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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 May 2006, 11:44 GMT 12:44 UK
Japan mourns film-maker Imamura
Shohei Imamura
Imamura was the first Japanese director to win the Palme d'Or twice
Japanese film-maker Shohei Imamura, a two-time winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, has died at the age of 79.

According to his son Hirosuke, the cause of death was liver cancer, for which he had been receiving treatment.

Imamura, a pioneer of his country's New Wave movement, won the Cannes Film Festival's top award for The Ballad of Narayama in 1983 and The Eel in 1997.

His other films include 1989's Black Rain, which depicted the aftermath of the Hiroshima atomic bombing.

Born in 1926 in Tokyo, Imamura entered a technical school to escape being drafted into Japan's Imperial Army.

After studying at the prestigious Waseda University, he got his first break in the early 1950s as an assistant to acclaimed director Yasujiro Ozu.

Japanese 'treasure'

Within a decade, he started making his own films, moving away from Ozu's classical themes to focus on common people at the bottom of Japan's rigid social structure.

In his 1975 documentary Karayuki-San, he profiled Japanese women sent as prostitutes to south-east Asia to accompany wartime troops.

The Ballad of Narayama told of a man who followed village tradition by letting his mother die on a mountain top.

Actor Koji Yakusho - who worked with the director on The Eel and 2001's Warm Water Under a Red Bridge - called Imamura "a treasure" of Japanese cinema.

Imamura's last work formed part of 11'09"01, a compilation of short films about events on 11 September 2001.

He is survived by his wife Akiko, two sons and a daughter. A funeral has been planned for 6 June.

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