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Love Letter
(Koibumi)

Directed by Kinuyo Tanaka.
With Masayuki Mori, Yoshiko Kuga, Jukichi Uno.
Japan, 1953, DCP, black & white, 98 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
DCP source: Janus Films

Revealing the careful balance between unflinching realism and tender lyricism that would define all of her work as a director, Tanaka’s first film subtly contrasts the different experiences of Japanese men and women after WWII through its portrait of two damaged souls: an ex-solider unwilling to fully re-enter society and his former lover whose traumatic experiences have made her a reclusive outcast. With its remarkable frankness, Love Letter also showcases Tanaka’s interest in giving equal weight to her characters’ vulnerability and weakness as their strength, qualities embodied by the film’s leads, Yoshiko Kuga and Masayuki Mori, Tanaka’s Ugetsu co-star. Never afraid of unglamorous roles, Tanaka gave herself a poignant cameo as an older woman trying to wring money from her GI ex-boyfriend. A sensitive adaption of a recently published semi-autobiographical novel by acclaimed author Fumio Niwa, the film’s screenplay was a symbolic baton affectionately passed along by Keisuke Kinoshita to his regular actress.

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