Kinuyo Tanaka was not only one of Japan's greatest actresses during the first half or so of the 20th century, but one of the world's greatest, starring in important films by Ozu, Naruse and Mizoguchi (among others) Kon Ichikawa's "Eiga joyu" ("Movie actress") (1987) is basically a cheesy docu-drama made to "honor" the tenth anniversary of her death. Despite more than decent acting talent -- including a near-dead-ringer for Mizoguchi -- the largely leaden dialog, pedestrian cinematography and unbelievably wretched soundtrack dragged this down. Kaneto Shindo, director of a peculiar documentary of Mizoguchi that spent a lot of time trying to harrass the (unflappable) Kinuyo Tanaka, seems to have been involved as writer here -- so I'd like to blame him for this fiasco -- but I'm afraid that the buck needs to stop with Ichikawa.
Despite all the above, there are some nice things to note. The film starts off wonderfully with a scene in a early 20th C. film lab (I'm guessing that this features Tanaka's oldest brother -- who is only talked about afterwards as a draft evader). The film also contains chunks of many early Japanese films (not all clearly identified in the subtitles, alas) including about a minute of Sadao Yamanaka's "Humanity and Paper Balloons" (judging from this, he was setting out on the path that Kurosawa would later explore -- many feel that Yamanaka was Japan's greatest maker of historical films, despite the fact that he died in his 20s).
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