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Machiko Kyō Retrospective at Metrograph

Machiko Kyō Retrospective at Metrograph

Now through Sunday, August 11

Metrograph – 7 Ludlow Street (between Canal and Hester Streets)

Admission: $15

Metrograph presents a retrospective of Machiko Kyō, the legendary Japanese actress who died on May 12 of this year at the age of 95. At the time of her death, Metrograph was already planning a retrospective of her films, so this program sadly became a posthumous tribute to the marvelous actress, one of the last living links to the Golden Age of Japanese cinema.

Kyō was born in Osaka in 1924 and discovered while working in a dance revue. She shot to international stardom with a bravura, multifaceted performance as the female lead in Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 Rashomon, and from there put together what may be the single greatest run of any Japanese screen performer in the 1950s, working with Mizoguchi, Ozu, Ichikawa, Teshigahara, and a host of other auteurs. Fitting effortlessly into any period, she could play both the westernized sex worker of Mizoguchi’s Street of Shame (1956) and the feudal-era lady-in-waiting in Teinosuke Kinugasa’s Gate of Hell (1953) with equal conviction and integrity—a performer of enormous versatility who was most consistent only in her genius.

The retrospective began on July 26, and Metrograph has already screened two films: Older Brother, Younger Sister and Ugetsu.

Remaining Films:

Monday, July 29 at 5:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Director: Akira Kurosawa

A riveting psychological thriller that investigates the nature of truth and the meaning of justice, Rashomon is widely considered one of the key texts of Japanese—and world—cinema. Four people give different accounts of a man’s murder and the rape of his wife, which director Akira Kurosawa presents with striking imagery and an ingenious use of flashbacks. This eloquent masterwork and international sensation revolutionized film language and introduced Japanese cinema—and two commanding new stars by the names of Toshiro Mifune and Machiko Kyō—to eager Western eyes.


Street of Shame
Wednesday, July 31 at 5:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, August 1 at 5:00 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.

Director: Kenji Mizoguchi

Though best known for his period works, Mizoguchi’s final film was almost brutally contemporary, set in a cathouse in Tokyo’s red light district before the Japanese National Diet outlawed prostitution in Japan. We are privileged to see not only business as usual at the aptly named Dreamland, but the inner yearnings of the women, who hope against hope for a better tomorrow. With Kyō, a far cry from her phantasmal turn for Mizoguchi in Ugetsu, coarse and earthy as the gum-snapping, Americanized Miki.


The Face of Another
Thursday, August 1 at 2:15 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara

The great Tatsuya Nakadai plays Mr. Okuyama, a businessman disfigured beyond recognition in a freak industrial accident who, through the operations of his psychiatrist, is affixed with a lifelike mask molded from the features of a stranger, a miracle solution that in time becomes a curse, eroding Okuyama’s sense of self and resulting in a disturbing change in his personality. The third Teshigahara/Abe/Takemitsu collaboration, with Woman in the Dunescinematographer Hiroshi Segawa here doing uncanny, unforgettable work.


Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 4 at 1:00 p.m.

Directors: Kon Ichikawa, Yasuzo Masamura, and Kozaburo Yoshimura

In this omnibus film bringing together three stories about women by Yoshimura, Ichikawa, and Masumura, Kyō stars in Yoshimura’s “The Woman Who Forgot Love” as a cruel bar owner who ignores both her sister-in-law’s financial hardships and an injured schoolboy’s needs. Through a series of vignettes it becomes evident that a string of disappointments have made this seemingly one-dimensional villain into the stingy and hard-hearted woman she is today, and when an unexpected encounter with an old flame reawakens this embittered miser’s long-slumbering humanity, Kyō renders the transformation incredibly moving.


Floating Weeds
Wednesday, August 7 at 9:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 11 at 1:00 p.m.

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Ozu’s remake of his own 1934 silent A Story of Floating Weeds adds color, the eye of the brilliant Rashomon and Ugetsu cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, and of course Kyō, playing the mistress of the head of a kabuki theatre troupe who’s embittered to learn that her lover has begun to visit his former paramour, now running a small restaurant in the town on the edge of the Inland Sea where they’re slated to perform. One of Roger Ebert’s “Ten Greatest Films of All Time,” and rated by Japanese film scholar Donald Ritchie as “the most pictorially beautiful of all of Ozu’s pictures.”


Gate of Hell
Saturday, August 10 at 1:00 p.m.
Sunday, August 11 at 3:30 p.m.

Director: Teinosuke Kinugasa

The first color film from the Daiei studio, made with imported Eastmancolor stock, this Heiji Rebellion-era Cannes winner concerns the samurai Morito (Kazuo Hasegawa) and his all-consuming desire for married lady-in-waiting Kesa (Kyō), whose husband the warrior plots to do away with. Kinugasa, a veteran actor and director perhaps best known for his avant-garde silent films of the 1920s, gets marvelously committed, psychologically acute performances from his leads, crafting a visually ravishing tale of obsession, intrigue, and fatal attraction.


Odd Obsession
Saturday, August 10 at 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 11 at 5:30 p.m.

Director: Kon Ichikawa

Ichikawa’s perverse, drily comic drama of public prestige and private prurience based on novelist Junichirō Tanizaki’s The Key stars Kyō as the young wife of a middle-aged man who, as he is consumed by the suspicion that his spouse is interested in his daughter’s dashing fiancé, discovers that jealousy is a powerful aphrodisiac, renewing his flagging desire in a manner which medical injections have thus failed to do. Shot in muted color and bathed in stark shadows by the mighty Miyagawa, it took the Jury Prize at Cannes in 1960.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit Metrograph’s website. To learn more about Kyō, please read her obituary in The New York Times.