Tasaka Tomotaka (田坂具隆)

Tomotaka TASAKA (April 14, 1902 - October 17, 1974) was a Japanese film director. He was married to the actress Hisako TAKIHANA. His younger brother Katsuhiko TASAKA was also a film director. He was a native of Hiroshima Prefecture.

Biography and Personal Profile

Tasaka was born in the Seto Inlands Sea fishing village of Nutahigashi Village in Toyota-gun, Hiroshima Prefecture (modern-day Nutahigahi-cho, Mihara City). The village is now an urban area. When he was five years old, his mother died and he was raised by his father in Kyoto. When he was older he entered the Daisan Koto Gakko (former Third High School; now Kyoto University) but had to withdraw when his father's business failed. After working as a reporter for a small newspaper company, he was drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army but was made exempt from military service due to his poor health. Tasaka took this as an opportunity to join Nikkatsu Daishogun Studios in 1924 despite opposition from his strict father. He became an assistant director and worked under directors including Frank TOKUNAGA, Genjiro MIMURA, Minoru MURATA, Kenji MIZOGUCHI, and Kensaku SUZUKI before being promoted to director after only three years. After making his directorial debut with "Kabocha Sodoki" (literally, pumpkin fuss), he released renowned works in a number of genres including "Jonetsu no Fuchin" (Rise and Fall of Love), "Orishan no kyoji" (The Gallant Child of Orishan), "Kankanmushi wa Utau" (lit. "The Rust Chipper Sings"), "Kono Haha wo Miyo" (Behold This Mother), and "Haru to Musume" (Spring and A Girl). These works led to the expectation that he would become an expert director of intelligent melodrama in the silent film era of the early Showa period. Tasaka came to the fore with his major hit "Kokoro no Jitsugetsu" (Heart of Reality) starring Takako IRIE, and he came to make films according to his own plans. In 1932, a dispute with Nikkatsu Uzumasa Studios caused Tasaka, Tomu UCHIDA, Daisuke ITO (a director), Minoru MURATA and others to form 'the Nananin-gumi' (lit. "Group of Seven"); becoming independent from Nikkatsu and establishing a new film company but this was dissolved. Tomotaka's success with "Tsuki Yorino Shisha" (A Messenger from the Moon) and "Meiji Ichidai Onna" (The Life of A Woman in The Meiji period) for Shinko Kinema allowed Tasaka to return to Nikkatsu Tama-gawa Studios.

He demonstrated an ever increasing ability and entered his film making prime with films including "Shinjitsu Ichiro" (The Straight Path of Sincerity) based on a novel by Yuzo YAMAMOTO. His second Yamamoto adaptation "Robo no Ishi" (The Wayside Pebble) became Tasaka's representative masterpiece reflecting his sincere personality brimming with humanism. In his war films "Gonin no Sekkohei" (Five Scouts) and "Tsuchi to Heitai" (Mud and Soldiers), he did not forget to show cast a positive light on the humanity of fighting soldiers.

"Gonin no Sekkohei" won the Italian Popular Culture Ministry Award at the sixth Venice International Film Festival held in 1938. "Tsuchi to Heitai" won the Best Japanese Movie Award in the Seventh Venice International Film Festival in 1939. "Gonin no Sekkohei" was the first Japanese film to be awarded prizes a three of the worlds major film festivals.

During the Pacific War, Tasaka shot films which in conformed to national policy including "Kaigun" (Navy) based on a novel by Toyoo IWATA (Bunroku SHISHI) and "Hisshoka" (Song of Victory). Tasaka was drafted in 1945, the final year of the war, and while stationed in his hometown of Hiroshima with his unit, he was in the vicinity when the atomic bomb was dropped in August. Being in the toilet afforded him some protection but he developed radiation sickness and after the war spent a long time undergoing medical treatment. After a four year struggle against the disease, he made a brief recovery and joined Daiei Tokyo Studios where he made a comeback with "Doburoku no Tatsu" (Tatsu The Drunkard) which gained attention for the actor Ryutaro TATSUMI's first film appearance. Returning to his former humanitarian path, Tasaka released the family drama masterpiece "Yukiwariso" (Hepatica), and "Nagasaki no Uta wa Wasureji" (I'll Never Forget the Song of Nagasaki) into which he incorporated his own experiences as an atomic bomb victim to raise the issue of the atomic bomb. However, a relapse of his radiation sickness forced him to spend three more years fighting the condition. During the period, his wife, the actress Hisako TAKIHANA devoted herself to supporting her husband. In the belief that 'nobody could comprehend the horror of the atomic bomb even if were to describe it,' he rarely spoke of his atomic bomb experience.

Fortunately he made another recovery and joined Nikkatsu Corporation which had resumed its film making activities. Tasaka brought out the lively acting style of Sachiko HIDARI in "Jochukko" (The Maid's Kid). In "Ubaguruma" (Baby Carriage), "Hi no Ataru Sakamichi" (The Sunny Slope) and "Wakai Kawa no Nagare" (The Stream of Youth), he brought out a new side to Yujiro ISHIHARA that was different from that exhibited in taiyozoku (juvenile delinquency-themed films) and action films. In 1960, he transferred to Toei at the company's invitation and brought out the charm of Kinnosuke YOROZUYA in "Shinran" and "Chiisakobe" (A Carpenter and Children) which, although period films, did not include any fighting scenes. He also released the renowned children's film "Hadakakko" (Run Genta Run) in which Inako ARIMA played as a teacher. Tasaka skillfully awakened Yoshiko SAKUMA to acting in "Goban-cho Yugiri-ro" (Evening Mist Tower of the Fifth Town) and "Mizuumi no Koto" (The Strings Cleansed at the Lake), and similarly awakened Yoshiko MITA to acting in "Same" (The Shark) and "Hiyameshi to Osan to Chan" (Cold Rice, Osan, Chan) in which she co-starred with Kinnosuke NAKAMURA. These two actresses were entrusted to Takasa by Toei which had previously focused on male performers, and he worked with them prolifically in his later years.

He was again confined to his sickbed from 1968 and he passed away on October 17, 1974. He died at the age of 72.

Takasa was a friendly person and had close relationships with a narrow circle of acquaintances including his old screenwriter Kajiro YAMAMOTO and cinematographer Saburo ISAYAMA. Tasaka was a great master who stuck faithfully to his own path throughout his life.

Yoji YAMADA said "Robo no Ishi" (directed by Tasaka) motivated him to become a movie director when he watched it during his elementary school days at a theater in Hoten, China.

The 1951 film "Yukiwariso" depicted a serious family conflict in the style of a light-hearted family drama but it met with mediocre box-office ratings and reviews in Japan. However, when the film was introduced to India along with "Rashomon" (Rasho-mon Gate), it gained attention as a picture as excellent as "Rashomon" and spawned many imitations, having a major effect on Indian cinema. It can be said that many of its themes and styles that were seen as mediocre in Japan had a realism that strongly appealed in India. When the news of Tasaka's death reached the venue of the International Film Festival of India being held in New Delhi, Indian film personalities offered silent prayer for the spirit of Tasaka in memory of "Yukiwariso."