Japan Today



Film revealing 'true story' of infamous 'Paris Cannibal' to premiere in July


On April 26, Issei Sagawa turned 70 years of age. To mark the occasion of his seventh decade, a movie about his exploits, titled "The True Story of the Paris Cannibal, 38 Years on" is scheduled for release in Japan on July 12.

The film is the work of a joint French-U.S. team.

In June 1981, while studying literature at the Sorbonne Academy in Paris, Issei Sagawa was arrested by French police. He was charged with the murder of Renee Hartevelt, a 25-year-old Dutch student he had hired to give him language lessons.

Sagawa had shot her once, point blank from behind, with a .22 rifle. Questioned over the condition of his victim's corpse, Sagawa confessed to having eaten parts of her body, some raw and some that he cooked with seasoning added in a frying pan.

The shocking news reverberated for many years afterward.

Sagawa's well-to-do family spent a fortune on his attorney's fees. His French lawyer mounted a competent defense that enabled him to avoid criminal prosecution, and in 1984 he was released from a mental asylum and deported to Japan, whose legal system could find no grounds for prosecuting him. Nor could it compel him to voluntarily undergo hospitalization. He emerged a free man.

Suffering from a weak constitution from childhood, he was unable to hold down normal employment. Eventually he became the nation's "celebrity cannibal," appearing on late-night television shows, writing a monthly column for subculture magazine Bubka, publishing a novel and illustrated autobiography and even appearing in pornographic films.

In November 2013, Sagawa suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Shukan Shincho (May 30) recently learned he was hospitalized and confined to bed.  

"I go to visit every other day," his younger brother Jun, age 68, told the reporter. "To make matters worse he underwent a gastrostomy."

In other words, Sagawa is no longer able to eat. One might see something ironic here, the writer remarks, tongue-in-cheek.

His brother continues, "The movie was shot four years ago. I was taking care of him at the apartment where he lived, and we arranged for filming there. But his condition deteriorated further, and a year ago he could no longer swallow.

"If he tried to eat a bento (boxed meal), the food would get lodged in his throat, risking aspiration pneumonia," said Jun. "So at that point he was hospitalized and had to be fed via the stomach. He gets transferred around to various hospitals in Kanagawa. Our sole source of income is from the national pension system, so life is pretty grim."

In addition to the crippling stroke, which paralyzed the left side of his body, he suffers from retinopathy brought on by chronic diabetes. Although physically debilitated, Jun says his elder brother is nevertheless mentally alert and enjoys watching DVD recordings of daily sumo broadcasts and TV dramas, such as the long running TV Asahi series "Aibo" (Tokyo Detective Duo), which he views on a laptop computer. 

"He gets glued to the screen," the brother relates. "And oh yes, he still likes female entertainers. Before he was a big fan of Ryoko Kuninaka , Aya Ueto and Miori Takimoto. Now he seems to favor Erika Toda and Satomi Ishihara. Before he was hospitalized, he had a coffee table book of Toda's photos." 

Even now, does Sagawa still feel the urge to "eat" a woman?" The somewhat tasteless question was relayed to Sagawa via his brother, who told the reporter he'd replied, "I do."

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

Hmmm. Just desserts, n'est-ce pas?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Sadly this whole bizzare disgusting episode never got the condemnation it deserved in Japan, either by the govt, judiciary, media and the public.

If a young Japanese girl was murdered and eaten by a French man in the same circumstances, the horror of the act would still be reverberating around the networks.

That Sagawa actually could not be prosecuted for such a beastly crime in Japan - and in fact become a "notorious celebrity" always imho reflected badly on Japanese society.

I hope this film can show the huge evil of his actions and the tremendous suffering of the young woman's family and friends .

7 ( +7 / -0 )

He can't die too soon. I hope his only income is from the national pension as his brother claims, and that he doesn't see any financial benefit from this film.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have to say, I don't like the phrasing "a movie about his exploits" which kind of implies that this was daring or exciting. "a movie about his brutal, unforgivable crime, and how he got away with it" would be more appropriate.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

every aspect of this story is very disturbing. how about the family of the murdered girl? no information. I’m surprised they didn’t hire a hit man

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Sagawa’s lawyers expertly played the double jeopardy angle. The authorities in France should have given him hard time in France, as its fairly certain that they could have predicted the outcome.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you read in the news about Sagawa dead in a ditch having been beaten to death, you're welcome.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Disgusting behaviour by all concerned.

He murdered a woman Renee Hartevelt, who would now only be in her sixties.

This treatment of the killer as entertainment is a national disgrace. The sensationalist approach to his criminal behaviour and lack of remorse is shameful. This film should not be screened. Japan has proved that it cannot be trusted to show sensitivity towards the people who knew Ms Hartevelt and who still suffer her loss.

The killer should die slowly, alone, unknown, in his own faeces-sodden sheets, entirely aware of his condition.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites