News  ·  23 | 01 | 2020

The 2020 Retrospective is dedicated to Director and Actress Kinuyo Tanaka

Tanaka is one of the "best kept secrets" in the history of Japanese cinema

With the physical event of Locarno73 cancelled,
the Festival is temporarily reinventing itself by launching
Locarno 2020 – For the Future of Films

All details available in our official FAQs 


The first face of Locarno73 belongs to Kinuyo Tanaka, the subject of this year's Retrospective. With this tribute to a leading actress and a major if underappreciated director of the Japanese cinema, the Festival turns its attention to an artist whose achievements are legendary in her home country but overdue for reassessment internationally. The retrospective will be an opportunity for audiences to revisit some of the greatest works in film history and to discover films that deserve to join that pantheon, confirming the festival's reputation for giving equal importance to officially recognized film history and cinema's unknown pleasures. 

Kinuyo Tanaka (1909-1977) worked with the greatest masters of Japanese cinema and pioneered a boldly personal, socially conscious approach to filmmaking. A popular actress from a very young age, Tanaka's career showcased the evolution of Japanese society, and of the female condition in particular, from the 1920s to the 1970s. She was one of the main stars of Shochiku, the major Japanese studio, whose film unit turns 100 this year, and worked with the most famous "modernist" filmmakers, including Heinosuke Gosho, Yasujiro Ozu and Hiroshi Shimizu. After the Second World War and throughout the 1950s, she made an impression in many films made by the directors of the Golden Age of Japanese cinema: Keisuke Kinoshita, Mikio Naruse, Kaneto Shindo and, again, Ozu. She formed a powerful, unbreakable bond with Kenji Mizoguchi, who directed her in a series of 15 films culminating with the masterpiece Saikaku ichidai onna (The Life of Oharu, 1952).

Running parallel to that career, and making an equally strong, if not stronger, mark, was Tanaka’s work as a director. Fiercely ambitious and independent,Tanaka proved to be a pioneering filmmaker—and only the second woman in Japan to ever direct a motion picture. Much like her Hollywood contemporary Ida Lupino, Tanaka described the lives of women and their role in the social changes of modern Japan in six feature films. For western film lovers, Tanaka’scareer path was until recently a rather obscure page of film history, on which the Locarno Film Festival is proud to shine a new light. As such, the Retrospective will feature Tanaka’s complete works as a director, as well as a selection from her extensive filmography as an actress.

Lili Hinstin, Artistic Director of the Locarno Film Festival, commented: “This is the first time that the Festival will be dedicating its Retrospective to a female director – after 73 years. On the one hand this undoubtedly reflects a process of growing collective awareness over the past two years – the issue of how women are represented is now of crucial importance in both cultural and economic terms. At the same time, we may well ask how on earth such an original and exciting filmography as Tanaka’s has been so little shown and studied until now. Starting from the 6 films directed by Kinuyo Tanaka, this will be an opportunity to explore another experience of the filmic gaze – whether female, feminist, or just personal.”

Roberto Turigliatto, curator of the Locarno Film Festival Retrospective, noted that: “Following on from the Japan-themed Retrospectives dedicated to Akira Kurosawa (1957), Yasujiro Ozu (1979), Mikio Naruse (1983), Keisuke Kinoshita (1986) and the Manga universe (2009), the Locarno Film Festival returns to explore one of the richest and most fascinating of world cinemas.”