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'5 Japanese Divas' Shine at Film Forum

5 Japanese Divas, Courtesy of Film Forum
Images used courtesy of Film Forum 

 

Spotlighting five legendary actresses from the golden age of Japanese cinema—Kinuyo Tanaka, Isuzu Yamada, Machiko Kyo, Setsuko Hara, and Hideko Takamine—from April 1 through 21, 5 Japanese Divas at Film Forum features 23 films, many of them rarely shown in the US.

In this piece from Film Forum, the career of each diva is briefly and brilliantly encapsualted.


In the golden age of Japanese cinema, even as male stars like Toshiro Mifune flourished, its greatest strength was in an astonishing array of female icons, great actresses as well as superstars.

In a career that spanned over 40 years, Kinuyo Tanaka (1909–1977) suffered for Mizoguchi 15 times; gun-molled for Yasujirō Ozu early; and got laughs for him late, eventually becoming everyone's favorite aunt.

Born in 1917, Isuzu Yamada vaulted to stardom in her teens before playing a series of powerful, dominant parts, topped by her legendary "Lady Macbeth" in Kurosawa's Throne of Blood.

Former dancer Machiko Kyo (born 1924) became internationally famous in Kurosawa's Rashomon; was then glorified in LIFE; co-starred with Brando; and grew in screen sexiness into her 50s.

Born in 1920, Setsuko Hara, the beloved "Virgin Star," personified Miss Japan as the perfect daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, even mother for Ozu, while displaying Dostoyevskian range for Kurosawa.

Finally, Hideko Takamine, who died last December, aged 76, graduated from being Japan's Shirley Temple into the tightly wound, unconquered Naruse heroine, even attaining a full-blown New Yorker profile.