Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nogami Teruyo and Nakadai Tatsuya at the Japan Society - One of the Greatest Moments of My Life!

Tonight, at New York's 100 year-old Japan Society, I had an incomparable experience. This month and next, the Japan Society is featuring two major film events: one entitled "Japan Cuts"; and a retrospective of the work of Nakadai Tatsuya (仲代 達矢), arguably Japan's greatest living actor. The latter is the Nakadai Retrospective--a co-production with Film Forum (where the films are being screened).

In honor of Nakadai-san's work with legendary director, Kurosawa Akira (黒澤 明), Japan Society hosted an appearance, on June 25, by Kurosawa's 50+ -year "right hand", his "script girl" -- and, later, Assistant Producer -- Nogami Teruyo. Nogami was interviewed by Michael Jeck before a sold out audience and signed copies of her book, "Waiting on the Weather". The book is a recollection of Nogami's work with Kurosawa.

During the interview with the magical 81 year-old lady, with her shock of white hair, vibrant personality and lightning fast responses (through a translator) to Jeck's questions, clips of Kurosawa's films were played. At one point, Moderator Jeck said that he would show a specific clip and, afterward, that he and Nogami-san would be joined by a "special guest". The clip was from Kurosawa's late-career masterpiece Ran (乱)--a scene featuring Nakadai Tatsuya in a moment of Lord Hidetora's Lear-like madness. The lights came up and Jeck motioned to the front row of the audience where he called up, to our shock and surprise, none other than NAKADAI HIMSELF! Not only were we in the presence of the greatness of Nogami-san, we now had the legendary Nakadai, in New York City, right there on stage with her. I literally gasped as the 75 year-old Nakadai, still the handsome movie star -- appearing some 15-20 years younger than his age -- nearly lept to the stage. He joined Nogami in answering questions, but I nearly didn't hear the answers... I was completely star-struck!

Nakadai Tatsuya and Nogami Teruyo at the Japan Society 6/25/2008

This, however, was not the only extraordinary moment for me in this already unbelievable evening. I literally dragged myself to the event--I have been suffering for the past several months with an illness that seemed to have healed but relapsed a few days before. I had been in the hospital (on antibiotics both in hospital and at home) and I am now, unfortunately, back on antibiotics. This makes me very tired. Still, I would have regretted so much missing the opportunity to see and hear this special interview with Nogami-san, so I forced myself to the Japan Society tonight.

I attended the event alone. By "alone", I mean that no one else I know personally attended the talk with me. A tall woman of a bright and friendly countenance, and a definite "presence", sat next to me in the auditorium. We began to talk and she asked about my interest in the event and in Japanese Cinema. I explained as much as I could muster in my semi-delirious state (from the tiredness that comes with taking antibiotics). She was very charming. She followed by explaining her introduction to Japan many years ago--as a teacher, on a Fullbright grant after she graduated from college (Wesleyan). She also described her long journey of interest in Japan, Japanese culture and Japanese cinema and that she had even been an essayist on Japanese film. She then mentioned that, at one time, she would write film-related essays in the sometimes absence of the person who became her husband. She then revealed that her husband, as she pointed to my copy of Nogami-san's "Waiting on the Weather", was "him". It was no less than the person who wrote the foreward to Nogami's book, the great American scholar (and popularizer) of Japanese film, Donald Richie, one of my heroes! The woman was MARY RICHIE, Donald Richie's former spouse, about whom I had read extensively, especially in Richie's highly expressive, revealing book, "The Japan Journals: 1947-2004". I couldn't believe it. Mrs. Richie and I spent much of the evening talking. What a profound pleasure to meet her!

Mary Richie and me, Japan Society 6/25/2008

I think it was destiny that brought me to tonight's event. It was certainly a night I will never forget.

1 comment:

marty gross said...

Dear Karl,

This is a all great.I will pass it along to Nogami-san and Mr. Nakadai, and Donald Richie as well.

Will it be possible for you to send some of the pix you took at last week's events?

Many thanks,

Marty Gross