A Celebration of Ishiro Honda
Author: Andrew Nguyen
On October 3, 2017, Wesleyan University Press, a subsidiary of Wesleyan University which is based in Connecticut, released a long-awaited biography on director Ishiro Honda by long time Japanese film historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski. Titled ISHIRO HONDA: A LIFE IN FILM FROM GODZILLA TO KUROSAWA, the biography, nearly a decade in the making, dealt with Japanese director Ishiro Honda in his film work and in his personal life. Well known as the director of the Godzilla movies and other Japanese Sci-Fi Films, Honda also worked on documentaries, dramas, comedies, and later in life films that were directed by the legendary Akira Kurosawa, who Honda had been a lifelong friend all the way back to the 1930s when they worked under director Kajiro Yamamoto.
As the book became available to the public, several organizations that dealt with Science fiction and horror held events that celebrated the director and his work. This inevitably included events occurring in Los Angeles which is no stranger for film screenings in relation to celebrated entertainment personalities at locations such at the Egyptian Theater. In fact, the Egyptian Theater, which hosted Godzilla related events before, would hold a two-night movie screening of films directed by Ishiro Honda on October 26 and 27. The festival would screen two films each night with the authors in attendance to promote their book and discuss the legacy of the director. On the first night, the event screened MOTHRA (Mosura) and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (Uchuu Daisensoo) while on the second night, it aired GODZILLA (Gojira) and THE H-MAN (Bijo To Ekatai-Ningen).
Arriving shortly after 6:00pm, I headed to the Egyptian theater where a few other people had already arrived and had purchased tickets for the event. The main guests soon arrived at the theater where a section had already been reserved for their use. After a quick setup of the autograph area which included copies of the book, the event commenced with the guests conversing with the authors mostly on Godzilla related matters and some getting autographs for their own copies of the book as they entered the theater. Included amongst those guests were several notable people who had dealt with Godzilla and Japanese Sci-Fi throughout the years.
At about 7:30pm, the audience began to gather into the theater where the two authors introduced the two movies being screened and their importance to Honda’s work. For GODZILLA, both of the authors talked about the details of its production, its legacy and importance, and how it returned to prominence in America after its first release back in 2004. The most interesting elements of the introduction were the discussions about the H-MAN and its similarities to GODZILLA but on a more personal level as well as something far different from what Ishiro Honda had done before and what the public knew of his work. When the screening began, the audience had occupied seats in both the middle and upper sections of the first floor of the screening room.
After the first movie ended, both Ryfle and Godziszewski engaged with the host in a Q&A session, which touched on several topics related to Honda, his films and the book. It started up with a discussion about the first film mainly with its production and impact even after 60 plus years since it was produced before dealing with Ishiro Honda’s work including the type of film genres that he worked on and how his film work underwent transition with the change in the times and taste of Japanese audiences. The Q&A then focused on Honda’s directorial style and his interaction with the film crews and other legendary personalities at Toho particularly with special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya and director Akira Kurosawa (two men known for being very intense people to work for). The authors then talked a bit on how the book came to be and its function of filling the gaps in knowledge for the English speaking audience of the director’s work and impact on cinema. They then finished the Q&A, reminiscing about selected films such as THE MYSTERIANS, MATANGO and ATRAGON (a film that also touches on subject matter becoming very relevant again mainly nationalism), and the hope that more of Honda’s work may appear stateside.
Afterwards there was an intermission where the authors and the guests conversed while waiting for the next movie to begin. I participated in several of these conversations before saying my goodbyes to everyone and heading home as I had plans to attend LA Comic Con over the next two days.
Steve and Ed’s appearances can be found on a special Facebook event page. Keep a look out to find out when they will come to your area!