Yoshimitsu Morita

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TOKYO  Director Yoshimitsu Morita, whose films depicted the absurdity and vulnerability of everyday life in conformist Japan, has died. He was 61.

Morita, who won international acclaim over his prolific 30-year career, died Tuesday of acute liver failure at a Tokyo hospital, said Yoko Ota, spokeswoman at Toei Co., the film company behind his latest work.

Morita's movies were distinctly Japanese, depicting the fragile beauty of the nation's human psyche and visual landscape while daringly poking fun at its ridiculous tendency for rigid bureaucracy and ritualistic hierarchy.

Morita made a splash among global film buffs with 1983's "Family Game," starring Yusaku Matsuda of "Black Rain" as an offbeat tutor who forms a heartwarming relationship with a young man in a stereotypical middle-class family.

Its striking cinematography, focusing on rows and rows of identical apartments and people dining solemnly sitting side by side, was an exhilarating parody of Japanese family values.

His works were shown at many international film festivals, including Berlin and Montreal.

They included "Tsubaki Sanjuro," a 2007 remake of the 1962 classic by Akira Kurosawa, as well as works based on novels such as Soseki Natsume's poetic "Sorekara" and Junichi Watanabe's "Shitsurakuen."

"Bokutachi Kyuko A Ressha de Iko," a comedy about train lovers starring Kenichi Matsuyama of Tran Anh Hung's "Norwegian Wood," will be released posthumously next year, Toei said Wednesday.

Funeral arrangements were still undecided. Morita is survived by his wife, Misao.

Published in The Record on Dec. 22, 2011
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