Scen.: Eijiro Hisaita, Teinosuke Kinugasa. F.: Asakazu Nakai. Mus.: Fumio Hayasaka. Int.: Isuzu Yamada (Sumako Matsui), Yoshi Hijikata (Hogetsu Shimamura), Ranko Akagi (Itoko), Akitake Kono (Harukichi Kobayashi), Hajime Izu (Tetsuo Mizushima), Eitaro Shindo (dottor Okubo), Takashi Shimura (Genshiro Kuramoto), Isao Numazaki (Juichi Kuramoto), Hisaya Morishige (Shoyo Tsubouchi), Noriko Sengoku (Kuniko). Prod.: Keiji Matsuzaki per Toho. 16mm. D.: 115’. Bn.

© 1947 TOHO CO., LTD. All Right Reserved.

T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

Women’s rights were among the central policy priorities of the postwar American occupation. The film industry was now expected to serve the new progressive dispensation, and in the first years after the war, a feminist agenda was promoted in numerous films, some set in the present day, some seeking models for female emancipation in the past.
Sumako Matsui (1886-1919) was a pioneering actress in shingeki (new drama), the Western-style theatre that became fashionable in the latter years of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and early Taisho Period (1912-26). In 1911 she played Nora Helmer in the first Tokyo staging of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. In 1913, she cofounded, with her lover, director Hogetsu Shimamura (1871- 1918), the Geijutsuza theatre group. Here she essayed her other iconic role, as Katusha in a stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s late novel Resurrection.
Shimamura died in autumn 1918, a casualty of the global influenza pandemic. A grief-stricken Matsui committed suicide a few months later.
In 1947 Matsui became the subject of two separate biopics, in which she was impersonated by two of the Japanese cinema’s greatest actresses. At Shochiku, Kinuyo Tanaka played the part for director Kenji Mizoguchi in Joyu Sumako no koi (The Loves of Sumako the Actress), while at Toho, Isuzu Yamada (1917-2012) starred for Kinugasa (her then lover) in a film simply called Joyu (Actress). Shimamura was played by Yoshi Hijikata (1898-1959), himself a celebrated director of shingeki theatre, who had been imprisoned by the military regime during the war. His participation (his debut as a film actor) was the subject of excited discussion at the time, but Yamada’s performance won the highest praise and became a career-defining one. While Mizoguchi’s fame has earned his film intermittent international screenings and occasional DVD releases, Kinugasa’s version is barely known outside Japan. Joseph Anderson and Donald Richie, however, considered it to be the better film, an opinion supported by Japan’s most prestigious film magazine, “Kinema Junpo”, which ranked it fifth in the year’s critics’ poll, while Mizoguchi’s version placed 18th. Kinugasa’s take was judged less explicitly ideological, more in accordance with melodramatic conventions, than Mizoguchi’s. Even so, Joan Mellen reports that female members of the audience “furiously applauded” as they watched Yamada play Nora, Ibsen’s feminist icon.

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courtesy of Toho