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Japanese Divas

June 17, 2011 - August 20, 2011

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The golden age of Japanese cinema shines at the PFA Theater this summer as we offer a thematic series spotlighting great screen performances. Launched in June, Japanese Divas continues through August 20: ten weeks to enjoy stellar performances by Setsuko Hara, Machiko Kyo, Hideko Takamine, Kinuyo Tanaka, Ayako Wakao, and Isuzu Yamada.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, lead actresses in Japanese films became icons, rising to stardom on the international stage and captivating viewers with their powerful range of emotional expression. The second part of this series begins with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, starring Machiko Kyo in the performance that made her the most famous Japanese actress in the West, and Kenji Mizoguchi’s masterful Sansho the Bailiff with Kinuyo Tanaka in an indelible role as the mother. Hideko Takamine’s versatility is displayed in the characters she portrays in Keisuke Kinoshita’s films: the endearing schoolteacher in Twenty-Four Eyes; a stripper in the comic Carmen Comes Home, shown twice in a 35mm print imported from Tokyo; and the sharecropper’s daughter in the melodramatic saga Immortal Love, shot in ‘Scope. Takamine also plays the heroine in Mikio Naruse’s elegant drama When a Woman Ascends the Stairs, a must-see.

BAM/PFA patrons will have a chance to enjoy a strong sampling of Yasujiro Ozu’s films this summer, including early productions starring Kinuyo Tanaka such as the Depression-era Woman of Tokyo, a silent film presented with piano accompaniment by Judith Rosenberg, paired with the tragic A Hen in the Wind. Tanaka also stars in Ozu’s masterful late-period color film, Equinox Flower. Ozu’s work with the radiant Setsuko Hara is showcased in his remarkable family dramas, Late Spring, Early Summer, and Late Autumn, all three highly rewarding films that convey simple yet profoundly moving stories about the cycles of life.

Hiroshi Teshigahara’s existential thriller The Face of Another, starring Machiko Kyo, and two key works by cult director Yasuzo Masumura, A Wife Confesses and Seisaku’s Wife, both shot in ‘Scope format and starring Ayako Wakao, bring this series into the sixties.

View the original U.S. press kit for Street of Shame from our Cinefiles document database.


Susan Oxtoby
Senior Film Curator

Friday, June 17, 2011
7:00 p.m. Ugetsu
Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan, 1953). In sixteenth-century Japan, a simple potter is drawn into the realm of a phantom enchantress, played with devilish élan by Machiko Kyo. Director Mizoguchi builds an eerie netherworld entirely out of shadows and lighting, decor and texture, and the graceful chicanery of human desire. (96 mins)

Friday, June 17, 2011
9:00 p.m. Odd Obsession
Kon Ichikawa (Japan, 1959). An elderly man tries to keep his sexual energy alive by arranging liaisons between his still-beautiful wife (Machiko Kyo) and his daughter's fiancé. Perversity and black comedy combine in Ichikawa’s adaptation of a Tanizaki novel. (107 mins)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
7:00 p.m. Tokyo Story
Yasujiro Ozu (Japan, 1953). This simple, sad story of the gap between generations in a Japanese family revealed to Western viewers the poetic acuteness of Ozu's style, and features one of Japanese cinema’s greatest performances in Setsuko Hara’s role as a becalmed, utterly determined young woman. "Wonderful . . . one of the manifest miracles of cinema" (The New Yorker). (140 mins)

Friday, June 24, 2011
7:00 p.m. Dragnet Girl
Yasujiro Ozu (Japan, 1933). Judith Rosenberg on Piano. The last of Ozu's 1930s excursions into the world of American-style crime drama, with Kinuyo Tanaka as a gangster’s moll. "What this beautifully shot movie proves is that...Ozu could have made superlative genre pictures, noirs included" (Village Voice). (99 mins)

Friday, June 24, 2011
9:00 p.m. Sisters of the Gion
Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan, 1936). In this famous melodrama, Mizoguchi strips away the romantic veneer of the geisha ideal in this unsentimental portrait of the sex business as a losing proposition for both the tradition-bound geisha and the modern girl alike. “A masterpiece” (Tadao Sato). (68 mins)

Saturday, June 25, 2011
8:45 p.m. Street of Shame
Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan, 1956). Mizoguchi’s last film brought together some of Japan’s greatest actresses—including Machiko Kyo and Ayako Wakao—to dramatize the struggles and dreams of five prostitutes in Tokyo’s red-light district. “The best of all films examining the problems of women in postwar Japan” (Donald Richie). (86 mins)

Thursday, June 30, 2011
7:00 p.m. The Life of Oharu
Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan, 1952). The story of a noblewoman’s fall from grace becomes “perhaps the finest film made in any country about the oppression of women” (Joan Mellen) in the hands of director Kenji Mizoguchi and actress Kinuyo Tanaka. “One of the ten greatest films in the history of cinema” (Derek Malcolm). (148 mins)

Saturday, July 2, 2011
6:30 p.m. Rashomon
Akira Kurosawa (Japan, 1950). Featuring Machiko Kyo in a performance that made her the most famous Japanese actress in the West, Rashomon is “one of the most brilliantly constructed films of all time, a monument to Kurosawa’s greatness, and a landmark in film history” (James Monaco). (88 mins)

Saturday, July 2, 2011
8:20 p.m. Sansho the Bailiff
Kenji Mizoguchi (Japan, 1954). Bring all your senses and your handkerchief to this haunting tale of a family (led by a haunting Kinuyo Tanaka) victimized by the cruel practices of feudal Japan, “developed with intuition, cunning, and an overarching sense of tragedy” (SF Weekly). (125 mins)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011
7:00 p.m. Twenty-Four Eyes
Keisuke Kinoshita (Japan, 1954). Twenty years in the lives of a teacher (Hideko Takamine) and her twelve pupils in a small Inland Sea village affected by militarism, anticommunism, and a war they despise. Voted in 1999 by Japanese critics as one of the top ten Japanese films of all time. (152 mins)

Thursday, July 7, 2011
7:00 p.m. Carmen Comes Home
Keisuke Kinoshita (Japan, 1951). Hideko Takamine proves herself a fine comic actress, playing a country girl turned stripper, in this barbed satire on postwar society. Japan’s first color film. Repeated on July 9. (86 mins)

Saturday, July 9, 2011
6:30 p.m. Carmen Comes Home
Keisuke Kinoshita (Japan, 1951). Hideko Takamine proves herself a fine comic actress, playing a country girl turned stripper, in this barbed satire on postwar society. Japan’s first color film. (86 mins)

Saturday, July 9, 2011
8:20 p.m. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs
Mikio Naruse (Japan, 1960). Hideko Takamine portrays the consummate Naruse heroine: high-minded, determined, and out of her element in a sordid world. "An elegant essay in black-and-white CinemaScope and tinkling cocktail jazz, this tale of a bar hostess's attempt to escape her lot could give heartbreak lessons to Fassbinder and Sirk" (Village Voice). (110 mins)

Sunday, July 10, 2011
5:00 p.m. Woman of Tokyo and A Hen in the Wind
Yasuziro Ozu (Japan, 1933). Judith Rosenberg on Piano. Ozu's Depression-era melodrama presages his later style in "a subtle riot of discordant formal devices"(Village Voice). With A Hen in the Wind, Ozu’s tragedy of a destitute woman (Kinuyo Tanaka). (131 mins)

Friday, July 15, 2011
7:00 p.m. Immortal Love
Keisuke Kinoshita (Japan, 1961). In the shadow of Mount Aso, a CinemaScope saga of a little community where a forced marriage impacts generations. With Hideko Takamine and Tatsuya Nakadai. (105 mins)

Thursday, July 21, 2011
7:00 p.m. Late Spring
Yasujiro Ozu (Japan, 1949). Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara as father and daughter in a deceptively simple, eloquent story of filial devotion and parental sacrifice. A near-perfect film, and one of Ozu's own favorites. (107 mins)

Sunday, July 24, 2011
5:00 p.m. Early Summer
Yasujiro Ozu (Japan, 1951). "I was interested in getting much deeper than just the story itself; I wanted to depict the cycles of life, the transience of life" (Ozu). An exquisite, faintly melancholic portrait of a family, with the radiant Setsuko Hara as the daughter on whose marriage everything depends. (135 mins)

Saturday, July 30, 2011
6:30 p.m. Throne of Blood
Akira Kurosawa (Japan, 1957). Kurosawa’s Noh-influenced version of Macbeth is “the most brilliant and original attempt ever made to put Shakespeare on screen” (Time). The towering Toshiro Mifune is paired with the legendary Isuzu Yamada in “a partnership of titans” (Film Forum). (107 mins)

Saturday, July 30, 2011
8:35 p.m. The Face of Another
Hiroshi Teshigahara (Japan, 1966). A man (Tatsuya Nakadai) whose face is scarred has a mask made—of a stranger—and attempts to seduce his own wife (Machiko Kyo), in this black-and-white fever dream from Hiroshi Teshigahara, based on the novel by Kobo Abe. “A metaphysical thriller imbued with stylistic touches of surrealism and elegance. A film of the intellect” (S.F. Film Festival). (124 mins)

Saturday, August 6, 2011
6:30 p.m. Equinox Flower
Yasujiro Ozu (Japan, 1958). Modern girl Kinuyo Tanaka quietly rebels against her traditional parents' plans in Ozu’s first color film. "Gentle and amused in the way that it acknowledges time's passage, the changing of values, and the adjustments that have to be made between generations" (N.Y. Times). (118 mins)

Thursday, August 11, 2011
7:00 p.m. A Wife Confesses
Yasuzo Masumura (Japan, 1961). Cult director Masumura combines film noir and steamy sexuality in this tale of a young widow (Ayako Wakao) standing trial for the murder of her husband. “One of Japanese cinema’s most striking portraits of a modern woman” (TIFF Cinematheque). (91 mins)

Saturday, August 13, 2011
6:30 p.m. Seisaku’s Wife
Yasuzo Masumura (Japan, 1965). An engrossing tale of rebel lovers linking sensuality, war, and l’amour fou, starring Ayako Wakao as an outcast woman with an all-consuming love. “Perhaps Masumura’s masterpiece, and certainly one of the great Japanese films of the sixties” (TIFF Cinematheque). (93 mins)

Saturday, August 20, 2011
6:30 p.m. Late Autumn
Yasujiro Ozu (Japan, 1960). Coming full circle from Late Spring, Setsuko Hara plays a widowed mother pushing her unwilling daughter to marry. "Exquisite and not to be missed" (New Republic). (127 mins)

Series co-curated by Mona Nagai. We are indebted to Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum, and his series advisor Michael Jeck for their curatorial research. We also acknowledge the generous assistance of the following individuals and institutions in support of this retrospective: Sarah Finklea and Brian Belovarac, Janus Films; Satoko Ishida, Shochiku Company; Mayumi Nagumo, Kadokawa Pictures; Andrew Tracy, TIFF Cinematheque; and the Japan Society of Northern California. Archival and restored prints and musical accompaniment for silent films are presented with support from the Packard Humanities Institute.