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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Happy Birthday: Ryuhei Kitamura

Born May 30, 1969 in Osaka, Japan, Ryuhei Kitamura is a Japanese director. His films include Versus, Godzilla: Final Wars, Skyhigh, Azumi (my favorite movie of all time) and Midnight Meat Train, based on the Clive Barker story, as well as others. His movies tend to be violent, bloody, fast-paced and kinetic, but also often humorous.

I discovered Kitamura back in 2005, just before I went to Kansai Gaidai as an exchange student. At that time, Newtype USA was still in print. A leading magazine on Japan, anime, movies, and more, they had run an interview with Kitamura about his upcoming film Azumi. I watched his breakout film Versus and fell in love with it. Low budget and violent, think Evil Dead except the zombies shoot guns. When I went to Japan, I bought my first official Japanese movie DVD: Skyhigh. I was able to rent Azumi and absolutely fell in love with the movie: the story, the action, everything.

Shortly afterwards, I began getting my hands on everything he had directed. His segment on Jam Films is my favorite. An interesting film, and one I recommend is Duel Project. Kitamura teamed with director Yukihiko Tsutsumi for an interesting premise: the directors were given a theme, duel, and had one week to direct a film with only a minimum of characters and also only one setting. The resulting films, 2LDK and Aragami, are completely different from each other and yet showcase their respective director's style.

In 2004, Kitamura directed the final Godzilla film, Godzilla: Final Wars. This film has gotten mixed reviews but I love it.

Kitamura grew up in Osaka but quit high school at age 17 and moved to Sydney, Australia to study filmmaking. He didn't like the films Japan was making and want to make his films his way. He came back to Japan several years later and started his production company, Napalm Films. Besides directing, he write or co-writes most of his films, has produced other films, been involved in other project, and directed the cut scenes for the video game Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes.

Ryuhei Kitamura is a visual director reminiscescent of Sam Raimi. Kinetic, funny, and bold, he is a confident filmmaker that does things his way. I highly recommend him.

Filmography (major works only)
Godzilla: Final Wars
The Midnight Meat Train
No One Lives

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