Labyrinth of Cinema

Labyrinth of Cinema ★★★★★

Endless Journeys in Space and Time: We Will Always Love You, Nobuhiko Ōbayashi!

Reality and cinema are more connected than you might think, and fate often has a cruel sense of humor. One week ago, on the 10th of April 2020, Japan was meant to witness the theatrical release of Nobuhiko Ōbayashi's Labyrinth of Cinema. Ultimately delayed by COVID-19, that date would instead mark the passing of cinema's greatest maestro and magician, after four long years of fighting against cancer. Last year I had the immense honor of being able to meet Ōbayashi-sensei himself with his wife Kyôko and see the world premiere of the director's final masterpiece. Even though it all seemed to happen so fast it was a completely unforgettable day, special in every possible way.

For obvious reasons, lately I've been returning to that one extraordinary day more and more often. You always imagine your heroes as giants, but in that moment Ōbayashi looked so small and fragile – well, like a cancer-ridden man in a wheelchair would. The realization didn't hit me back then, but you couldn't quite see the same man as you would in pictures taken only few years ago. It's a scary thought, showing the slow yet rapid disappearance of human life; very Hanagatamiesque indeed.

And yet, Ōbayashi was still Ōbayashi. His iconic warmth that you can find all over his work hadn't vanished. Obviously I didn't know him, but he had such a gracious aura, kindly welcoming everyone and anyone inside to his Hausu. In these situations you don't really think, just reflexively act. So, I got my blu-ray signed and also asked if we could take a picture together, happily inviting Kyôko to join us as well. "I love you", I enthusiastically declared to Nobuhiko-kun while displaying his trademark hand gesture, as if I had known him for years. In the end, I did get my photo – taken by the young leading actress of Labyrinth of Cinema, Rei Yoshida. Such an occurrence, an ethereal dream filled with pure Ōbayashi magic, and I couldn't ask for better memories.

Kyôko Ōbayashi's statement regarding her husband's passing offers us perfect solace to ease this sorrow. "Right about now, I believe he is on his location hunt discovering uncharted terrorities", she describes. During his final days, Maestro passed the torch of cinema and peace to Shunji Iwai, Makoto Tezuka, Isshin Inudo and Shinya Tsukamoto, as Akira Kurosawa passed it to him. Finally, Ōbayashi left this world with the following words:"Thank you, everyone." An apt farewell for a loving, humble and remarkable human being, who happened to conquer the whole realm of cinema.

Thank you, Nobuhiko Ōbayashi – we won't forget you. 🤟

Nobuhiko, Joakim & Kyôko by Rei Yoshida

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