nouvelle Vague such as Francois Truffaut. This film made Yujiro ISHIHARA, an amateur, a star.
Nakahira was fascinated with Rene Clair and Billy Wilder. He was said to be more talented than other directors of the modern school in the same generation such as Kihachi OKAMOTO and Yasuzo MASUMURA. He showed his talent in speedy, light, and unrestrained films such as "Gyunyuya Furanki" (Milk rounds man Furanki) which was praised as a masterpiece for slapstick and parody rarely seen in Japan, "Gaito" called 'the most typical film of Ko NAKAHIRA' and used gorgeous costumes designed by Hanae MORI as he said that 'I consistently aim to produce sophisticated films' as a film director, "Yuwaku" (temptations) a comedy showing the adolescence of young vanguardartists, and "Saijo Katagi" (A character of intelligent lady), a comedy of manners aimed to have the same touch as that of Billy Wilder. In addition, he showed distinguished achievement in various categories including suspense and mystery such as "Koroshita no wa dareda," "Kurenai no tsubasa," "Sono Kabe wo Kudake" (Crash the wall) and "Mikkai" (Secret Meeting).
"Gakuseiyaro to Musumetachi" (Students and daughters), which was released in 1960, was a masterpiece that fully reflected Nakahira's style of ensemble casting, a method of casting in which, rather than one actor being singled out as the main character, a number of actors shared billing. However, he identified himself as being a member of the 'Han-Socho Shinkoku Ha' (Anti-Solemn and Serious Group) and 'Nippon Keicho Huhaku Ha' (Japan Rash and Frivolous Group), and favored the use of shooting techniques to achieve a sophisticated depiction of his film's narrative, rather than addressing subjects related to a certain theme or social problem. His strong distinct design was heresy in Japan's film industry so it was not understood in those days in contrast with his actual intentions.
He also wrote excellent essays and cinematic reviews, in which he criticized the situation that the only films with a certain theme or social problem were easily selected for the top ten of film awards, and repeatedly insisted that a film should be evaluated by how it shot the subjects in stead of what kind of subjects it shot. His straight talk sometimes made enemies of the film critics.
The period after the star system was established
Later, after the star system of Nikkatsu was established and firmly fixed, he created many program pictures.
It is said that even in a film centering a star, he kept the stance that 'the film comes first' and actress Sayuri YOSHINAGA later said, 'he was the severest director.'
"Chizu no nai Machi" (A town without a map), shot in 1960 after "Gakuseiyaro to Musumetachi," was drawn up by himself as a project where Shinobu HASHIMOTO wrote the best possible scenario and Yujiro ISHIHARA played the lead. However, this project was rejected by the company because it would have hurt the image of Yujiro as a star, and as a result, it was made into a film with Ryoji HAYAMA playing the lead as a unique mystery that dealt strongly with social problems. "Ashita Hareruka" (Will it be fine tomorrow?) starring Yujiro ISHIHARA in the same year was a Japanese screwball comedy in which he made Izumi ASHIKAWA, a pristine actress, played a funny intelligent woman wearing black frame eyeglasses, speaking fast and nagging Yujiro to love her.
In 1961 he directed "Aitsu to Watashi" (He and I) starring Yujiro ISHIHARA which was the largest hit film for Nakahira, and in 1962 he directed the action comedy "Yabai Koto nara Zeni ni naru" (Danger Means Money) starring Jo SHISHIDO which appeared too early and brought memories of the later TV cartoon film "Lupin the 3rd." In 1963 he directed "Doro darake no Junjo" (Muddy pure heart) which was a historical masterpiece representing the pure heart films played by Sayuri YOSHINAGA and Mitsuo HAMADA and later remade in Republic of Korea. The major works in which Nakahira employed his ensemble casting method were "Gendaikko" (Modern children), a cynical, modern film that was shot in the same year as "Doro darake no Junjo" and was typical of Nakahira, and "Hikaru Umi " (Shining sea), a film in which Yoshinaga, Mieko TAKAMINE, Kinuyo TANAKA, Masayuki MORI, and others appeared.
In 1964 he directed "Getsuyobi no Yuka" starring photogenic Mariko KAGA which recently became famous, "Ryojin Nikki" (The Hunter's Diary) which was based on the book written by Masako TOGAWA and in which Noboru NAKAYA was stared and played a middle age man who fell into sexual love, "Suna no ue no Shokubutsugun" (Plants in the sand) which was based on the book written by Junnosuke YOSHIYUKI and which was said to be impossible to be made into a film, and "Onna no uzu to fuchi to nagare" (Whirlpool of Women) starring Nakaya and Kazuko INANO one after another, which were experimental unique works illustrating his distinguished talent. However, his films were always ahead of the times, so he could not get any film awards in spite of his distinguished staging ability. It is said that he sometimes moaned, 'Even Hitchcock does not get a film award' to the people around him.
He had disorderly life, which might be because he felt impatient being left alone while Okamoto and Masumura and Shohei IMAMURA and Kirio URAYAMA who belonged to Nikkatsu as well as Nakahira became famous, and it is said that he even drank on the set.
In 1965 he directed "Kuroi Tobakushi" (Black gamester), which was the sixth film of the gamester series starring Akira KOBAYASHI, for the first time and greatly changed the image of film to be modern like James Bond's films removing the melancholy and pathos. In the following year, 1965, he showed great preposterous picture and film techniques in "Kuroi Tobakushi Akuma no Hidarite" (Black gamester's devil left hand) which was the last in the series.
After 1967, invited by Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong, he remade his own works such as "Yaro ni Kokkyo wa nai" (He does not care about national borders), "Kurutta Kajitsu" and "Ryojin Nikki" and directed "Hiten Joro" (Trapeze Girl) for which the scenario was written by Yusuke WATANABE (with no credit). While he went back and fourth to Japan and Hong Kong, he also directed films in Japan. However, while Nikkatsu Corporation had been losing power, he was fired after directing "The Spiders no Daishingeki" (The outstanding performance of The Spiders) in 1968, which was partly because he had been warned about drinking on the set.
The period when he managed indie
From 1971 to 1978
In 1971 he founded Nakahira Production. He produced "Yami no naka no Chimimoryo" (Evil spirits in the dark) with the scenario written by Kaneto SHINDO who had sometimes written scenarios for Nakahira's films and had been relied upon by him since Nakahira was an assistant director, was listed in the competition of the 24th Cannes International Film Festival and received a good reputation. However, the film director Nagisa OSHIMA, whose film was not listed, strongly protested against the office of the Cannes International Film Festival, and caused a fuss (On the background, although there was a provision that only one film could be listed officially from one country, the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, Inc. sent both films of Nakahira and Oshima, and the office of Cannes International Film Festival selected "Yami no naka no Chimimoryo" as the official film). On the other hand, Nakahira later criticized Oshima 'Because it is a film festival held by France, we should not criticize how they do it and it is wrong to protest against it,' but as a result, "Yami no naka no Chimimoryo" could not receive a prize.
In the following year, 1972, he was invited to Kindai Eiga Kyokai (Modern film society) led by Shindo and directed the two Sukeban (female outlaw) action movie of "Konketsuji Rika" (Rika the Mixed-Blood Girl) and "Konketsuji Rika Hitoriyuku Sasuraitabi" (Lonely Wanderer) in the following year, which were unique among Nakahira's works, and consequently, he showed his talent in directing all types of films.
In 1974 he was invited by Shin Film in Republic of Korea and directed "Seishun Fujichaku" (Emergency landing in adolescence), remaking his own film "Kurenai no tsubasa" (Writer and Co-director).
He introduced the golden ratio for the screen (1:1, 618), which was seen as the best for human's eye, in "Hensokyoku" (Variation) which was shot on location in France insisting on decadence in the Art Theatre Guild in 1976, for the first time in the world. Some people guess that the financial trouble and other problems which occurred at that time and lasted after the start of filming made him feel very exhausted.
After that, he became weak, which might be partly because he drank too much and took too many sleeping pills. Since then, he stayed away from the screen and produced some TV two hours dramas, most of which were suspense dramas where film techniques were important. It can be said that these were the works where Ko NAKAHIRA could fully show his talent. Among them, there was a drama based on the book written by his favorite William Irish.
It is said that when it was discovered that he had terminal stomach cancer, he was not be told about it directly. Anyway, in spite of terminal stomach cancer, he staged a TV drama "Saturday Night at the Mysteries, Tears, Wait Until Dark" while being put on a drip and lying on a stretcher, which was a remake of the suspense film "Wait Until Dark" starring Audrey Hepburn. These TV dramas in his late years were offered by Takiko MIZUNOE who had promoted him from an assistant director to a director and had admitted his talent through life.
On September 11, 1978 he died of stomach cancer at the young age of 52.
People in the film industry such as Akira KUROSAWA and Minoru SHIBUSAWA paid their last respects and it is said that some of them said, 'Nobody loved film like he did.'
Many regretted his early death and the loss of his talent.
It is said that in his later years he hoped to make a film starring Judy Ongg like "Love in the Afternoon" starring Audrey Hepburn and directed by Billy Wilder, and make other books into films such as "The Moon and Sixpence" written by Maugham and "Balzac" a biographical novel written by Stefan Zweig. A critic Rikiya TAYAMA and his daughter Mami NAKAHIRA wrote his critical biography.
Nobuhiko KOBAYASHI (Yumihiko NAKAHARA) gave high marks for Nakahira's films such as "Gyunyuya Furanki" in 1956 and "Chizu no nai Machi" in 1960 after both of them were released. He wrote that "Gyunyuya Furanki" was 'a masterpiece in the history of films in Japan' in 'Shosatsu no Bigaku - Eizo ni okeru Warai towa nanika' (Aesthetic of laughter, what is laughter in films?) (published by Daikosha) in 1971. The figure of Frankie SAKAI in this film when he delivered two bottles of milk at once wearing white overalls and gun belt (which brought back memories of Nakahira's style during his assistant director stage) became legendary.
"Gyunyuya Furanki," however, lacked a part of the original 35 mm film after the release, so that it had been said to be 'a phantom masterpiece.'
But the full 16 mm film was discovered in the library at Yugawara-cho Kanagawa Prefecture and was remade into a Laser Disc as 'revival version' in 1992 by Nikkatsu corporation, which made the name of Nakahira known among young people.
After that, Nobuhiko KOBAYASHI recognized that 'Major works of Yuzo KAWASHIMA and Ko NAKAHIRA were still vanguard,' which led to today's reevaluation.
In 1998, almost 20 years after Nakahira's death, a film critic Milkman SAITO began to revaluate Ko NAKAHIRA. In 1999 his eight films were screened in various places in Japan including Shibuya Eurospace under the title of 'Ko NAKAHIRA Retrospective,' when "Biography of a Black Sheep Film Director 'Ko NAKAHIRA'" written by Mami NAKAHIRA was published (Wise Publishing, Inc), which immediately led to the momentum for reevaluation.
In 2003, a large memorial screening titled 'Ko NAKAHIRA Retrospective, a pioneer director who designed films' that was supported by the 16th Tokyo International Film Festival was held in various places throughout Japan, including Shibuya Eurospace; this screening, which attracted a lot of attention, included not only all the films he made in Japan except for "Yami no naka no Chimimoryo" and "Hensokyoku," but also the two films he produced in Hong Kong, "Kyorenshi" and "Karyudo." After the screening of "Yuwaku," which showed the light and refined features, in Eurospace, its fresh surprising impression brought waves of applause.
At the time of this memorial screening, an event that included Milkman SAITO and Masako TOGAWA, who were familiar with Nakahara as she played the second lead in "Ryojin Nikki," talked about Ko NAKAHIRA at her salon 'Blue room,' where many young film fan joined.
In addition, when Mariko KAGA visited Eurospace as a guest of a talk show for the screening of "Getsuyobi no Yuka," she said to the young audience, '("Getsuyobi no Yuka") is not like the film of a master, is it? But that has made it all the more popular with the public.'
While, "Kurutta Kajitsu" starring Yujiro ISHIHARA had been known as a masterpiece since the old days, "Getsuyobi no Yuka," which was very photogenic, was also one of the most famous films of Nakahira recognized by many young audiences today.
His later work "Yami no naka no Chimimoryo" which was said to be seen as a biography of Ko NAKAHIRA from the present point of view (according to Milkman SAITO) and "Hensokyoku" which aimed to escape from the frame of Japan film were already made into video, so they are easily watched, but their evaluation is controversial (Masahiro OGI selected "Hensokyoku" as the best three films in Kinema Junpo in that year). It was unlucky that many obsolete films of the 60's were screened again at a certain period, and that Nakahira's films were disdained by film fans. On the other hand, his earlier works, all said to be masterpieces, can not be watched so often although some people give them very high marks, so that those in which Nakahira fully showed his talent need more reevaluation in future.
Some people say that 'he was a film director who appeared 20 years early' or guess that Nakahira's works emphasizing sophistication and technique rather than ideas, will be accepted by the audience of the present time rather than viewers at that time. On the other hand, it is said that he rapidly became weak in his later years at Nikkatsu, only joining the projects when asked by company and lost the chance to make rapid progress. While Okamoto, Masumura, Suzuki and others who were called modern school with Nakahira from 60s to 70s became to be treated as a genius or a master, he was left alone and passed away, so that he is one of the film directors who can not fully be reevaluated like Tadashi SAWASHIMA, even now. In the critical biography written by Okamoto and Rikiya TAYAMA, he often drank heavily during work around this period and lost the reliance of many staff and actors, but these descriptions need to be investigated.
In the Pusan International Film Festival of Republic of Korea in 2005, "Kurutta Kajitsu" was introduced and screened with "Ukigumo" (Floating Clouds) directed by Mikio NARUSE, "Kamigami no Fukaki Yokubo" (The Profound Desire of the Gods) directed by Shohei IMAMURA, "Zigeunerweisen" directed by Seijun SUZUKI and so on. In addition, 'Ko NAKAHIRA Retrospective' was also held in the Republic of Korea, and his films such as "Aitsu to Watashi" became a popular topic as well as the beauty of Izumi ASHIKAWA.
On April 23, 2008, Rock Chipper Record Co., Ltd released a compact disc called 'Music of Nikkatsu films, the director series, Ko NAKAHIRA,' which was a collection of music that appeared only in Nakahira films from his years at Nikkatsu.
From April 12 to May 30, 2009, the 34 films selected from those shot while he belonged Nikkatsu and titled 'The Lone Japan Modernist, film director Ko NAKAHIRA' will be screened at Tokyo Laputa Asagaya.
Style and technique
"Koroshitano wa dareda"
This was a suspense film that dealt with social problems and in which all scene were shot by using Deep focus, aiming to have a strong impact on the screen. It was shot by Shinsaku HIMEDA. In the close-up of Miasako WATANABE who was watching scenery from a train window near the end, he made the scenery from a train window show in her eyes using a special screen process. He shot the scene of billiards by Akira KOBAYASHI for four days by fully using a dolly, and spent 13 days and nights and 100 cuts for the scene of a car crash as its climax. He panned a camera 360 degrees at the center of a crossing in central Tokyo, and made cars for the shot run from all directions in accordance with the necessity of the story. In a way, it seems to be his best film that reflected his techniques and it is said that a set like that will be never seen again.
Additionally, it is said that Akira KOBAYASHI remarked about this film; 'I learned the play of film from this film.'
It is Nakahira's masterpiece of light and refined films, that brought waves of applause at the time of the screening, 'Ko NAKAHIRA Retrospective, a pioneer director who designed films.'
Nakahira favored first class and the Ginza, so that he had a set of permanent buildings on Ginza street built, cooperating with Takashi MATSUYAMA who was in charge of art. In addition, he made the bar hostesses of Ginza, who he often visited, actually come on stage. He was immersed in shooting, for example, he made a set of glass-walled two-storied buildings and the actor's movements could be easily seen. Using a dolly with a crane, he shot the stories at this side and the opposite side of the building, and edited them with a superb cutting. It is said that he took one hour to shoot a scene where Yukiko TODOROKI, who was dancing with Shoji YASUI, found lice on his shoulder, using a 100 mm telephoto lens the longest lens in those days. In addition, cute and modern Sachiko HIDARI appeared in this film.
"Kurenai no tsubasa"
It is a suspense film on aircraft which is often seen as a masterpiece characterized by the first-person standpoint of a camera at the beginning, spiral staircase of geometrical design and the opening scene where a balloon flies into the air and reaches the hero's airplane. In the early part, he relentlessly shot the scene of a few minutes in real time while the Cessna plane did it's takeoff run on runway making this scene more realistic. There is also an episode that since he divided cutting too small, Masanori TSUJII, who was an editor, made a peep.
In the scene Yujiro ISHIHARA, Sanae NAKAHARA and others were aboard a Cessna plane that made a crash landing under the watch of criminals with guns at the crack of dawn, he had a semicircular horizont (a stage wall) 70 m wide and 15 m high made in an open space at the airport and the sky before dawn painted in order to express dawn gradually breaking realistically. He repeated the process to shoot some cuts, make the color of horizont brighter, and then shot again for two days and completed the scene from before dawn until dawn broke. It is actually impossible to shoot many cuts at dawn with a real sky because dawn breaks in a minute. However, a shooting method like this that requires time and effort as Nakahira had done, was not usually undertaken.
But Nakahira practiced it, in spite of company opposition, as a 'Shoot in Hollywood.'
"Sono Kabe wo Kudake"
It is a masterpiece of mystery based on false accusation. While Nakahira shot the main part of this film, he had Shogoro NISHIMURA, the chief assistant director make the second group (Yoshio MAMIYA was in charge of shooting of the second group) produced very elaborate background for the title.
The background for the title was a scene of Yuji ODAKA driving a wagon from Tokyo to Niigata consisting of the following shots:
From the shot from Odaka's point of view to the shot of Odaka who was driving the wagon panning 180 degree clockwise. From the shot of the moving sun which could be seen between trees, to a panning shot of Odaka's point of view on the driver seat. From the close-up of the car radio in the wagon, dollied out, to the shot of the direction of travel from the back of Odaka. The shot of Odaka on the driver seat taken from a running car in parallel which exactly moved together. The shot which seemed as if being taken from a fixed camera that was pendent from the right rear of the running wagon's body, but unpredictably slides to the left and enters inside the car, and showed the credits of 'Director Ko NAKAHIRA,' and so on. He created excellent opening shots like mentioned above. Especially in mystery and suspense films, these descriptions that anticipate and set the mood for the future events were important, so he went to any expense to achieve them.
In addition, this scene of the background of title was described in the original scenario written by Kaneto SHINDO only as 'A wagon run feeling the wind. Title and music,' 'A wagon run into a town,' 'A wagon run through the town' and so on. Moreover, he showed his obsession with sound effects and acoustics in this film.
"Doro darake no Junjo"
It was a pure romance that Sayuri YOSHINAGA and Mitsuo HAMADA, who were set up as being in a different social class, fell in love but they could not marry. Nakahira, who always changed staging and the tone of the screen image to suit the film, made a soft screen image in this film by changing the method of intensifying treatment, so that it had a unique color that was light and blurred (However, this was a sensitive effect which could be reproduced only on the screen in a theater, so that it is difficult to see it on TV or video). The montage shot of playing in the snow in which they cheerfully threw snow at each other, was also a famous scene in the film.
A genius who unpredictably casted unpredictable actors
Ko NAKAHIRA was good at accentuating 'the charm of supporting actors' by casting actors such as Ko NISHIMURA, Osamu TAKIZAWA, Noboru NAKAYA and Asao KOIKE rather than stars who played the leads, and he was called 'A genius who unpredictably casted unpredictable actors' because of his unique sense of casting and sense of fun.
In "Yuwaku," Taro OKAMOTO and Seiji TOGO played themselves, making a guest appearance. In "Kurenai no Tsubasa" Itaru KIKUMURA who was the original author played the managing editor of a newspaper company. In "Doro darake no Junjo" he casted a hostess who worked for a bar in Ginza which Nakahira often visited as an actress and made her play a hostess who tried to have Mitsuo HAMADA pull her hircus and also casted Keisuke NORO as a newspaper salesman, which were examples Nakahira's unique and superb casting.
In "Gendaikko," Mickey YASUKAWA created a cameo of an evil teacher, Kiyoshi ATSUMI as a TV entertainer, and Takiko MIZUNOE as a TV producer, and Eri NAGISA's appearance without any relationship with the storyline was also excellent.
In "Hikaru Umi" Kajiro YAMAMOTO created a cameo as a president of a University who presented a diploma during a graduation ceremony. In "Kuroi tobakushi" Yoshiro KATO, a cartoonist, became a cameo as a gambler on a train. In "Yaro ni Kokkyo wa nai" Manami FUJI created a cameo as a beautiful passenger who happened to sit in a seat next to Akira KOBAYASHI on a plane. In "Kuroi Tobakushi Akuma no Hidarite" Shoko TOGAWA became a cameo of the first queen of the Pandora Kingdom, Izumi HARA as a professional gambler, and Judy Ongg as a professional 'young boy' gambler. In "Hensokyoku" Hideaki NITANI appeared only in a picture and reading a line.
In addition, in "Gaito" which Nakahira directed, he made a cameo of himself as a salesman of box meals at station and in "Comedy Oburoshiki" as a guest on a ship.
When Nakahira took an exam for the first recruitment of assistant director for Shochiku Ofuna Studios after the war, he achieved brilliant results except for an essay question, in which he got the worst score.
It was because he only wrote, 'It's disgraceful to make applicants write an essay in an examination like this.'
Kozaburo YOSHIMURA and Yuzo KAWASHIMA who were examiners felt funny about him and passed him ('Legends of Masters, Diary of a Film Reviewer in the Fields' written by Shozo ISHIZAKA, published by Sanichi Shobo).
In the shooting of "Kurutta Kajitsu," the first scene on the first day was a kiss between Yujiro ISHIHARA and Mie KITAHARA. This kind of important scene was usually shot after actors and staff got used to the shot, and in addition, Yujiro ISHIHARA was a new face at that time so that it was a reckless shot. However, it is said that he daringly shot such an important scene at first because he had succeeded in staging his master Minoru SHIBUYA when he was an assistant director. It is said that Nakahira told Yujiro to act as usual and not to think you are acting in a film ('Legends of Masters, Diary of a Film Reviewer in the Fields' written by Shozo ISHIZAKA, published by Sanichi Shobo).
He was known as a 'stubborn' director and it is said that when shooting "Koroshita no wa dareda" working with Akira IFUKUBE, who was a 'stubborn' composer like him, people in the studio were afraid that they would conflict with one another and that the film might not be completed ("Akira IFUKUBE's unpublished collected works of film music of Nikkatsu" VPCD-81189 published by Vap Inc.). In addition, it is known that he changed an actor after the start of shooting because 'I do not like his performance' ("Biography of a Black Sheep Film Director 'Ko NAKAHIRA' written by Mami NAKAHIRA, published by Wise Publishing, Inc).
Nakahira wrote that he had a conflict with the company because he made Sanae NAKAHARA shout, 'Quiet, you! Lougheed' in the last scene of "Gakuseiyaro to Musumetachi" (this line did not exist in the scenario) and because he made Izumi ASHIKAWA, who had a pure and innocent image, play a call girl, and thought to move to another company at one point, but that it was impossible because of the Five company agreement ('Kinema Junpo' Spring special edition in 1962).
According to Hyoe ENOKI, an excellent supporting actor who had often appeared in Nakahira's films because of his performance laying his life on the line and his unique appearance, for example, the part of a killer who did a desperate stunt to become a fireball with gasoline in "Wakakute Warukute Sugoi Koitsura" (Young, evil, and excellent gays), Nakahira, who had been a dandy as a stylist since he was an assistant director, had a long face and got really mad when he was called a 'horse face' by Yasushi SUZUKI and Hyoe ENOKI at the time of shooting of "Yaro ni Kokkyo wa nai."
It is said that Nakahira broke a rule and planned the last scene of "Kuroi Tobakushi Akuma no Hidarite" starring Akira KOBAYASHI as all casts would say hello to the audience in a theater and shot that scene, but the company got mad and cut it. It seemed that Nakahira was not satisfied with this and planned to do the same thing when shooting "Seishun A Go Go" (Youth A Go Go), and as a result, he was fired as director of this film after just three days ('Film Art', on December, 1978).
It is said that Kumiko AKIYOSHI, who played the lead in "Saturday Night at the Mysteries" and paid her last respects, told that she had not noticed his suffering from terminal cancer and that he had not seem to be debilitated. Nakahira died one week after the film was completed ('Film Art', on December, 1978).
Friends and acquaintances
Nakahira noticed Kawashima's works before he entered the film industry, and continued to have a relationship with him. Nakahira disliked serious matters and identified himself as 'Nippon Keicho Huhaku Ha,' which seemed to be influenced by Kawashima to some extent.
Nakahira was also fascinated with Akira KUROSAWA. When Kurosawa shot "Shubun" (Scandal) and "Hakuchi" (The Idiot) at Shochiku, he applied to become an assistant director by himself and was favored by Kurosawa because of his vigorous activity, and they kept in touch even after that. Later, Nakahira wrote an essay about that friendship. Accordingly, Kurosawa told Nakahira that he would write a scenario and give it to him after Nakahira was promoted to director. Kurosawa also participated in Nakahira's funeral ("Biography of a Black Sheep Film Director "Ko NAKAHIRA" written by Mami NAKAHIRA, published by Wise Publishing, Inc).
She was a rare star who somehow got along with Nakahira and visited his house. It is said that the riddle which Sayuri YOSHINAGA told Mitsuo HAMADA in "Doro darake no Junjo" was that Izumi made it, as requested by Nakahira. It is also said that when she acted like a baby by requesting Nakahira buy an American doll sold at the Takashimaya Department Store, he actually bought it. She said she watched all Nakahira's films at the theater and especially watched "Yabai Koto nara Zeni ni naru" even at the fourth and the fifth run theater. In addition, Izumi often called Nakahira 'a genius' or 'a special genius' who had enough talent to work in Hollywood and said she respected him. Moreover, Izumi said she could feel and understand what Nakahira thought. Such statements by her are seen in various books. It is especially interesting that she eagerly talked about Nakahira in an interview in the book; "Full review about Seijun Suzuki by KAWADE Yume Mook" (published by Kawade Shobo) although it was a book about Seijun SUZUKI.
Other actors and staff members
Nakahira was often disliked by people around him because he had a sharp tongue and hard request for performances at the time of staging, and seemed to be unpopular among actors. However, he seemed to get along well with actresses such as Yumeji TSUKIOKA, Mie KITAHARA, Manami FUJI, Kazuko INANO, Mariko KAGA, Masako IZUMI and Shinako MINE, and appeared in some films. He praised the performances of Sanae NAKAHARA and Misako WATANABE and in addition, he liked Chikako HOSOKAWA and Teruko KISHI and had them appear in his works. He especially seemed to favor the performance of Sanae NAKAHARA who could speak fast, so that she was the actress who appeared most often in Nakahira's films, that is, in the 11 films.
Hideaki NITANI seemed to be an actor who understood Nakahira well. He not only appeared in many of his works, but also appeared in the Nakahira's last film "Hensokyoku" only as a picture and reading a line. It is famous that he fought with Kirio URAYAMA like cats and dogs.
He had a relationship with artists and novelists such as Yojiro ISHIZAKA and Rensaburo SHIBATA, and it is said that Junnosuke YOSHIYUKI, who was the writer of "Suna no ue no Shokubutsugun" (Plants on sand), was his drinking companion.
Actors who played the part of Ko NAKAHIRA
In 2004 "A brother" (TV Asahi Corporation Network). It was a drama about the life of Yujiro ISHIHARA played by famous actors and actresses. There was a scene where Nakahira staged "Kurutta Kajitsu," in which he imposed difficult performances on Yujiro ISHIHARA (Satoru TOKUSHIGE) and was rejected by Yujiro on the contrary, which led to a volatile situation, and Makiko ISHIHARA (Yukie NAKAMA) stopped them. There was also a scene in a preview of the film, in which he got mad and left the preview room because there were complaints about his staging by Shintaro ISHIHARA (Tomoya NAGASE).
His nickname was 'Zu-san.'
It was named this because he had the same name 'Ko' as a film director Ko SASAKI whose nickname was 'Zu' because he spoke Zu-zu-ben (a dialect in the Tohoku region) ("Biography of a Black Sheep Film Director "Ko NAKAHIRA" written by Mami NAKAHIRA, published by Wise Publishing, Inc).
It is said that he was such a posey and perverse fellow as he lived in a unique house which had a back door inside of the front gate and an entrance to the backyard although a common house had the entrance inside of the front gate ("Legends of Masters, Diary of a Film Reviewer in the Fields" written by Shozo ISHIZAKA, published by Sanichi Shobo).
The pace of the story in Ko NAKAHIRA's films was extremely fast, but Nakahira said; 'My film is not too fast. The pace of other directors' films are slow' and that 'fast' or 'slow' pace depended on the nature of the whole film rather than the small cutting and editing ('Kinema Junpo' issued in early March, 1959).
According to the December issue of 'Film Art' in 1978, Seijun SUZUKI often went to the preview of Nakahira's films. In addition, Seijun SUZUKI contributed a memorial address titled 'A person who crashed' in the pamphlet and book at the time of 'Ko NAKAHIRA Retrospective' in 1999.
Nakahira, who loved chanson, wrote the words to the theme song of "Gaito" and made Teruo HATA sing it (composed by Masaru SATO). In "Ryojin Nikki" there is a scene where Akihiro MIWA sang chanson at Ginpari (a cafe for chanson). In addition, the theme song of "Wakakute Warukute Sugoi Koitsura" written by Shuntaro TANIGAWA (sung by Hideki TAKAHASHI - an actor) is now legendary with its desperate and sidesplitting words. Moreover, Nakahira wrote the words of the theme song for "Kuroi Tobakushi Akuma no Hidarite," in which the meaningless word 'Jordania' was shouted repeatedly, and which is famous for the melancholy voice of Akira KOBAYASHI.
According to Nakahira's essay, "Ero Gro Nonsense Kojin ni Misetakatta Eiga" (Erotic and grotesque nonsense: the films I wanted to show the people in the past) he was an ardent fan of science fiction and read almost all of the mysteries and SF series published by Hayakawa Shobo. But he did not like what you call the authentic science fiction and favored those such as; 'the collection of short stories of unique writers,' and among the SF films he praised "Barbarella" highly and wrote that 'I wish the late Yuzo KAWASHIMA could have seen it' ('Film Art' issued on November in 1968).
The name of Ko NAKAHIRA in Hong Kong was written as '楊樹希' which was sounded 'Yeung Shu Hei.'
It seems that it was named after his name 'Ko,' which could also be pronounced as 'Yasushi.'
The three works at the Shaw Brothers except "Hiten Joro," that is, "Tokkei 009" (Interpol), "Summer Heat" and "Hunter," were made into Digital Versatile Disc in Hong Kong later.
At first, his debut film was planned to be neither "Nerawareta Otoko" nor "Kurutta Kajitsu" but 'Ka chan' (Mother) written by Shugoro YAMAMOTO. Nakahira himself hoped to make it into a film and the company allowed him to make it on the condition that Kinuyo TANAKA would play the lead, but it was not realized. Ka chan' was later made into a film in 2001 by Kon ICHIKAWA, who was a film director of the modern school as well as Nakahira, starring Keiko KISHI ('Kinema Junpo' Spring special edition in 1962).
Among his works Nakahira especially loved "Kurutta Kajitsu," "Gaito," "Yuwaku," "Kurenai no tsubasa" (Crimson Wings), "Saijo Katagi," and so on.