Every Harada film is a work of passion, a style that avoids any pretention for revolutionizing a genre in vain, and centers on the admirable task of maintaining in his artistic will, without pretenses or contemporary allegories beyond the simple act of telling a great story.
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[eltdf_dropcaps type=”normal” color=”” background_color=””]M[/eltdf_dropcaps]asato Harada holds a special place in the history of Japanese cinema as one of the country’s most purposeful contemporary directors. He mixes plurality with directness in every frame with the common thread of delivering strong social messages and an examination of the line between ethics and treason.
Harada is a fan of fantasy and science fiction, particularly the works of Isaac Asimov, and is devoted to contextualizing that reality in his visual style. His filmography is identified by a certain dissent and rebellion against Hollywood, as well as a measured approximation. These characteristics keep him aware of the universal characteristics of cinema, while staying true to his own history, a spontaneous naturalism turned into form.
Harada was born in 1949 in Numazu, located east of Shizuoka in Japan, more than a hundred kilometers west of Tokyo. At the age of five, he attended the Numazu Central Theater, where he first saw Fred Zinneman’s The Search (1948). The scene where Montgomery Clift gives a loaf of bread to a war orphan (played by Ivan Jandi) would become the first image printed into Harada’s memory. The impact of the black-andwhite movies he saw during his early days in Numazu is a clear influence in his narrative and cinematic style.
Sometime in 1954, while Kurosawa was shooting Seven Samurai in Gotemba, very close to Harada’s hometown, Masato’s mother’s impulse for seeing her favorite actor, Isao Kimura, brought Masato close to cinema once more. Harada would always remember, not Kurosawa or actor Toshiro Mifune, but the magnificent images of the Samurai on horseback. This experience would turn him into a big fan of the Jidaigeki genre, Japanese era dramas that explore the physical and psychological nature of the Samurai and the art of sword wielding. Harada wished to study cinema, so in 1972 he moved to London. During American director Howard Hawks’ tribute at the National Film Theater, Masato became fascinated with Only Angels Have Wings (1939). During this period, Harada collaborated with Kinema Jumpo, Japan’s oldest film magazine, covering events and writing reviews. This job brought him to the San Sebastian Film Festival, where Howard Hawks would head the jury. It was there, in Spain, that the young filmmaker met his mentor.
In 1973, Harada moved to Los Angeles. Throughout the 1970s, he was active as a film reporter and critic in several Japanese newspapers and magazines. In 1979, he wrote and directed his first feature film, Goodbye Flickmania, a film that became a tribute to Howard Hawks through the story of a friendship between a 40-year-old film aficionado and a 19-year-old man still immersed in adolescence at this youngadult age. Harada’s feature debut had an immediate impact as a new dimension for critically acclaimed Japanese cinema. From here on, with a career spanning four decades and over 20 film productions, his filmography went through every point that anyone who becomes an international reference must. Masato Harada confesses that filmmaking is a frustrating process and success requires a path filled with obstacles. Proof of his transcendence is his bold desire to uphold filmmaking’s mystique, his social critiques, his confrontations with taboo subjects, the special complexity he employs in elements of fantasy and horror, his proximity to Japanese culture, and the wild strength of his native language, as well as his various films that have become cult classics abroad. From his debut to his most recent effort, 2015’s The Emperor in August, the highlights of his filmography include The Heartbreak Yakuza, Kamikaze Taxi, Jubaku/Spellbound, Kakekomi and Chronicle Of My Mother, for which he won the Jury Prize at the 2011 Festival des Films du Monde de Montréal,
among many others. In 2003, Harada made his acting debut with Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe in The Last Samurai, as Omura, a powerful statesman in the Emperor’s court. Masato Harada in an internationally renowned director, in constant movement from one story to the next, making a name from one country to the next, never leaving aside his beloved Japan. Harada will continue to make cinema in this play of geographies, using his vision to transcend borders.