In the 1980s, Juzo Itami reached a level of international fame that had not been accorded to any Japanese director since the 1960s. Itami's surprisingly direct satirical look at Japan's rigid society made him the darling of foreign critics and domestic audiences alike. His films also mark the re-emergence of Japanese films as an international presence, paving the way for later directors, such as Takeshi Kitano, Masayuki Suo, and Hiroyuki Kore-eda
Born Ikeuchi Yoshihiro, Itami was the son of noted samurai director Mansaku Itami. Itami took up his father's profession only after working as a bantamweight boxer, a band organizer, an essayist, a translator of such American authors as William Styron, a talk show host, and as an actor. He played a supporting role, credited as Ichizo Itami, in such American productions as Nicholas Ray's 55 Days at Peking (1963) and Lord Jim (1965); in Japan, he starred in such films as The Family Game (1984) and Kon Ichikawa's The Makioka Sisters (1985).