Kinuyo Tanaka 6 Films – DCP
Released a year after the American occupation of Japan ended, Tanaka’s directorial debut explores the professional and personal conflicts of Reikichi (Masayuki Mori), a repatriated veteran who searches for his lost love (Yoshiko Kuga) while translating romantic letters from Japanese women to American GIs. As adapted from a novel by Fumio Niwa, Love Letter depicts with incisive complexity the fraught adaptation of Japanese soldiers to a changed society as well as the moral condemnation of Japanese women who entered into relations with the enemy.
Devised by the Directors Guild of Japan, “The Moon Has Risen” is based on a screenplay jointly written by Yasujiro Ozu and Ryosuke Saito, and is Kinuyo Tanaka’s second feature film as a director. She is also a member of the cast for this enchanting love story told from a uniquely female perspective, which follows the romantic fortunes of three sisters leading tranquil lives in Japan’s ancient capital Nara during late autumn. Tanaka’s direction is enhanced by the participation of several of Ozu’s regular collaborators, such as Chishu Ryu who plays the sisters’ father, and Takanobu Saito who composed the score. Other main cast members include Hisako Yamane, Yoko Sugi, Mie Kitahara, and Shoji Yasui, who adopted the name of his character in this film, his motion picture debut, as his stage name.
Kinuyo Tanaka’s third film as a director tells the story of Fumiko Nakajo, an ill-fated female tanka poet whose life was brought to a premature end by breast cancer. Set on the plains of Hokkaido, it features a fully-committed performance from star Yumeji Tsukioka, whose character deals with the pain of being separated from her son, then suddenly finds herself forced to confront her mortality, yet still invests herself wholeheartedly in one last love affair. The supporting cast includes Masayuki Mori, one of the most revered actors of Japanese cinema’s golden age, as well as Ryoji Hayama in his first film role, Yoko Sugi, and Shiro Osaka. The screenplay was penned by Sumie Tanaka, further consolidating the “films for women, by women” outlook that Kinuyo Tanaka strived to advance.
Tanaka’s first film in both color and Cinemascope is an epic about a woman caught in the torrents of history. Based on the memoirs of Hiro Saga, The Wandering Princess depicts the story of Ryuko (Machiko Kyo), an aristocrat who, at the outset of World War II, is forced to marry Futetsu (Eiji Funakoshi), the younger brother of the soon-to-be disposed Chinese emperor. Ryuko’s enmeshment in the Japanese occupation of Manchuria realizes with startling depth Tanaka's ambition to relate a historical saga from a critical female perspective.
With Girls of the Night, Tanaka reunited with screenwriter Sumie Tanaka to explore the reformation of prostitutes. The film follows Kuniko (Hisako Hara), an escort who enters a rehabilitation center after the Prostitution Prevention Law prohibits her line of work. But creating a new life proves treacherous—wherever Kuniko goes, the past seems to catch up with her. In once again taking on challenging subject matter, Tanaka paints an empathetic portrait of a fragile community of untamed outcasts.
A film about the tragic love of Ogin who is the daughter of a master of the Japanese tea ceremony (Sado), Sen no Rikyu and a Christian Samurai lord Takayama Ukon, based on a novel by Kon Toukou. Ogin marries a wealthy merchant despite being in love with Ukon. She is also asked to become a mistress of Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi. In order to pursue her love and fight against authority, she must make the ultimate decision. Directed by Kinuyo Tanaka, the film depicts the struggle of Ogin surviving from a female perspective and portrays the beauty of the Momoyama culture (from around year 1568 to 1600).
A celebration of revolutionary filmmaking.
Taking Virginia Woolf’s novel Orlando: A Biography as its starting point, academic virtuoso turned filmmaker Paul B. Preciado has fashioned the documentary, Orlando: My Political Biography, as a personal essay, historical analysis, and social manifesto which premiered and took home four prizes at the 2023 Berlin Film Festival.
Paul B. Preciado