Love Letter

Film at Lincoln Center Presents Retrospective of Groundbreaking Japanese Actress and Director Kinuyo Tanaka

Kinuyo Tanaka Retrospective

Friday, March 18 through Sunday, March 27

Walter Reade Theater – 165 W. 65th Street (between Amsterdam and Broadway)

Admission per film: $15 general public/$12 seniors, students, and persons with disabilities
All-Access Passes: $79 for general public/$35 students

Film at Lincoln Center is paying tribute to Kinuyo Tanaka’s monumental place in film history with a retrospective of twelve of her films from March 18 through March 27.

About Kinuyo Tanaka

As an actress in more than 250 films, Kinuyo Tanaka (1909-1977) was one of the most celebrated and wildly popular artists of her time, regularly collaborating with consummate masters such as Yasujirō Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Mikio Naruse.

In 1953, Tanaka boldly turned to directing her own features in an industry deprived of female filmmakers and amid outcries from her mentors—particularly Mizoguchi. Nevertheless, she fulfilled her ambition with the help of the young studio Shintoho and her faithful friends Ozu and Naruse, as well as the groundbreaking gay filmmaker Keisuke Kinoshita, who penned the screenplay for her directorial debut, Love Letter, which went on to receive critical acclaim at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival.

Between 1953 and 1962, Tanaka directed half a dozen films with a determined sense of freedom and touches of provocation, placing women at the forefront of her movies as mistresses, prostitutes, poets, heroines, and victims of social injustice.

Discount for JCNYC Readers

Thanks to Film at Lincoln Center, JapanCulture•NYC readers will save $5 off any screenings during the retrospective! Purchase tickets from Film at Lincoln Center’s website and use discount code TANAKA.

Love Letter
Love Letter

Full Lineup

Film at Lincoln Center’s retrospective of Tanaka’s groundbreaking career includes six rare films, newly restored by the studios with which she worked: Nikkatsu, Toho, Shochiku, and Kadokawa. To celebrate Tanaka’s brilliance in front of the camera as well as behind it, we are screening six of her personal favorite films, all on 35mm prints.

A Hen in the Wind

Yasujiro Ozu | 1948 | 35mm | 84 min
Friday, March 18 at 4:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 20 at 1:30 p.m.

Made just three years after WWII and set in the squalor of Japan’s reconstruction, Ozu’s rare melodrama A Hen in the Wind follows a mother who resorts to prostitution to pay her sick child’s medical bills while waiting for her husband to return from war.

Love Letter

Kinuyo Tanaka | 1953 | 97 min | 4K Restoration
Friday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 22 at 8:45 p.m.
Thursday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m.

Released a year and a half after the end of the American Occupation of mainland Japan, Tanaka’s first film as director follows a repatriated veteran (Masayuki Mori) who helps Japanese women write love letters to American GIs, meanwhile wandering the streets of bustling postwar Tokyo in search of Michiko (Yoshiko Kuga), his childhood love.

The Moon Has Risen

Kinuyo Tanaka | 1955 | 102 min | 4K Restoration
Friday, March 18 at 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 20 at 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 26 at 8:30 p.m.

Based on an unused Ozu script gifted to Tanaka, this enchanting comedy follows a widower and the romantic prospects of his three daughters in Japan’s ancient capital of Nara during late autumn.

The Life of Oharu

Kenji Mizoguchi | 1952 | 35mm | 136 min
Saturday, March 19 at 1:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 23 at 3:30 p.m.

Perhaps the most sublimely devastating of master director Kenji Mizoguchi’s celebrated collaborations with Tanaka, The Life of Oharu stars the actress as a once-proud concubine whose tragic fate is governed by the callous whims of men.

Love Under the Crucifix

Kinuyo Tanaka | 1962 | 102 min | 4K Restoration
Saturday, March 19 at 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 20 at 8:15 p.m.
Wednesday, March 23 at 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 26 at 6:15 p.m.

Set in 16th-century Japan, Tanaka’s final film is a doomed romance following two lovers—the daughter of the famous tea master and the other a married, devout Christian samurai—who come to ruin for their forbidden mutual attraction.

Forever a Woman

Kinuyo Tanaka | 1955 | 110 min | 4K Restoration
Saturday, March 19 at 6:30 p.m.
Monday, March 21 at 9:00 p.m.
Tuesday, March 22 at 4:00 p.m.
Friday, March 25 at 8:45 p.m.

Considered Tanaka’s first truly personal work, Forever a Woman concerns an ill-fated female tanka poet whose life was brought to a premature end by breast cancer.

The Wandering Princess

Kinuyo Tanaka | 1960 | 102 min | 4K Restoration
Saturday, March 19 at 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, March 23 at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 27 at 1:15 p.m.

Tanaka’s first film in color and in Cinemascope revealed an entirely new artistic vision from the director: an exquisite historical fresco bound up in a war melodrama starring Machiko Kyô.

Girls of Night

Kinuyo Tanaka | 1961 | 93 min | 4K Restoration
Sunday, March 20 at 6:00 p.m.
Friday, March 25 at 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m.

Following the 1956 Prostitution Prevention Law, a young woman living in one of Japan’s newly established rehabilitation centers, which attempted to reform sex workers, struggles to build a new life.

Sandakan No. 8

Kei Kumai | 1974 | 35mm | 120 min
Monday, March 21 at 3:45 p.m.
Sunday, March 27 at 5:45 p.m.

Tanaka won the Best Actress Award at the 25th Berlin International Film Festival for what may be considered her last great role: an elderly, impoverished former sex worker in Kei Kumai’s Sandakan No. 8.

Shunkinsho: Okoto to Sasuke

Yasujirō Shimazu | 1935 | 35 mm | 100 min
Monday, March 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 24 at 8:45 p.m.

Among Tanaka’s personal favorites, the first of many adaptations of Junichiro Tanizaki’s classic novel follows the peculiar romance between a blind mistress and her manservant in Japan’s Meiji era.


Keisuke Kinoshita | 1944 | 35mm | 87 min
Tuesday, March 22 at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 24 at 4:15 p.m.

In her first collaboration with director Keisuke Kinoshita (who penned the screenplay for her directorial debut, Love Letter), Tanaka plays the patriotic mother of a young army recruit during WWII.


Mikio Naruse | 1952 | 35mm | 98 min
Friday, March 25 at 4:15 p.m.
Sunday, March 27 at 3:30 p.m.

This collaboration with Mikio Naruse brought the actress newfound international attention, for her performance as an afflicted yet fiercely independent mother of four in postwar Japan.