Saturday, May 8, 2010

Kei Sato - R.I.P.

Veteran Japanese actor Kei Sato died on Thursday last week at the age of 81. Sato-san may not be a household name, but he has a face you can not forget with a hook nose and a curl to his full lips. He got his first role in 1959 as Shinjo, the sympathetic friend to Kaji, in Part 2 of Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition and continued a steady stream of memorable supporting roles including parts in recent films like Azumi (2003) and The Whispering of the Gods (2005). He also played the unfortunate neighbor who got caught in the web of the seducing, murdering duo in the classic horror film Onibaba. Kei Sato is probably best known, however, for the roles he played in Nagisa Oshima's films from the late 60s. Oshima put Sato in a variety of roles that ranged from the hapless (Death by Hanging) to abstract (Japanese Summer: Double Suicide) to the sinister (Violence at Noon.)

It was this last film, Violence at Noon, where Kei Sato gives one of his most powerful performances as the sweaty, leering serial rapist. Violence at Noon feels like a collaboration between Oshima's visual audacity and Sato's unrelenting guile.

Kei Sato stars in four of the five films included in Eclipse's Oshima's Outlaw Sixties, to be released later this month.

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