Eiji Okuda and me, and his Cinema…

My first contact with Eiji Okuda came a bit over thirty years ago, even though it wasn’t a physical nor a communicative one: two movies brought us together. My first feature film, “Keiko”, had been a surprising success in the Japanese industry, breaking quite a few records for an Independent film. The Toho company, despite the fact that they had turned us down in the first place, decided to “give us a second chance”. They offered to book “Keiko” as a double bill with another successful Independent Film, “Mo Hozue wa Tsukanai”, by director Higashi Yoichi and starring Kaori Momoi and Eiji Okuda. What a match!… Two years of showing the two films all over Japan definitely made it for me!… The thirtieth anniversary release of “Keiko” came out on DVD last year.

Mo Hozue wa Tsukanai Keiko

It would take something like another 11 years before I would meet Eiji in the flesh. He made the perfect handsome young japanese “pianist” that I was looking for to play in my movie “The Pianist”. The meeting was memorable: I discovered a passionate, intense and dedicated man, someone with a vision, a direction. He was an excellent actor, a perfect drinking companion and someone up to any type of challenge that we could bring up to him.

The Pianist.tiff

During the several weeks of piano rehearsal and the shoot in Montreal, Eiji’s wife Kazu and their two young daughters, Momo and Sakura came to visit. They spent several days playing with our daughter Marilou and Chunk, the family dog. Today, Sakura has become a very successful actress and Momo just completed her first feature film as a director. Her movie “Kakera” is now being shown all over Japan, including her father’s theater in Shimonoseki, the Scalaza Theater Zero.

Kakera.tiff sakura-ando-thumb.jpg

My relationship with Eiji didn’t stop there. In 2002, he became the Japanese co-producer of my movie “Revival Blues” and played the lead role in it, next to Kaori Momoi, the very same who played in Mo Hozue wa Tsukanai, after a mutual wait of twenty years, and Takeshi Naitoh. Eiji gave a fabulous performance in this film.

DVDjyaketto.jpg

This is also Eiji, as producer of “Revival Blues”, who facilitated my now long time association with Takako Miyahira, director of “Looking For Anne”. She had been hired in Okinawa just for one week, as assistant cameraman, but was so dedicated to the job that Eiji agreed to bring her with us to Tokyo for the rest of the shoot, instead of hiring a local technician. And I’m still working with her to this day…

As all this was not enough, Eiji, who has since become a several times award winning director in his own right, also played a major role in the production of my last feature film, “Kamataki”.

Kamataki.tiff

Eiji is now the proud owner of a very nice, two screens cinema in Shimonoseki where we will hopefully play “Looking For Anne”. He got the cinema from Toho a few years ago and made it into a very interesting Art House Cinema as you can see in this video:


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