Nobuhiko Obayashi, one of Japan's most prolific filmmakers who devoted his works to depicting war's horrors and singing the eternal power of movies, has died. He was 82.
The official site for his latest film, "Labyrinth of Cinema," said that Obayashi died late Friday.
Obayashi was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2016, and was told he had just a few months. But he continued working, appearing frail and often in a wheelchair.
"Labyrinth of Cinema" had been scheduled to be released in Japan on the day of his death. The date has been pushed back because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has closed theaters.
"Director Obayashi fought his sickness to the day of the scheduled release of his film. Rest in peace, director Obayashi, you who loved films so much you kept on making them," the announcement said.
The film was showcased at the Tokyo International Film Festival last year, which honored him as a "cinematic magician" and screened several of his other works.
Obayashi stayed stubbornly true to his core pacifist message through more than 40 movies and thousands of TV shows, commercials and other video.
His films have kaleidoscopic, fairy tale-like imagery repeating his trademark motifs of colorful Japanese festivals, dripping blood, marching doll-like soldiers, shooting stars and winding cobblestone roads.
"Labyrinth of Cinema" is an homage to filmmaking. Its main characters, young Japanese men who go to an old movie theater but increasingly get sucked into crises, have names emulating Obayashi's favorite cinematic giants, Francois Truffaut, Mario Bava and Don Seigel.
Obayashi's "Miss Lonely," released in 1985, was shot in seaside Onomichi, the picturesque town in Hiroshima prefecture where Obayashi grew up and made animation clips by hand.
His other popular films include his 1977 "House," a horror comedy about youngsters who amble into a haunted house, and "Hanagatami," released in 2017, another take on his perennial themes of young love and the injustices of war that unfolds in iridescent hues.
Obayashi was a trailblazer in the world of Japanese TV commercials, hiring foreign movie stars like Catherine Deneuve and Charles Bronson, highlighted in his slick film work that seemed to symbolize Japan's postwar modernization.
He was born in 1938, and his childhood overlapped with World War II, years remembered for Japan's aggression and atrocities against its neighbors but also a period during which Japanese people suffered hunger, abuse and mass deaths. His pacifist beliefs were reinforced by his father, an army doctor, who also gave him his first 8-millimeter camera.
His works lack Hollywood's action-packed plots and neat finales. Instead, they appear to start from nowhere and end, then start up again, weaving in and out of scenes, often traveling in time.
During an Associated Press interview in 2019, Obayashi stressed his belief in the power of movies. Movies like his, he says, ask that important question: Where do you stand?
"Movies are not weak," he said, looking offended at such an idea. "Movies express freedom."
He said then he was working on another film, while acknowledging he was aware of the limitations of his health, all the work taking longer.
At the end of the interview, he said he wanted to demonstrate his lifetime goal for his filmmaking. He showed his hand, three fingers held up in the sign language of "I love you."
"Let's value freedom with all our might. Let's have no lies," said Obayashi.
Obayashi is survived by his wife Kyoko Obayashi, an actress and film producer, and their daughter Chigumi, an actress.
A ceremony to mourn his death was being planned, according to Japanese media, but details were not immediately available. The Tokyo city and central government have requested that public gatherings are avoided because of the pandemic.
Disney and Pixar's fantasy film "Onward" dominated North American box office with a solid 40 million U.S. dollars in its opening weekend.
The all-new original film also earned 28 million dollars in 47 material territories for a global debut of 68 million dollars, according to studio figures collected by measurement firm Comscore.
The film is directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae -- the team behind 2013's "Monsters University."
Set in a suburban fantasy world, the story introduces two teenage elf brothers, Ian and Barley, who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there that will bring back their deceased father.
"Onward" is Pixar Animation Studios' 22nd feature film. It is inspired by Scanlon's personal experiences with his brother and their connection with their dad who passed away when Scanlon was about a year old.
"My father has always been a mystery to us. A family member sent us a tape recording of him saying just two words: 'hello' and 'goodbye.' Two words. But to my brother and me, it was magic," said Scanlon in a press briefing.
The film features the voices of Tom Holland as Ian, Chris Pratt as Barley and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as their mother.
"I think what's amazing and what Dan has been able to do on this film is tell a very personal story in a universal way. And that's because he didn't get too attached to all of the specifics of his own story, but just enough that would feed a global universal story," Rae said in an earlier interview with Xinhua, adding that this modern suburban fantasy film is a new genre for Pixar.
"I do think it's a story about your family, where you come from, how your ancestry and your lineage affect who you are and who you're going to become. Yeah. That's deeply ingrained in what this film is," Scanlon said.
"As someone who never knew his father, I am fascinated by the history of my family and what kind of missing blueprint of who I should become or avoid becoming," he said. "I've always been interested in film and wanting to tell stories."
The film received a positive "A-" CinemaScore from audiences and holds an approval rating of 86 percent based on 225 reviews to date on review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes.
The Elisabeth Moss-led thriller "The Invisible Man" rode a wave of good reviews to a very visible spot atop the box office this weekend. Universal Pictures on Sunday estimated that the film from writer-director Leigh Whannell earned $29 million from North American theaters. Internationally, the Blumhouse production picked up an additional $20.2 million.
Whannell helped dust off the classic H.G. Wells story and update it for modern audiences by focusing on Moss' victim character instead of the Invisible Man character, who here is an abusive ex-boyfriend.
"The Invisible Man" carried a relatively modest budget, costing under $10 million to produce, and exceeded expectations by a few million dollars. The film, which had been well-received by critics, drew diverse audiences to the theaters (46% Caucasian, 20% African American and 18% Hispanic), according to exit polls.
"We couldn't be more pleased," said Jim Orr, Universal's president of domestic distribution. "(Whannell) brought this century-old character to life in a very clever and relevant way."
The studio expects it to continue to play well into March, although it will have some extra competition when "A Quiet Place Part II" opens on March 20.
Paramount Pictures' "Sonic the Hedgehog" slid to second place in its third weekend in theaters adding $16 million and bringing its domestic total to $128.3 million. "The Call of the Wild," with Harrison Ford, placed third in its second weekend with $13.2 million.
Fourth place went to the anime superhero film "My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising" which opened to $6.3 million from just 1,260 screens.
"We should never underestimate films like this that may not have broad recognition among the general public," said Comscore's senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian.
"Bad Boys for Life" rounded out the top five with $4.3 million in its seventh weekend. The Will Smith and Martin Lawrence pic is just shy of reaching the $200 million mark in North America and has earned over $400 million globally.
In limited release, "Wendy," Benh Zeitlin's long-awaited follow-up to his Oscar-nominated film "Beasts of the Southern Wild," got off to a bumpy start with just $30,000 from four theaters. The Peter Pan-inspired film has garnered mixed reviews from critics and will be expanding in the coming weeks.
Although it's still early in the year, overall the box office is up nearly 3.5%.
"This weekend it was business as usual in North American theaters," Dergarabedian said. "People went to the movies to escape the trials and tribulations of the real world."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Where available, the latest international numbers for Friday through Sunday are also included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Invisible Man," $29 million ($20.2 million international).
2. "Sonic The Hedgehog," $16 million ($26.8 million international).
3. "The Call of the Wild," $13.2 million ($11 million international).
4. "My Hero Academia: Heroes Rising," $6.3 million ($117,000 international).
5. "Bad Boys for Life," $4.3 million ($4.9 million international).
6. "Birds of Prey," $4.1 million ($4.6 million international).
7. "Impractical Jokers: The Movie," $3.5 million.
8. "1917," $2.7 million ($5.3 million international).
9. "Brahms: The Boy II," $2.6 million ($2.4 million international).
10. "Blumhouse's Fantasy Island," $2.3 million ($1.9 million international).
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at international theaters (excluding the U.S. and Canada), according to Comscore:
1. "Sonic The Hedgehog," $26.8 million.
2. "The Invisible Man," $20.2 million.
3. "The Call of the Wild," $11 million.
4. "The Gentlemen," $8.5 million.
5. "Dolittle," $6.4 million.
6. "Parasite," $5.8 million.
7. "1917," $5.3 million.
8. "Bad Boys for Life," $4.9 million.
9. "Birds of Prey," $4.6 million.
10. "10 Jours Sans Maman," $2.7 million.
The Elisabeth Moss-led thriller "The Invisible Man" rode a wave of good reviews to a very visible spot atop the box office this weekend. Universal Pictures on Sunday estimated that the film from writer-director Leigh Whannell earned $29 million from North American theaters. Internationally, it picked up an additional $20.2 million.
"The Invisible Man" carried a relatively modest budget, costing under $10 million to produce.
"Sonic the Hedgehog" slid to second place in its third weekend in theaters with $16 million. "The Call of the Wild," with Harrison Ford, placed third in its second weekend with $13.2 million.
And in limited release, Benh Zeitlin's re-imagining of the Peter Pan myth, "Wendy," got off to a bumpy start with just $30,000 from four theaters.
Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof's "There Is No Evil" won the Golden Bear prize Saturday for best picture at the Berlin Film Festival. Rasoulof wasn't there to accept the award due to a travel ban imposed on him by Iranian authorities.
"There Is No Evil" tells four stories loosely connected to the use of the death penalty in Iran and dealing with personal freedom under tyranny.
The Berlin festival jury led by actor Jeremy Irons chose the film over 17 others competing for the prize, including Sally Potter's "The Road Not Taken," a remake of "Berlin Alexanderplatz," and "Siberia," starring Willem Dafoe and Dounia Sichov.
Organizers left an empty chair and name sign for Rasoulof at the news conference for his entry. Germany's dpa news agency reported that Rasoulof's daughter, Baran, accepted the Golden Bear award on his behalf.
The Silver Bear for best actress went to Paul Beer for her performance in "Undine" and the Silver Bear for best actor to Elio Germano for his role in "Hidden Away." Best screenplay went to the D'Innocenzo brothers, Damiano and Fabio, for "Bad Tales."