Well known as an iconic actor in Japanese cinema, Kinuyo Tanaka was also a pioneering woman in a studio system that actively discouraged female directors. She made six groundbreaking features over the course of a decade, dismissing the passivity assigned to most female protagonists of the era by creating a small, radical oeuvre of progressive heroines. Though revered for her starring roles in films by directors such as Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Mikio Naruse, Tanaka’s own work as a filmmaker has been conspicuously absent from most studies of Japanese cinema. All six of her films—none of which have ever been distributed in North America—have been digitally restored by Janus Films for this retrospective, the first to present her directorial work in its entirety.
Schedule for six films by Kinuyo Tanaka
- Aug 31 & Sept 2: Love Letter. Released a year after the American occupation of Japan ended, Love Letter depicts with incisive complexity the fraught adaptation of Japanese soldiers to a changed society and the moral condemnation of Japanese women who became involved with the enemy. 1953. Japanese with English subtitles.
- Sept 1 & 2: The Moon Has Risen possesses Tanaka’s lively and elegant comedic sensibility in its depiction of a widower who lives with his three daughters. As several young men court the women, their father is forced to confront—with amusing bewilderment—Japanese society’s rapidly evolving mores. 1955. Japanese with English subtitles.
- Sept 1, 7, & 23: Forever a Woman tells the story of a recent divorcée who is diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. The real-life story investigates issues of mortality, sexuality, and female independence with a frankness and audacity unprecedented in postwar Japanese cinema. 1955. Japanese with English subtitles.
- Sept 14 & 23: The Wandering Princess is an epic about a woman caught in the torrents of history. It tells the story of an aristocrat who is forced to marry the younger brother of the soon-to-be-deposed Chinese emperor. Tanaka realizes with startling depth her ambition to relate a historical saga from a critical female perspective. 1960. Japanese with English subtitles.
- Sept 15 & 24: Girls of the Night. Tanaka explores Japan’s attempted reformation of former prostitutes. But creating a new life proves treacherous. In once again taking on challenging subject matter, Tanaka paints an empathetic portrait of a fragile community of untamed outcasts.1961. Japanese with English subtitles.
- Sept 21, 22 & Oct 1: Love Under the Crucifix evokes the golden age of Japanese cinema with a large-scale, costume drama set in the 16th-century. The shogunate’s prohibition of the Christian faith forces a pair to fight against the prejudices of an oppressive society while persisting in their mutual devotion. 1962. Japanese with English subtitles.
- Tickets: $15/film. More info: The Films of Kinuyo Tanaka | Honolulu Museum of Art
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