Itami entered films as an actor and made his directing debut with the assured black comedy, "The Funeral" (1984). He followed it with a series of impressive films--particularly the "noodle western" "Tampopo" (1986)--that have gained him international acclaim and a host of Japanese Academy Awards. His action comedies, "A Taxing Woman" (1987) and "A Taxing Woman's Return" (1988), have proved popular in the USA, despite the fact that their heroine--played by Itami's wife, Nobuko Miyamoto--is a tax inspector possessed of considerable detective powers. In 1992, he was attacked and had his face slashed after the release of "Minbo--or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion," a satire on the Japanese gangsters. His tenth film, "Marutai no Onna/A Woman in Police Protection," was released in 1997 months before he committed suicide.