Imamura enrolled in technical college to avoid being drafted in World War II, shifting his focus to playwriting and filmmaking after the war ended. Part of the Japanese New Wave, Imamura made his directorial debut in 1958 with Stolen Desire. But it was with his 1961 gangster farce Pigs and Battleships that he hit his stride and began to focus on the fringe figures, strong women and messy characters that would come to characterize his work.
After spending much of the 1970s making documentaries, Imamura returned to features during his later years, winning the Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or for both The Ballad of Narayama (1983) and Unagi (1997). He died on May 30, 2006.
Stricken by famine, the residents of a 19th-century Japanese village decide to banish its elderly population to the top of Mt. Narayama, where they will be left to die. One year shy of her exile, the 69-year-old Orin (Sumiko Sakamoto) must settle some old scores. But her top priority is finding a wife for her eldest son (Ken Ogata). Director Shohei Imamura's multilayered lyrical drama won the Palme d'Or at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.