Japanese screenwriter, director and producer Shinobu Hashimoto, who wrote some of Akira Kurosawa’s most famous films including Rashomon (1950), Ikiru (1952) and Seven Samurai (1954), died of pneumonia in his Tokyo home on Thursday. He was 100.
Hashimoto had written more than 70 films, starting with Rashomon. In a career spanning more than six decades, Hashimoto collaborated frequently with Kurosawa and also wrote for other top Japanese directors including Tadashi Imai, Mikio Naruse, Kihachi Okamoto and Masaki Kobayashi.
Hashimoto also directed three films: I Want to Be a Shellfish (1959), Minami no kaze to nami (1961) and Lake of Illusions (1982).
His most well-known films draw from the jidaigeki (period drama) genre involving samurai. Rashomon, based on the short story of the same name by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, is a period thriller that explores a heinous crime through the differing perspectives of several eyewitnesses and the perpetrator.
Shichinin no samurai or Seven Samurai is an epic set in the 16th century. It is the story of seven ronin (samurai rendered jobless after they lose their master) who are hired by farmers to fight off crop-stealing bandits in a village. A technical marvel for Japanese cinema of the time, it became the highest-grossing film in Japan following its release.
The film inspired a Hollywood remake, John Sturges’s Western The Magnificent Seven (1960). Roger Corman’s science-fiction space opera Battle Beyond The Stars (1980) was an amalgamation of Shichinin no samurai and The Magnificent Seven.
Bollywood classic Sholay (1975), written by Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, was also loosely based on Shichinin no samurai, as was China Gate (1998).
Hashimoto’s script for Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958) was a major influence for George Lucas’s first Star Wars film.
Masaki Kobayashi’s Harakiri is another classic samurai film written by Hashimoto. The film told the story of an ageing ronin, Tsugumo Hanshiro, who seeks entry into the house of a feudal lord, Saito Kageyu, to commit “harakiri” or ritual suicide, as was the norm for masterless samurai.
On learning that Saito had forced Tsugomo’s son-in-law, another samurai without a job, to take a rather painful route to suicide by using a dull bamboo blade, the ronin seeks revenge, setting off a chain of events.