Kinuyo Tanaka
Stories & Ideas

Wed 25 Jan 2023

Behind the Screen: Kinuyo Tanaka, trailblazing filmmaker

Film Melbourne Cinémathèque Retrospective
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Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society

Notes for the 15–22 November 2023 Melbourne Cinémathèque program.

Kinuyo Tanaka (1909–77) is one of the greatest and most prolific screen actors and – after Sakane Tazuko – only the second woman to make it as a film director in the Japanese film industry. Appearing in 250 films over the span of 50 years, Tanaka acquired her first screen credit aged 14, while her major breakthrough came in films such as Ozu’s I Graduated But… (1929). During the 1930s, Tanaka rose to become one of Japan’s most popular and iconic movie stars, going on to play leading roles with almost all of the critically canonised auteurs of her time including Heinosuke Gosho, Kon Ichikawa, Mikio Naruse, Tom Uchida, Keisuke Kinoshita, Hiroshi Shimizu (to whom she was briefly married), Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi.

Tanaka made the move to directing in 1953 with Love Letter, a move infamously protested by Mizoguchi, a filmmaker otherwise known for his empathic portrayals of women. Undeterred, Tanaka completed five more films over the next decade for a range of major studios, largely focusing on experiences unique to women, before returning to screen acting and successfully transitioning to TV drama. This season celebrates the extraordinary and ground-breaking directorial career of Tanaka by screening – for perhaps the first time in Australia – the recent digital restorations (not available for our previous mini-focus) of four of her key films including the Ozu-scripted The Moon Has Risen (1955), The unflinching Forever a Woman (1955), and her final and “most erotic” (Kelley Dong) directorial effort, Love Under the Crucifix (1962).


Behind the Screen: Kinuyo Tanaka, trailblazing filmmaker

The Moon Has Risen (1955) – Wed 15 Nov, 7pm
Forever a Woman (A.K.A The Eternal Breasts) (1955) – Wed 15 Nov, 9pm
Love Under the Crucifix (1962) – Wed 22 Nov, 7pm
The Wandering Princess (1960) – Wed 22 Nov, 8.55pm

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Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.

Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven. 

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