By Player (三文役者 Sanmon Yakusha?) is a 2000 Japanese biographical film directed by Kaneto Shindo based on the life of actor Taiji Tonoyama.
The film is a series of vignettes from Taiji Tonoyama's life and film clips, interspersed with a dialogue to camera by Nobuko Otowa, addressing the camera as if she is addressing Tonoyama himself, recollecting events in his life. The film focuses on Tonoyama's alcohol dependence and his various sexual relationships, as well as his film work with Shindo.
The first part of the film shows Tonoyama talking to a waitress, Kimie (Keiko Oginome), in a coffee shop. He then meets her father and asks him for permission to marry Kimie. The father asks him to first divorce his existing wife, Asako (Hideko Yoshida). In fact he is not married to Asako. To prevent him marrying Kimie, Asako then registers them as married.
The film moves through various episodes of Tonoyama making films with director Kaneto Shindo. At the time of The Naked Island, Tonoyama is close to death from alcohol poisoning, and is saved only by there not being anywhere to buy drinks. During the filming of Ningen and Onibaba, he repeatedly sneaks off to get drunk with actors Kei Sato and Kei Yamamoto. Director Shindo (played by himself) is seen as a distant, lonely figure, doing odd things such as burning driftwood in the rain or trying to catch fish in a pond where no fish are present.
Tonoyama moves in with Kimie. He explains to Kimie that he cannot have children due to a venereal disease caught from a prostitute. She adopts a son, Yasuo, her brother's child. Tonoyama goes to visit the other woman, whom he refers to as "Kamakura no baba" (the old woman in Kamakura) who has also adopted a daughter.
Tonoyama has repeated episodes of drinking or sex. Tonoyama, in order to avoid neighbourhood gossips, pretends to be going to work.
Celebrated Japanese filmmaker Kaneto Shindo, at 88, was the world's second-oldest working director when he made this biopic of character actor Taiji Tonoyama (Portugal's Manoel de Oliveira, age 91, held the distinction of being the oldest). Tonoyama, who acted in 250 films throughout his career -- many of which were directed by Shindo -- began working as an actor in the 1950s. His first lead role was in Shindo's The Island (1960), a dialogue-free film shot while Tonoyama was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver. Despite his prolific output, the actor was more widely recognized for his off-screen activities, which included womanizing and excessive drinking. Shindo's biopic opens with Tonoyama (played by Naoto Takenaka) flirting with the 17-year-old Kimie, with whom he would maintain a relationship for the rest of his life, despite his quasi-legal marriage to wife Asako. Over the course of the film, much attention is paid to the competition between the two women, and it becomes clear that their relationship was as compelling as their respective ties to Tonoyama. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi