周防正行 Masayuki Suo

After a childhood spent living and breathing movies and baseball, Tokyo-born Suo entered Rikkyo university to study French Literature. It was there that lectures by esteemed movie critic, Shigehiko Hasumi inspired him to become a film director. After an initial foray into independent movies, he got a leg up when he summoned the nerve to ask director Banmei Takahashi, for a job. The legendary director, who happened to be a regular customer at a bar where Suo's friend was working, gave Suo unpaid unemployment at the telephone switchboard. Suo went on to become an Assistant Director on as many as 10 movies a year for Takahashi as well as other directors in his stable such as Koji Wakamatsu and Kazuyuki Izutsu.

When Takahashi founded the Director's Company in 1982, Suo took the opportunity to open Unit 5, his own filmmaking collective with young colleagues of that era, Isumichi Isomura, Yoshiho Fukuoka, Toshiyuki Mizutani and Akira Yoneda. He was soon churning out scripts and in 1984 his debut as a director was made with "Abnormal Family - My Brother's Bride", a well-received homage to his hero, Yasujiro Ozu. This film put him on the map and offers started to flow in. In 1986 he directed the adaptation of a popular novel "Salaryman Classroom" for TV. His momentum increased when he was entrusted with making the behind-the-scenes documentary of the filming of Juzo Itami's "Taxing Woman" in 1987. This lead him to team up with former Daiei employee, Shoji Masui who produced Suo's "Fancy Dance" in 1989. This film debuted the super star actor, Motohiro Motoki and gave Suo the clout to take on "Sumo Do, Sumo Don't" in 1992 which then won Best Film at the Japanese Academy Awards. He had now arrived on the Japanese film scene and he and Masui created their own production company, Altamira Pictures in 1993. 1996's "Shall We Dance?" swept nearly every category of the 20th Japanese Academy Awards and became a social phenomenon (as well as a Hollywood remake in 2003 starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez).  2007's "I Just Didn't Do It" won a raft of awards and helped catalyse a shift in attitudes within Japan's legal system. He changed gears with "Dancing Chaplin" in 2011, a low-budget documentary about ballet which nevertheless enjoyed a long theatrical run and international festival exposure. In 2012, he reunited the two lead actors from "Shall We Dance?" in "A Terminal Trust", a love story in the context of terminal hospital care. 2014 will see Suo return to his signature entertainment style with "Lady Maiko", a light-heared look at a country girl's unlikely bid to enter the cloistered world of Kyoto's apprentice geisha.




Abnormal Family - My Brother's Wife
[ story ]


Fancy Dance [ story ]


Sumo Do, Sumo Don't [ story ]


Shall We Dance? [ story ]


I Just Didn't Do It [ story ]


Dancing Chaplin [ story ]


A Terminal Trust [ story ]


Lady Maiko

Published Works


"Sumo Do, Sumo Don't” – Novelization (Ota Publishing)


"Shall We Dance? The World of Masayuki Su o"(Wise Publishing)
“Shall We Dance?” – Novelization (Gentosha Inc.)


"Shall We Dance? Goes to America" (Ota Publishing)


"Shall We Dance? Screenplay Translation"(Ai-Iku Publishing)


"Let's Head to the Ballpark! – Suo's Sports Essays” (Kadokawa Publishing)


"Let's Head to the Ballpark! – Suo's Sports Essays” (Kadokawa Publishing)


"Congratulations, dear fans!" (Dai Takumi Corporation)


"Shall We Dance? Gets Made in America” (Ota Publishing)


"I Just Didn't Do It – Objections about Criminal JusticeI (Gentosha Inc.)


"Masayuki Suo's Introduction to Ballet" (Ota Publishing)

Awards (partial list)

"Sumo Do, Sumo Don’t"

The 16th Japan Academy Awards
Best Picture/Best Director/Best Screenplay/Best Leading Actor/Best Supporting Actor/Supporting Actress

The 66th Kinema Junpo Top Ten Awards
Best Picture voted by film critics
Best Film voted by general public
Best Director

The 35th Blue Ribbon Awards
Best Picture/Best Director/Best Leading Actor

The 17th Hochi Newspaper Film Awards
Best Picture/Best Leading Actor/Best Leading Actress

The 7th Takasaki Film Festival
Best Picture/Best Director/Best New Actor

The 5th Nikkan Sports Film Awards
Best Picture

The 47th Mainichi Film Awards
Best Picture

"Shall We Dance?"

The 20th Japan Academy Awards
Best Picture/Best Director/Best Screenplay/Best Leading Actor
Best Leading Actress/Best Supporting Actor/Best Supporting Actress/Best Music/Best Cinematography/Best Lighting Direction/Best Art Direction/Best Sound Recording/Best Editing

The 70th Kinema Junpo Best Ten Awards
Best Picture voted by film critics
Best Picture voted by general public
Best Script/Best Supporting Actress/Best New Actor


The 51st Mainichi Film Awards
Best Picture/Best Director/Best Screenplay/Best Leading Actor
Best Supporting Actress

The 21st Hochi Film Awards
Best Picture/Best Leading Actor/Best Supporting Actress

The 11th Takasaki Film Festival
Best Director/Best Leading Actor/Best Supporting Actress

The 9th Nikkan Sports Film Awards
Best Picture/Best Leading Actor/Best Supporting Actress

The 3rd Broadcast Film Critics Association
Best Foreign Film

The 39th Blue Ribbon Awards
Best Leading Actor

"I Just Didn’t Do It"

The 31st Japan Academy Awards
Best Supporting Actress
Best Art Direction
Best Editing
Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Leading Actor,
Best Music, Best Cinematography, Best Lighting Direction, Best Sound Editing

The 81st Kinema Junpo Top 10
Best Picture/Best Director/Best Screenplay/Best Leading Actor

The 31st Fumiko Yamaji Film Awards
Best Director

The 3rd SARVH Award

The 32nd Hochi Film Awards
Best Japanese Film/Best Leading Actor

The 20th Nikkan Sports Awards
Best Picture/Best Leading Actor

The 50th Blue Ribbon Awards
Best Director/Best Leading Actor

The 62nd Mainichi Film Awards
Best Japanese Film/Best Director

The 17th Tokyo Sports Film Awards
Best Director/Best Supporting Actor

The 29th Yokohama Film Festival
Best Picture/Best Director/Best Leading Actor

"Terminal Trust"

The 36th Japan Academy Awards
Best Leading Actress

The 36th Fumiko Yamaji Film Awards
Best Picture

The 67th Mainichi Film Awards
Best Picture

The 25th Nikkan Sports Film Awards
Best Picture

The 22nd Japan Film Critics Awards
Best Supporting Actor



"Abnormal Family - My Brother's Wife"

This film marked Suo's debut film as both director and screenwriter. From its opening scene, through the composition of each frame, the dialog, the editing, it was intended as a total homage to his hero, Yasujiro Ozu. Suo describes it as a tongue-in-cheek sequel to the legendary director's masterpiece, "Late Spring".

Story: A Tokyo family's domestic harmony is disrupted when the eldest son brings his beautiful bride home to live. When Yuriko finds employment as a sex worker, the younger brother is driven to distraction and her resorts to petty theft to still his conflicting emotions. The father and Yuriko gamely try to maintain a warm family environment but when her husband takes up with a lover, the collapse of the family begins.

Concept, Screenplay & Direction - Masayuki Suo

"Fancy Dance"

Suo wrote and directed this piece based on Reiko Okano's original manga.

Story: Yohei Shiono is a fashionable college student living life to the full and indulging every whim. But when the time comes to take over the family Buddhist temple, hard days of training and study await. To make matters worse, he's surrounded by an eccentric and malicious bunch of senior trainee monks. Pining for the comforts of his previous lifestyle, he can't commit to the harsh training regime and is always looking for the easy way out. Much to his own surprise however, he finds the world of Zen beginning to reveal its own attractions...

Screenplay & Direction - Masayuki Suo
Manga Reiko Okano

"Sumo Do, Sumo Don't"

Written and directed by Suo, this movie won Best Picture at the Japanese Academy Awards and topped the Kinema Junpo list of best films among numerous other film awards. It can be said that this is the movie that really put Masayuki Suo on the map.

Story: In return for the credits to graduate university, the hero of this film agrees to take over a failing Sumo Club and rally its membership of misfits. Part of the deal entails that they enter a competition but they are handed a humiliating defeat. But such is the disdain of the Alumni and so harsh is their criticism, that our hero is goaded into making one last attempt at a comeback for this ragtaggle Sumo mob.

Concept, Screenplay & Direction - Masayuki Suo

"Shall We Dance?"

Written and directed by Suo, this film swept all 13 categories at the Japanese Academy Awards and created a craze for ballroom dancing in Japan. It went on to be distributed in over 25 countries worldwide and had a Hollywood remake in 2005 with Richard Gere in the leading role.

Story: The hero is a middle aged "salaryman" with a wife and daughter. One day commuting home, he looks up from the train to spy a lonely-looking beauty standing in the window of a dance school. He is smitten and begins to attend the school in secret. Despite this underhand motive, as he trains with the strangers in his group, his eyes are opened to the splendour of dance. Meanwhile his wife, suspicious of his longer "work hours" sets a private detective on his trail. However, finding out the truth is only one stage in this heart-warming story.

Concept, Screenplay and Direction - Masayuki Suo

"I Just Didn't Do It"

Written and directed by Suo after a characteristically thorough research period, this movie takes a look at the harsh realities of Japan's legal system. It went on to win numerous film awards including the Mainichi Film Concours, Nikkan Sports Best Film and Best Direction Awards and topped out Kinema Junpo's list of best films.

Story: The story begins with the unfortunate case of a young man on his way to a job interview on a packed early morning train who gets accused of groping a girl. He pleads his innocence at the police station but what unfolds is a Kafka-esque tale of presumed guilt amid a system that railroads prisoners down a path to confession.

Concept, Screenplay & Direction - Masayuki Suo

"Dancing Chaplin"

A cinematic examination of the staging and performance of legendary French choreographer, Roland Petit's ballet, "Charlot Danse Avec Nous"

The first half of the documentary follows director Suo as he travels to Italy, Switzerland and then to Japan as a specially selected group of dances prepares for the ballet. The second half is an abridged performance of the ballet, distilling the original 20 dances into 13 pieces blocked for camera.

Direction, Structure and Executive Producer - Masayuki Suo
Choreographer - Roland Petit

"The Terminal Trust"

Suo wrote the screenplay and directed this story based on a novel by Tatsuki Saku. It went on to sweep the Mainichi Film Concours, make the Kinema Junpo best ten list and win the Nikkan Sports award for Best Film among other awards.

Story: This tale centers around the deep relationship of trust that builds between a top-flight doctor and a patient afflicted with severe asthma. The patient entrusts his end-of-life care to her but this responsibility is to prove a heavy burden indeed. After much anguish, she takes a vital duty upon herself only to find her motivation subject to police scrutiny. The culminating 45 minutes of the film, devoid of flashbacks, are an acting tour-de-force as a showdown unfolds between the doctor's intelligence and the investigator's steely determination.

Novel by Tatsuki Saki
Screenplay & Direction - Masayuki Suo