Cinematographer. Nationality: Japanese. Born: Kyoto City, 25 February 1908. Education: Studied Japanese ink painting. Career: 1926–30—worked in Nikkatsu Kyoto Studio laboratory; 1930—became assistant cameraman in same studio; 1935—first film as cinematographer, Ochiyo's Umbrella ; taught at Osaka Art College. Awards: Japanese Academy Award, for Banished Orin , 1977, and MacArthur's Children , 1984; Imperial Order of Culture, 1978; special tribute and retrospective screenings, American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1981. Died: 7 August 1999, in Tokyo, Japan, of kidney failure.
Ochiyo-gasa ( Ochiyo's Umbrella ) (Ozaki); Komoriuta Bushudako ( Lullaby Bushu's Kite ) (Miyata); Senjin ( Battle Dust ) (Ogata)
Ittouryu shinan ( The Teaching of the Ittou Style ) (Ishibashi); Gokuraku hanayome-juku ( The Paradise Bride's School ) (Ogata); Onshuh junreiuta ( Pilgrimage Song of Grace and Grudge ) (Kumita)
Ochiyo toshigoro ( The Prime of Ochiyo's Life ) (Suganuma); Hiryuh no ken ( Sword of Flying Dragon ) (Inagaki)
Muhoumono Ginpei ( Ginpei the Outlaw ) (Inagaki); Kurama Tengu: Kakubei-jishi no maki ( Kurama Tengu: The Book of Kakubei's Lion Club ) (Makin and Matsuda); Shusse Taikou-ki ( Toyotomi's Record of Promotion ) (Inagaki); Yami no Kageboushi ( Shadow of Darkness ) (Inagaki); Jigoku no mushi ( Hell's Worm ) (Inagaki); Mazou ( Magic Statue ) (Inagaki)
Ibaragi Ukon (Inagaki); Kesa to Moritou ( Kesa and Moritou ) (Makino); Sonnou sonjuku ( Village School of Emperor Supporters ) (Inagaki); Rougoku no hanayome ( Prison Bride ) (Arai) (2 parts); Gaou utaggasen ( The Geese and Ducks' Singing Contest ) (Makino)
Miyamoto Musashi (Ingawa—3 parts); Shinrei Jakouneko (Arai—2 parts)
Kurama Tengu: Satsuma no misshi ( Kurama Tengu: Secret Agent from Satsuma ) (Suganuma)
Mampou hattenshi: Umi no gouzoku ( The Development History of the Southern Sea: Tribes of the Ocean ) (Arai)
Muhoumatsu no issho ( The Rickshaw Man ; The Life of Reckless Matsu ) (Inagaki)
Dohyou matsuri ( Sumo Festival ) (Marune); Kodachi o tsukauonna ( A Woman Using a Small Sword ) (Marune); Kakute kamikaze wa fuku ( Thus the Divine Wind Arrives ) (Matsuda and Tateoka)
Toukai Suiko-den ( Toukai's Suiko Story ) (Ito); Siago no joui-tou ( The Last Party of Chauvinists ) (Inagaki)
Tobira o hiraku onna ( The Woman Opening the Door ) (Kimura); Tebukuro o nugasu otoko ( The Man Taking Off His Gloves ) (Mori); Yari-odori gojusan-tsugi ( Spear Dance of 53 Stations ) (Mori); Soushi gekijou ( Political Theatre ) (Inagaki)
Akuma no kanpai ( Devil's Toast ) (Marune)
Te o tsunaqu kora ( Children Hand in Hand ) (Inagaki); Koushoku gonin onna ( Saikaku's Five Women ) (Nobuchi); Otoko o sabaku onna ( A Woman Who Convicts Men ) (Sasaki); Sonoyo no bouken ( That Night Adventure ) (Yasuda); Kuroun kaidou ( A Line of Black Clouds ) (Matsuda and Mori)
Niizuma kaigi ( New Wives' Conference ) (Chiba); Yuhrei ressha ( Ghost Train ) (Nobuchi); Onna goroshi abura jigoku ( Oil Hell of Killing Women ) (Nobuchi)
Hebihime douchuh ( Princess Snake's Travels ) (Kimura and Marine—2 parts)
Ai no sanga ( Mountain and River of Love ) (Koishi); Jougasaki no ame ( Jougasaki's Rain ) (Tanaka); Rashomon (Kurosawa)
Kenran taru satsujin ( Brilliant Murder ) (Kado); Oyu-sama ( Miss Oyu ) (Mizoguchi); Omagatsuji no ketto ( Omagatsuji's Duel ) (Mori)
Nishijin no shimai ( Sisters of Nishijin ) (Yoshimura); Taki no shiraito ( Water Magician, or The White Thread of the Waterfall ) (Nobuchi); Sutobi kago ( Express Sedan ) (Makino)
Senba-zuru ( A Thousand Cranes ) (Yoshimura); Ugetsu monogatari ( Ugetsu ; Tales of a Pale and Mysterious Moon after the Rain ) (Mizoguchi); Yukubo ( Desire ) (Yoshimura); Gion bayashi ( Gion Festival Music ) (Mizoguchi)
Sansho dayu ( Sansho the Bailiff ) (Mizoguchi); Uwasa no onna ( The Woman of the Rumor ) (Mizoguchi); Chikamatsu monogatari ( A Story from Chikamatsu ) (Mizoguchi)
Jinanbou garasu ( Second Son Crow ) (Hirotsu); Tenka o nerau bishounen ( Handsome Boy Trying to Rule the World ) (Arai); Shin Heike monogatari ( New Tales of the Taira Clan ) (Mizoguchi); Baku wa Toukichiroh ( I Am Tokichiro ) (Mori)
Akasen chitai ( Street of Shame ) (Mizoguchi); Yoru no kawa ( Night River ) (Yoshimura); Shin Heike monogatari: Shizuka to Yoshitsune ( New Tale of Genji: Shuzuka and Yoshitsune )
Suzaku-mon ( Suzaku Gate ) (Mori); Yoru no cho ( Night Butterflies ) (Yoshimura); Meido no kaoyaku ( Hell's Boss ) (Murayama)
Tsukihime keizu ( The Origin of Princess Moon ) (Watanabe); Akadou Suzunosuke (Mori); Enjo ( Conflagration ) (Ichikawa); Benten kozou ( Benten Boy ) (Ito)
Onna to kauzoku ( Woman and Pirates ) (Ito); Kagi ( Odd Obsession ) (Ichikawa); Ukigusa ( Floating Weeds ; The Duckweed Story ; Drifting Weeds ) (Ozu)
"Koi o wasureta onna" ("The Woman Who Forgot Love") ep. of Jokei ( Women's Scroll ) (Yoshimura); Bonchi ( Young Lord ) (Ichikawa); Kirare Yosaburou ( Slashed Yosaburo ) (Ito); Ototo ( Her Brother ) (Ichikawa); Yojimbo ( The Body-guard ) (Kurosawa)
Konki ( Marriage Time ) (Yoshimura); Kutsukake Tokojiro ( Tokojiro of Katsukake ) (Ikehiro); Akumyo ( Bad Names ) (Tanaka—2 parts)
Hakai ( The Outcast ) (Ichikawa)
Daisan no Akumyo ( The Third Bad Name ) (Tanaka); Jokei kazoku ( Women Family ) (Misumi); Zouhei monogatari ( Low-Rank Soldiers ) (Ikehiro); Echizen take ningyo ( Bamboo Doll of Echizen ) (Yoshimura)
Zatouichi senryo kubi ( Zatoichi: A Thousand Dollar Price on His Head ) (Ikehiro); Zenin no odori ( The Money Dance ) (Ichikawa); Suruga yuhkyou-den: Yabure takka ( Gamblers' Story of Saruga: Broken Iron Fire ) (Tanaka)
Akai shuriken ( Red Throwing Knives ) (Tanaka); Tokyo Orimpikku ( Tokyo Olympiad ) (Ichikawa and others); Akumyo niwaka ( Suddenly Bad Names ) (Tanaka); Akumyo muteki ( Invincible Bad Names ) (Tanaka)
Irezumi ( Tattoo ) (Masumura); Akumyo zakura ( Bad Names' Cherry Blossoms ) (Tanaka); Zatouichi no uta ga kikoeru ( Zatouichi's Song Is Heard ) (Tanaka)
Chiisana tobosha ( The Little Runaway ) (Kinugasa and Bocharov); Aru koroshiya ( A Murderer ) (Masumura); Zatouichi rouyaburi ( Zatouichi Breaking Out of Prison ) (Yamamoto); Aru koroshiya no kagi ( Key of a Murderer ) (Mori)
Tomuraishi tachi ( Undertakers ) (Misumi); Koudoukan hamonjou ( Judo School Expulsion Letter ) (Inoue); Zatouichi hatashijou ( Zatouichi Challenge Letter ) (Yasuda)
Shutsugoku yonjuhachi jikan ( 48-Hour Prison Break ) (Mori); Shirikurae Magoichi ( The Magoichi Saga ) (Misumi); Koroshiya o barase ( Kill the Killer ) (Ikehiro); Ono no sumu yakata ( Devil's Temple ) (Misumi); Shiriboe Sonichi ( Barking-Donkey Sonichi ) (Misumi)
Zatouichi to Yojimbo ( Zatouichi Meets Yojimbo ) (Okamoto); Zatouichi abare himatsuri ( Zatouichi: Wild Fire Festival ) (Misumi)
Chinmoku ( Silence ) (Shinoda)
Mushukunin Mikoshin no Joukichi ( Outlaw Joukichi of Mikoshin ) (Ikehiro—2 parts); Kozure ohkami ( Wolf with Child ) (Saito)
Goyoukiba: Kamisori Hanzo jigokuzeme ( Police Fang: Razor Hanzo's Torture in Hell ) (Masumura)
Akumyo nawabari arashi ( Bad Names' Breaking of Territories ) (Masumura)
Yoba ( The Old Woman Ghost ) (Imai)
Hanare goze Orin ( Banished Orin ) (Shinoda)
Kagemusha ( The Shadow Warrior ; The Double ) (Kurosawa); Akuma-to ( Devil's Island ) (Shinoda)
Sonezaki shinjuh ( Double Suicide of Sonezaki ) (Kurisaki)
Setouchi shounen yakyu-dan ( MacArthur's Children ) (Shinoda)
Yari no Gonza ( Gonza the Spearman ) (Shinoda)
Maihime ( The Dancer ) (Shinoda) (co)
Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1979.
"Kazuo Miyagawa: Japan's Master Cinematographer," interview with Rob Edelman, in Films in Review (New York), June/July 1981.
American Cinematographer (Hollywood), May 1981.
Film Dope (Nottingham), March 1990.
Post Script , vol. 11, no. 1, 1991.
Obituary in Variety (New York), 16 August 1999.
* * *
Kazuo Miyagawa was, quite simply, Japan's preeminent cinematographer. Commencing in the 1930s, he worked with some of his country's foremost directors, including Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, Akira Kurosawa, Kon Ichikawa, Daisuke Ito, Hiroshi Inagaki, and Masahiro Shinoda, and his credits include some of the all time greatest Japanese films, including Rashomon , Ugetsu , Sansho the Bailiff , Street of Shame , Yojimbo , Floating Weeds , Odd Obsession , and Kagemusha .
Beginning his study of cinematography in 1926, after several years as an art student, Miyagawa was particularly impressed by the high-contrast lighting used in the German expressionist films of the era. Starting as a focus puller and assistant cameraman at the Nikkatsu Kyoto Studio laboratory, Miyagawa utilized his knowledge of film chemistry to experiment with the composition of film stock and the degree of exposure before shooting. Thus, he was able to determine the optimum exposure despite the varied physical conditions of location shooting; in fact, he did not even work with a light meter until Rashomon , in 1950.
Between 1935 and 1943, Miyagawa was in charge of second-unit photography and special effects at the Nikkatsu Studio. His first great success as chief cinematographer came in 1943, with his work on Hiroshi Inagaki's The Rickshaw Man , in which his ambitious camerawork captures the vivid images of the life of a rough but straightforward rickshaw man in a small city, using montage to recreate the flow of time. While he has attributed his success to the traditionally high standards of the studio's cinematographers and camera mechanics—"Working in the film lab taught me the basics, the fundamental part of making pictures," he once explained—he also noted, "It was my training in [Japanese] ink painting that really taught me how to see."
Indeed, it was Miyagawa's early study of this art form that gave him the understanding of subtle shadings which was evident in his black-and-white films. His fluid camera movements, particularly the long takes in Mizoguchi's films, demonstrate his knowledge of the Japanese traditional emakinomo scroll painting style. In order to satisfy Mizoguchi's demand to draw out the tense moments of highly dramatic performances, Miyagawa conceived the technique of suspenseful long takes, which capture highly dramatic performances without interruptions. He used many crane shots to create the mysterious atmosphere of Ugetsu and the romantic escape scenes of A Story from Chikamatsu . Long and complicated pannings such as those of the garden scene and the last scene of Ugetsu and the ending of Sansho the Bailiff are breathtakingly inventive. Further, in the latter film, he experimented with shooting the entire film in counter-light, to create the cold image suggested by the subject of slavery.
Miyagawa also contributed his dynamic camera style to Kurosawa's work. Utilizing the light reflecting directly on a mirror, he captured in bright summer daylight the surging emotions of the characters of Rashomon . The image of sunlight flickering behind the trees became legendary. In Yojimbo Miyagawa used telephoto lenses to successfully convey the powerful images of swordplay in the swirling dust. He also used telephoto lenses effectively in Ichikawa's Tokyo Olympiad to capture the poetic moments of physical movement, often in combination with slow motion. Miyagawa's bold use of the CinemaScope screen is evident in other successful films of Ichikawa. Particularly important was Miyagawa's technique of inventing the "silver tone" in the chemical process to create a greenish-gray tone, appropriate for the turn-of-the-century atmosphere of Her Brother .
Miyagawa's sensitive and ingenious approach to the specific tones of each of his color films is evident in his work for Ozu, Ito, Shinoda, Kouzaburo Yoshimura, Masuzo Yasumura, and others. He studied each type of film stock for specific color effects according to the subject. For Floating Weeds , the only Ozu film on which Miyagawa worked, he used a light color scheme to recreate the atmosphere of a town in southern Japan. The tension of the scene of a hard rainstorm under which a couple quarrels from opposite sides of a street was accentuated by Miyagawa's usage of a large light source with the dripping water captured in counter-light. The combination of bold colors and lyrical night scenes of Kyoto in Yoshimura's Night River , the recreation of the world of Kabuki and the bright-colored woodprints in Ito's Benten Boy and Masumura's Tattoo , the magnificent landscape colors in Shinoda's Silence and Banished Orin , and the dazzling color spectacle of Kurosawa's Kagemusha are other highly acclaimed examples of Miyagawa's skill.
The cinematographer was employed by the same studio between 1926 and 1971, working elsewhere only twice: on Yojimbo , shot at the Toho Studio; and Tokyo Olympiad , produced independently. Before his death, his more notable credits were Kagemusha , and Shinoda's Gonza the Spearman and MacArthur's Children . He remained professionally active into his eighties. "A director and cameraman are like husband and wife," Miyagawa once declared. "Even though they may fight, all their films are their offspring." He added, proudly, "I am a cinematographer. I've never had any ambition to become a director. A film is not one individual's method of personal expression but a matter of teamwork, a cooperative venture."
—Kyoko Hirano, updated by Rob Edelman