Kaneto Shindo, a venerable filmmaker whose work was haunted by the wartime devastation of his native Hiroshima, died on Tuesday at his home in Tokyo. He was 100.
His office confirmed the death to Agence France-Presse.
The director of nearly 50 pictures — his most recent, the World War II melodrama “Postcard,” was released in 2010 — Mr. Shindo was the oldest active filmmaker in Japan. He was believed to have been the second-oldest in the world, after Manoel de Oliveira of Portugal, now 103.
Mr. Shindo’s body of work was known for its vast stylistic diversity: over six decades it ranged across social realism, horror, sex comedy and documentary. What unified his output was its obsessive quality; its concern with people — peasants, prostitutes, the poor — on the margins of society; the use of isolated, often claustrophobic spaces; the damaging interference of ghosts (of the psychological sort, though sometimes also the literal kind); and the presence of strong women.
But for all their darkness, Mr. Shindo’s films were ultimately pervaded by an essential humanism, even hopefulness. The net effect left some Western critics enraptured and others bewildered. As a result of his mixed reception in the West, Mr. Shindo never attained the global reputation of countrymen like Akira Kurosawa and Kenji Mizoguchi.
Mr. Shindo came to international prominence early in his career with two features, “Children of Hiroshima” and “The Naked Island.”
Released in 1952, the year after the American occupation ended, “Children of Hiroshima” was the first Japanese film to treat the atomic bombing of the country by United States forces in 1945. It starred Nobuko Otowa as a schoolteacher who returns to the city several years after the war to search for her former students — those who have survived.
The film was released in the United States only last year, in a retrospective of Mr. Shindo’s work at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
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