Nobuhiko Obayashi––OB to friends––is best known to the Japanese cinema audiences as the director who shot classics such as Exchange Students, The Little Girl Who Conquered Time, and Lonelyheart. These three box-office hits made in 1980s led his name being associated with that period, often overshadowing a lengthy and proliferous career spanning some forty years.
Apart from his debut feature House––nowadays regarded as a cult classic––OB’s work remains largely unknown outside of Japan, perhaps because his broad range of themes and varied formal choices don’t present a coherent picture of the kind film critics might seek in an auteur. It is precisely this versatility that is his most attractive quality, together with his homemade approach to filmmaking: OB writes, directs, edits, scores, while his wife Kyoko produces. The “PSC Editing Suite,” so often credited in his films, is a fifteen square meter room in the back of a small office in a nondescript Tokyo apartment block, a mere ten-minute walk from his house. OB retains the rights to many of his films through his company PSC.
With a selection of what we consider his finest work within each of the genres he tackled, this world-premiere retrospective aims at presenting a comprehensive overview of his creative output. His filmography is best appreciated by following its evolution over the decades. It is only through spending time with his supernatural schoolgirls, middle-aged men in crisis or eccentric grandfathers that a sensitivity clearly emerges, that of a man believing in humanity’s essential goodness, yet unable to let go of persistent feelings of melancholia.
Using a film language accessible to all, OB has chosen to depict life’s joys and tragedies with astonishing visual flair, and more importantly, unflinching sincerity. That’s why we believe his films will also appeal to foreign audiences, even those unfamiliar with Japanese culture. While the local flavor is strong and charming, ––the director’s love for traditional Japan permeates his entire work––his stories are so universal and carefully crafted as to always be engaging.
We hope to find a venue for this retrospective in which interaction between OB and his newfound audience will be encouraged. He himself is deeply involved in grassroots initiatives in Japan, supporting citizen-based film festivals, hosting filmmaking workshops, as well as publishing books explaining his craft.
Nobuhiko Obayashi is a major creative figure in Japanese cinema, still active at seventy-five. It is high time we celebrate a film director who continues to genuinely believe in the magic of movies.