Forever a Woman
(Chibusa yo eien nare)

Directed by Kinuyo Tanaka.
With Yumeji Tsukioka, Ryoji Hayama, Junkichi Orimoto.
Japan, 1955, DCP, black & white, 110 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
DCP source: Janus Films

Autobiographical elements permeate Tanaka’s staggering masterpiece, penned by female screenwriter Sumie Tanaka and depicting the life of tanka poet Fumiko Nakajo, who died of late-stage breast cancer in 1954. Like Tanaka’s previous films, Forever a Woman switches between a life lived and a life talked about. After divorcing her drug-addicted and cheating husband, whom she married after only one matchmaking meeting, Fumiko refuses to remarry. Though this makes her the subject of much scrutiny, she ignores the gossip and dedicates herself to writing poems that others refer to as overblown “female problems.” If read as implicit self-portraiture, Fumiko’s refusal to die quickly and quietly can be seen as a reference to Tanaka’s feelings towards the ageism she herself faced, which equated her forties to the start of old age. – Kelley Dong

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Kinuyo Tanaka—Actress, Director, Pioneer