Kinuyo Tanaka: 100 Years, 100-Plus Movies

Oct 27, 2009

This month marks the centenary of Kinuyo Tanaka, one of Japan’s most prolific actors as well as a director in her own right. In honor of the occasion, Tokyo’s National Museum of Modern Art is holding a retrospective, and critic Chris Fujiwara has written a revealing new piece for Moving Image Source about this beloved star, whose career stretched from the early 1920s to the late 1970s. Even if you don’t know her by name, you have probably seen at least one of her movies—Tanaka worked most often with Kenji Mizoguchi (Women of the Night, Life of Oharu, Sansho the Bailiff) but also appeared in films by Yasujiro Ozu (I Graduated, But . . ., Equinox Flower), Hiroshi Shimizu (Ornamental Hairpin), Mikio Naruse (Flowing), Keisuke Kinoshita (The Ballad of Narayama), and Akira Kurosawa (Red Beard). Fujiwara details not only her on-screen roles but also her three-month tour of the United States as a cultural goodwill ambassador in the late forties, a turning point in her life.