SOUTHEAST ASIAN PREMIERE
Director: Kinuyo Tanaka
Runtime: 97 minutes
Released a year and a half after the end of the American Occupation, and based on a popular serialised novel by Fumio Niwa, Kinuyo Tanaka’s debut feature is a male-centred melodrama about Reikichi, a repatriated naval veteran. Making a living helping panpan (independent sex workers in post-war Japan) write romantic letters to American soldiers, a shocking revelation about his longlost lover Michiko causes him to spiral into moral outrage and judgement.
Even before its release, the making of the film became a paradoxically gendered spectacle. Critics and the media praised the film and Tanaka’s foray in directing, while simultaneously attempting to discredit her authorship based on the guidance and assistance she received from filmmakers such as Keisuke Kinoshita (who wrote the film’s screenplay). However, in 1953, Tanaka—who represented an exemplary image of Japanese femininity in popular imagination—dressed in male fashion and commanding an all-male crew, was a rare sight at a time when few women were visibly commanding managerial positions. Tanaka’s star image and persona can be seen as a prism through which the public witnessed a time of redefinition, when Japan was struggling to negotiate what was perceived as modern and traditional gender mores.
Retrospective: Kinuyo Tanaka is held in conjunction with Japanese Film Festival Singapore, and has been made possible with the generous support of the Japan Foundation.
For the full Retrospective: Kinuyo Tanaka programme, please visit here.
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