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); Tekkabugyo (+ 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—
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.
One of the fathers of modern Japanese cinema, Teinosuke Kinugasa (1896-1982) used experimental techniques in the 1920s and went on to direct more than 100 movies, including historical spectacles and several films that gained attention worldwide.
Roots in Tradition
Born in 1896 in Mie, Japan, Kinugasa was originally an actor in Kabuki theater. As a teenager, he had perfected the art of playing an onnagata, a male who performed female character roles. In 1917, he broke into movies as an onnagata, at a time when most Japanese films were basically cinematic versions of Kabuki plays.
In 1921, Kinugasa directed his first feature film, Imoto no shi (The Death of My Sister). Little is known about this or several other films he directed before the 1923 Tokyo earthquake, which destroyed all of Kinugasa's early work.
By the end of 1928, Kinugasa, a prolific filmmaker, had directed an amazing 44 silent movies. The two most significant were the first films that Kinugasa wrote—1926's Kurutta Ippeji (Page of Madness) and 1928's Jujiro (Cross-roads or Crossways).
Page of Madness
Page of Madness broke new ground in Japanese cinema, which was evolving rapidly from the traditional Kabuki-inspired forms to the kind of abstract and surrealistic expressionism most famously embodied in the German silent masterpiece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. A Page of Madness was the Japanese counterpart to Caligari. The film was full of camera angles that distorted the physical plane and engaged other dark, absurdist stylistic touches that were popular with Expressionists.
The 58-minute film concerned an old man's efforts to rescue his wife from an insane asylum, but the wife is afraid to leave the asylum's confines. Kinugasa created a hallucinogenic world of shadows, frightening figures, and fragmented perspectives. The director wrote and financed the film himself, taking a substantial risk with his budding career.
Despite its avant-garde nature, the film was a surprising box-office success in Japan and it made enough money to propel Kinugasa's career forward. The film also received international attention, which gave notice that Japanese cinema was becoming more modern and experimental. The film helped inspire other Japanese directors to continue to produce films that would contribute to a unique national cinematic language.
Kinugasa's cinematic forays into deep psychological territory exacerbated his chronic depression. He left Japan, searching for his emotional center, and traveled widely throughout Europe. In Russia, he studied briefly for a time under the great director Sergei Eisenstein.
Before leaving Japan, Kinugasa had completed Jujiro (Crossroads), a film in which he combined experimental, subjective camera work with a story that used traditional themes and modern situations. The plot centered around a young man's tragic love for an assertive geisha. In a Shakespearean twist, the young man wounds his main rival in a brawl, blinding him.
Kinugasa brought a print of this film on his travels. He managed to convince officials at Berlin's U.F.A. studio to watch it, and they reacted positively toward the work. The studio officials helped to get the film distributed widely in Europe under the title Shadows of Yoshiwara. Audiences responded to its avant-garde techniques and dreamlike sequences. It was the first Japanese film to make an impact on European audiences.
On the strength of this showing, Kinugasa became an important international filmmaker. Critics raved over his use of close-ups and inventive camera angles. Eventually Kinugasa returned to Japan with the new status of a top-flight international director.
Turned toward Epics
Back in Japan, Kinugasa became a top studio director, and a productive one at that. In the 1930s he directed 17 more films, and he managed 9 more during the 1940s—despite World War II. In the 1950s, he became even more active with another 24 films to add to his credit.
Because of the international triumph of Japanese director, Akira Kurosawa's film Rashomon, Kinugasa and other Japanese filmmakers turned their attention to period dramas and samurai epics. Kinugasa's 1952 film, Daibutsu kaigen (Saga of the Great Buddha), followed this trend.
In 1954, Kinogasa had an international hit, the critically acclaimed Jigokumon (Gate of Hell), a samurai epic that was shot entirely in Eastman color. Its vivid cinematography and exotic locations made it an audience favorite at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was awarded a Grand Prix as 1954's best film.
Kinogasa had another hit at Cannes in 1959, when White Heron won a special mention award. By this time the filmmaker's career was winding down, and he made only a few more films.
As a whole, Kinugasa's impact as a filmmaker was considerable. He helped define the unique voice of Japanese cinema, and sustained both his experimental impulses and his conventional career as a popular director who brought international attention to the films of his native land.
"A Page of Madness," British Film Institute,http://www.bfi.org.uk/collections/catalogues/disability/details.php?id=11 (January 3, 2004).
"Crossways," British Film Institute,http://www.bfi.org.uk/collections/catalogues/disability/details.php?id=99 (January 3, 2004).
"Teinosuke Kinugasa," All Movie Guide,http://www.allmovie.com/cg/x.dll (January 3, 2004).
"Teinosuke Kinugasa," ForeignFilms.com,http://www.foreignfilms.com/person.asp?person_id=1227 (January 3, 2004).
"Teinosuke Kinugasa," Internet Movie Database,http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0455938/ (January 3, 2004).
"Teinosuke Kinugasa," Yahoo! Movies,http://movies.yahoo.com/shop?d=hc&id=1800069397&cf=gen&intl=us (January 3, 2004).