Japanese actor gives everything to play shogi master in “Satoshi”


TOKYO (AP) – The devotion Kenichi Matsuyama has given to portraying a shogi prodigy who lived a fearless life is clear in the months he spent practicing pawns in the Japanese board game , immersing himself in the master’s altruistic view of death and gorging himself to gain weight.

“He lived in a winning or losing world, and for that he had to give up so much, live to the limit, totally devoted to this one vocation. It fascinated me. I wanted to give it my all, ”he told The Associated Press, ahead of the premiere of“ Satoshi: A Move for Tomorrow ”.

The film depicting the anguished tale of Satoshi Murayama, who died of bladder cancer at age 29 in 1998, hits theaters in Japan on November 19. It closed the Tokyo International Film Festival and is presented at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival. , which runs until November 24. It lasted eight years. And Matsuyama wanted the role right away.

Murayama had had severe kidney disease since he was 5 years old. He fell in love with the shogi during his hospitalization. His modesty was a side effect of his illness and the medications he had to take all his life. Shogi, besides his love for manga, was pretty much all he knew in life. He never had a girlfriend, he admits in one scene. His last words concerned the movements of the shogi.

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Its history is that of a universal legend in any field, those who are so pure that they would devote their entire lives, even risking death, in the pursuit of perfection.

“He faced his life head on, and it wasn’t about living for someone else,” said Matsuyama, who starred in “Norwegian Wood,” the coming-of-age movie. from 2010 based on the bestselling Haruki Murakami novel. . “Sir. Murayama always felt death close to him. It was his predicament.

Just as boxers have to keep winning to remain champions, shogi players have to keep winning. This is why Murayama continued to delay treatment and then returns to the shogi’s advice barely a month after major surgery. He is in constant pain, but he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t want to cut his fingernails because, he says, even fingernails are trying to live.

Matsuyama gained 26 kilograms (57 pounds) in about three months, speeding up the transformation as he ruled out other acting jobs. Gorging on ice cream and rice cakes, he gradually felt he was transforming into Murayama, that over-the-top physical role-building that often attracts attention – Robert De Niro in “Raging Bull” or Charlize Theron in “Monster”.

“Usually, I’m told to lose weight for this job, and we have to restrict our food and drink. But for that I have to let it all go, ”said Matsuyama, looking slim and agile, back to his usual weight of 66 kilograms (145 pounds). “I ate crisps in bed with my daughter.”

Becoming Murayama was more than getting bigger, even if it brought him closer to the role. Even the way he walked, the way he behaved, the pains and contractions that followed, as well as the way his mind worked, all changed, recalls Matsuyama, whose marriage partner Koyuki played alongside Tom Cruise in “The Last Samurai”.

Matsuyama spent a year practicing how the shogi masters place their pawns, flat hexagon-shaped tiles, with that decisive click against the board, their fingers placed just so.

The tension of the shogi scenes – two people facing each other, sitting Japanese-style on the floor, in thick silence, save for the clicks and clicks against the board – is startling, even for an audience unfamiliar with the art.

The intense rivalry which is also a respectful love affair with Yoshiharu Habu, still a star of the shogi today, animates the film, as dramatic as that between high-level athletes – Ted Williams against Joe DiMaggio, Martina Navratilova against Chris Evert, Bill Russell v Wilt Chamberlain.

While Habu gained a reputation as a cool thinker, Murayama was dazzled by his unpredictable intuitive movements.

The film ends with an unforgettable scene. The gentle wind swirls in a street. A young shogi player, who had known and admired Murayama, feels the presence of Murayama in the air, long after the master’s death.

And then there he is, standing as he always has, tall, smiling, looking at what awaits him, an everyday street corner that is a profound reminder that such a heritage, such a passion for the game, is eternal.


Trailer: https://youtu.be/oCxbdw1BCMI

Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/yuri-kageyama


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