KINUGASA, Teinosuke

Nationality: Japanese. Born: Teinosuke Kogame in Mie Prefecture, 1 January 1896. Education: Sasayama Private School. Career: Ran away to Nagoya, began theatrical apprenticeship, 1913; stage debut, 1915; oyama actor (playing female roles), Nikkatsu Mukojima studio, 1918; wrote and directed first film, 1921; moved to Makino Kinema, 1922; contract director for Shochiku Company, formed Kinugasa Motion Picture League, became involved with new actors' and technicians' union, led mass walkout over plan to replace oyama actors with female performers, mid-1920s; travelled to Russia and Germany, 1928; returned to Japan, 1929; began association with kabuki actor Hasegawa, 1935; moved to Toho Company, 1939; moved to Daiei Company, 1949, (appointed to board of directors, 1958). Awards: Best Film, Cannes Festival, Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, and Best Foreign Film, New York Film Critics, for Gate of Hell , 1954; Purple Ribbon Medal, Japan, for distinguished cultural service, 1958. Died: 26 February 1982.

Films as Director:


Imoto no shi ( The Death of My Sister ) (+ sc, role)


Niwa no kotori ( Two Little Birds ) (+ sc); Hibana ( Spark ) (+ sc)


Hanasake jijii (+ sc); Jinsei o Mitsumete (+ sc); Onna-yo ayamaru nakare (+ sc); Konjiki yasha ( The Golden Demon ) (+ sc); Ma no ike ( The Spirit of the Pond ) (+ sc)


Choraku no kanata ( Beyond Decay ) (+ sc); Kanojo to unmei ( She Has Lived Her Destiny ) (in two parts) (+ sc); Kire no ame ( Fog and Rain ) (+ sc); Kishin yuri keiji (+ sc); Kyoren no buto ( Dance Training ) (+ sc); Mirsu ( Love ) (+ sc); Shohin ( Shuto ) (+ sc); Shohin ( Shusoku ) (+ sc); Jashumon no onna ( A Woman's Heresy ) (+ sc); Tsuma no himitsu ( Secret of a Wife ); Koi ( Love ); Sabishi mura ( Lonely Village )


Nichirin ( The Sun ); Koi to bushi ( Love and a Warrior ) (+ sc); Shinju yoimachigusa ; Tsukigata hanpeita ; Wakaki hi no chuji


Kurutta ippeiji ( A Page of Madness ); Kirinji ; Teru hi kumoru hi ( Shining Sun Becomes Clouded ); Hikuidori ( Cassowary ); Ojo Kichiza ; Oni azami ; Kinno jidai ( Epoch of Loyalty ); Meoto boshi ( Star of Married Couples ); Goyosen ; Dochu sugoruku bune ; Dochu sugoruku kago ( The Palanquin ); Akatsuki no yushi ( A Brave Soldier at Dawn ); Gekka no kyojin ( Moonlight Madness )


Jujiro ( Crossroads ) (+ sc); Benten Kozo ( Gay Masquerade ); Keiraku hichu ; Kaikokuki ( Tales from a Country by the Sea ); Chokon yasha ( Female Demon )


Reimei izen ( Before Dawn ) (+ sc); Tojin okichi


Ikinokata Shinsengumi ( The Surviving Shinsengumi ) (+ sc); Chushingura ( The Loyal 47 Ronin ; The Vengeance of the 47 Ronin ) (+ sc)


Tenichibo to iganosuke (+ sc); Futatsu doro ( Two Stone Lanterns ) (+ sc); Toina no Ginpei ( Ginpei from Koina ) (+ sc)


Kutsukate tokijiro (+ sc); Fuyaki shinju (+ sc); Ippan gatana dohyoiri ( A Sword and the Sumo Ring ) (+ sc); Nagurareta kochiyama (+ sc)


Yukinojo henge ( The Revenge of Yukinojo ; Yukinojo's Revenge ) (+ co-sc) (in 3 parts, part 3 released 1936); Kurayama no ushimatsu (+ sc)


Hito hada Kannon ( The Sacred Protector ) (+ sc) (in 5 parts); Osaka natsu no jin ( The Summer Battle of Osaka ) (+ sc)


Kuroda seichuroku (+ sc)


Hebi himesama ( The Snake Princess ) (+ sc) (in two parts)


Kawanakajima kassen ( The Battle of Kawanakajima ) (+ sc)


Susume dokuritsuki ( Forward Flag of Independence )


Umi no bara ( Rose of the Sea )


Aru yo no tonosama ( Lord for a Night )


"Koi no sakasu (The Love Circus)" section of Yottsu no koi no monogatari ( The Story of Four Loves ); Joyu ( Actress ) (+ co-sc)


Kobanzame (part 2) (+ sc); Koga yashiki ( Koga Mansion ) (+ sc); Satsujinsha no kao ( The Face of a Murderer )


Beni komori (+ sc); Tsuki no watari-dori ( Migratory Birds under the Moon ) (+ sc); Meigatsu somato ( Lantern Under a Full Moon ) (+ sc)


Daibutsu kaigen ( Saga of the Great Buddha ; The Dedication of the Great Buddha ) (+ sc); Shurajo hibun (+ sc) (in 2 parts)


Jigokumon ( Gate of Hell ) (+ sc)


Yuki no yo ketto ( Duel of a Snowy Night ) (+ sc); Hana no nagadosu ( End of a Prolonged Journey ) (+ sc); Tekka bugyo (+ sc)


Yushima no shiraume ( The Romance of Yushima ; White Sea of Yushima ) (+ sc); Kawa no aru shitamachi no hanashi ( It Happened in Tokyo ) (+ sc); Bara ikutabi ( A Girl Isn't Allowed to Love ) (+ sc)


Yoshinaka o meguru sannin no onna ( Three Women around Yoshinaka ) (+ sc); Hibana ( Spark ) (+ sc); Tsukigata hanpeita (in 2 parts) (+ sc)


Shirasagi ( White Heron ; The Snowy Heron ) (+ sc); Ukifune ( Floating Vessel ) (+ sc); Naruto hicho ( A Fantastic Tale of Naruto ) (+ sc)


Haru koro no hana no en ( A Spring Banquet ) (+ sc); Osaka no onna ( A Woman of Osaka ) (+ sc)


Joen ( Tormented Flame ) (+ sc); Kagero ezu ( Stop the Old Fox ) (+ sc)


Uta andon ( The Old Lantern ) (+ sc)


Midare-gami ( Dishevelled Hair ) (+ sc); Okoto to Sasuke ( Okoto and Sasuke ) (+ sc)


Yoso ( Priest and Empress ; The Sorcerer ) (+ sc); episode of Uso ( When Women Lie ; Lies )


Chiisana tobosha ( The Little Runaway ) (co-d)


Tsumiki no hako

Other Films: (incomplete listing)


Nanairo yubi wa ( The Seven-Colored Ring ) (Oguchi) (film acting debut)


Ikeru shikabane ( The Living Corpse ) (Tanaka) (role)


By KINUGASA: articles—

Interview with H. Niogret, in Positif (Paris), May 1973.

"Une Page folle," interview with Max Tessier, in Ecran (Paris), April 1975.

On KINUGASA: book—

Anderson, Joseph, and Donald Richie, The Japanese Film: Art and Industry , New York, 1960; revised edition, Princeton, New Jersey, 1982.

On KINUGASA: articles—

Tessier, Max, "Yasujiro Ozu et le cinéma japonais à la fin du muet," in Ecran (Paris), December 1979.

Tessier, Max, obituary, in Image et Son (Paris), April 1982.

Obituary in Cinéma (Paris), June 1982.

Petric, Vlad, " A Page of Madness : A Neglected Masterpiece of the Silent Cinema," in Film Criticism (Meadville, Pennsylvania), Fall 1983.

"Teinosuke Kinugasa," in Film Dope (London), January 1985.

Cinema Journal (Champaign, Illinois), Autumn 1989.

Murphy, J.A., "Approaching Japanese Melodrama," in East-West (Honolulu), July 1993.

* * *

Teinosuke Kinugasa made two of the most famous films ever to come out of Japan, and was, historically, the first of his country's directors known in the West. Rashomon brought wider interest and admiration for Japanese cinema, but some observers fondly recall Crossroads , which had some showings in Europe in 1929 and in New York in 1930, under the title The Slums of Tokyo. On one hand, Crossroads is the Japanese equivalent of the German "street" films, and on the other it is the oft-told local tale of a hard-working, self-sacrificing woman suffering on behalf of her idle younger brother, who is in love with an unvirtuous woman. The pace is slow, but the film is the work of a master. As in his earlier surrealist and experimental film, A Page of Madness , which made a late, freak appearance in the West in 1973, he intercuts furiously to express mental agitation and to move backwards and forwards in time in a way seldom used in Western cinema until the Nouvelle Vague in the 1960s.

Kinugasa's films of the 1930s confirm the impression that he did not regard the camera as a mere recorder: we may be astonished by the number of glides, of overhead shots, of sudden close-ups—each correctly juxtaposed against the images on either side. It is clear that Kinugasa, along with his peers, used this "decorative" approach rather more freely with historical subjects: if you compare his most popular film, The Revenge of Yukinojo with Ichikawa's 1963 remake, An Actor's Revenge , you will find many of the shots duplicated, despite the stunning addition of colour and wide screen. (The same actor, Kazuo Hasegawa, appeared in both, but here under the pseudonym Chojiro Hayashi.)

The two films are too far apart, chronologically, to make further comparisons, but in 1947 Kinugasa directed Actress , while Mizoguchi tackled the same subject, based on fact, in The Love of Sumako the Actress. Mizoguchi's version has an intensity lacking in Kinugasa's film, which is more subtle. Gate of Hell (1953) was the first Japanese colour film seen in the West, and only one other film had preceded it, after Rashomon. It bowled over almost everyone who saw it: the gold, scarlet, beige, white, and green of the costumes; the mists, the moon, the sea, the distant hills. We did not know then how many Japanese films start this way, with an exposition of a country torn apart by war and revolution, nor how many concerned murderous and amorous intrigues among feudal warlords and their courtesans. Gate of Hell is an exquisite picture, but it remains overshadowed by Mizoguchi's (black-and-white) historical films of this period. It lacks their power and tension, their breadth and their sheer craftsmanship.

It was in this decade and into the 1960s that the Japanese cinema flowered, with a series of masterpieces by Kurosawa, Kobayashi, Ichikawa, and others. Some of the older directors, including Kinugasa, continued to make films of integrity and skill: but many of their films look a little plodding beside those made by the younger generation.

—David Shipman

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