OBITUARIES: Eiji Okada

Although he worked with some of the foremost Japanese directors, Eiji Okada will be best remembered in the West for Alain Resnais' first feature, Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959), swept abroad by the then burgeoning nouvelle vague.

Marguerite Duras wrote the screenplay (after Francoise Sagan turned down the chance to do so) and said that she and Resnais had "agreed that we could not imagine a film about Japan which did not deal with Hiroshima": so they conceived a tale about a Japanese architect, played by Okada, and a French actress, Emmanuele Riva, who remember the past while conducting an adulterous affair in that city. His parents were killed there, but he was away. "Une chance, quoi," she says. "Oui," he replies. "Une chance, pour moi aussi," she replies, a banality overlooked at the time.

Memories of the Second World War also featured in The Ugly American (1963), since a friendship begun then is one reason why Marlon Brando is appointed ambassador to this particular, unnamed South-East Asian country; the friend, Okada, is now a powerful nationalist leader and a putative Communist puppet. In both films Okada gave performances of memorable integrity and gentle strength.

Coincidentally, there was a French angle to Okada's first film, Till We Meet Again (1950), since it was "inspired" by Pierre et Luce, by Romain Rolland, which Okada had recommended to Tadashi Imai. During the last days of the war a boy, played by Okada, about to leave for the front, falls in love with a girl (Yoshiko Kuga) working in a munitions factory. Okada worked again for Imai in Monument of Star Lilies (1953), a study of the 1945 bombardment of Okinawa in which he plays a soldier, and A Story of Pure Love (1957), a drama about teenage delinquents in which he was a police inspector.

None of these three films shows Imai at his best, which is when his compassion for the poor and underprivileged is perfectly countered by his indignation. His predecessor in this respect - though he was more resigned than angry - was Mikio Nacuse, who directed Okada's most effective film, Mother (1952), about a family just coping. This is a common subject in Japanese cinema, and Nacuse is its master. Okada played the elder daughter's fond admirer.

Following his two "Western" films Okada did two native efforts widely seen abroad: Susumu Hani's She and He (1963), a marital drama in which Sachiko Hidari is attracted to a ragpicker when her businessman husband, Okada, neglects her; and Hiroshi Teshigahara's Woman of the Dunes (1964), a gallows comedy in which Okada is an entomologist kept prisoner by a crazy woman, Kyoko Kishida, who lives in the sand. He continued to act, but the only film of his seen widely in the West was The Yakuza (1975), directed by Sidney Pollack, with Robert Mitchum - who is sent to Tokyo to rescue a girl kidnapped by a gang headed by Okada.

David Shipman

Eiji Okada, actor: born 13 June 1920; died 14 September 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...