“Actress is not just the story that charts the rise of Kinuyo Tanaka, played brilliantly by Sayuri Yoshinaga, who mesmerized and illuminated the screen with her charismatic performance of a legend, from her naively youthful days in pigtails, to coiffed professional veteran of the industry. We see how she started off in the studio system being one of many potential talents available, having her family’s economical hopes all pinned on her, and down to having a sugar daddy of sorts in Hiroshi Shimizu (Toru Watanabe) looking over her shoulder, whom she would get into and out of an unhappy secret marriage. Sayuri Yoshinaga provided that spark to endear herself to the audience, and needless to say, made me sit up and wonder just how the real actress was like in person, with her steely guts and perseverance in an industry that saw its brightest and darkest days during militarism and WWII.” From IMDB By Dick Steel, Singapore
In Actress, Kon Ichikawa shows us much of the life of Kinuyo Tanaka from the time she started as a hopeful in the Studio System until her work with Mizoguchi in Life of Oharu in 1952. The biography is good in itself, but it is cut with documentary footage detailing the state of Japanese cinema at the time in question. This gives us a very enlightening look at the development of the industry as a backdrop to the actress’s career as it progresses.
In the dramatic/biographic part we meet Shimizu, Gosho, Ozu and Mizuguchi to name some of the significant directors Tanaka worked with and in most cases had emotional relationships with as well. I’ve been watching Japanese cinema for a long time and this film was a real eye-opener in that it made the whole history of Japanese film come alive while showing a large part of Tanaka’s career.
It’s unfortunate this film only covers her career until 1952. She had so many great roles, but to take on her role in Sandakan No.8 three years before her death in 1977 was impressive. It is surely one of the most impressive displays of acting I have ever seen.
Interestingly enough, Sayuri Yoshinaga, who plays Tanaka brilliantly in this film in 1987, went on to have her own tour de force in Nagasaki Bura Bura Bushi in 2000 in another biography, that of the famous geisha, Aihachi. Mind you, in her case she is still doing critically acclaimed work in major productions to this day.
Please scroll down to choose servers and episodes.