Ladies first - Page 2

Kinuyo Tanaka and other legends command the screen in "Japanese Divas"

Machiko Kyo (right) delivers an iconic performance as the ethereal Lady Wakasa in Kenji Mizoguchi's 1953 Ugetsu.

My current favorite diva of the bunch: the bravely smiling, long-suffering Hideko Takamine, epicenter of Mikio Naruse's wonderful drama, When a Woman Ascends the Stairs (1960). Also the star of Keisuke Kinoshita's Technicolor Carmen Comes Home (1951) and his well-loved Twenty-Four Eyes (1954), Takamine's put-upon, stubbornly independent hostess Mama is beautifully filled out with almost imperceptible shading — from the slightly arch, whiny tone she assumes when drunk and forced to consort with a heartless customer to the guarded polonaise of politeness she undergoes while sitting down with a rival hostess. Here, as Naruse matter-of-factly breaks down the economics of the biz, Takamine is less Douglas Sirk's Jane Wyman than Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Hanna Schygulla, colored in less lurid hues: a post-World War II heartbreaker all too familiar with the disaster attendant with hitching one's hopes and fortunes to men. 


June 17–Aug. 20, $5.50–$9.50

Pacific Film Archive

2575 Bancroft, SF

(510) 642-5249


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