JAPAN 2021

My Love Has Been Burning

Japan 1949, 84 mins
Director: Kenji Mizoguchi

My Love Has Been Burning has in more ways than one a central position in Mizoguchi’s suite of feminist films of the late ’40s and early ’50s, which stretches from The Victory of Women to The Life of Oharu. The film is drawn from the autobiography of Hideko Kageyama, a late 19th century pioneer in the fight for women’s rights in Japan. Kageyama’s book Mekake no Hanshogai (Half a Lifetime as a Mistress), provides the model for the film’s central character, much of the contemporary political background, and a number of the film’s plot details. In her book, Kageyama presents herself as a woman who behaved in as masculine a fashion as possible; Mizoguchi’s chief departure from his source was, therefore, his feminisation of his own character Eiko Hirayama.

The notion of party politics had a long and difficult struggle to gain acceptance in Japan. The first attempts to form organisations in opposition to the national government were widely viewed as something like treason against the state, not least because they came hard on the heels of the Seinan civil war (background to the action of Mizoguchi’s Oyuki the Virgin). The national government under the Emperor Meiji was very well aware that Japan was backward by international standards, and felt that only strong, patriarchal rule could bring the country up to a level of modernity and prosperity commensurate with western countries.

Liberal demands for representative government countered by asserting that such a reform was essential in any programme to modernise Japan. Early support for them was scattered but the strong nationalist bias of their argument won over more and more of the Japanese middle class, many of whom were benefitting from the introduction of compulsory education in 1872. But police raids on early political campaign meetings (such as are seen in the opening scene of the film) did actually occur quite often.

The first group that organised itself into a small political party was the Jiyuto (Freedom Party; the English term ‘liberal’ is a more accurate translation, but its connotations are distinctly misleading). It was fundamentally a party of middle-class capitalists anxious to defend their own interests, although many of its younger members were vocal on the subjects of citizen’s rights in general and women’s rights in particular. The Jiyuto was joined in 1881 by the Kaishinto (Progressive Party), founded by ex-government member Shigenonu Okuma, which had an even stronger capitalist bias. The two opposition parties were as hostile to each other as to the national government, and their internecine tensions made it relatively easy for the government to suppress them. But both parties survived, tenuously, under various names, and are the ancestors of the two conservative parties in post-war Japanese politics.

It is interesting to note the broad similarity between the plots of My Love Has Been Burning and one of Mizoguchi’s earliest (and therefore lost) films, Haizan no Uta Wa Kanashi (Sad Is the Song of Defeat). The latter was made in 1923, and was the first of Mizoguchi’s films to attract any critical attention. It concerns a young woman who leaves her home in a village to follower her student boyfriend to Tokyo; she returns home, chastened, when he rejects her. The 1923 film, of course, has no feminist bias. The girl is welcomed back by her stepfather, who eventually takes her away from the village to help her forget.
Tony Rayns

Made very cheaply and quickly (as is evident from the roughish visual texture of the film) My Love Has Been Burning was harshly criticised on its original release in Japan, being characterised as ‘a film made by a wild animal’; and in an interview with Tsuneo Hazumi, Mizoguchi wryly admitted that he had made a ‘Barbaric’ film, one arising from the frustrations of the war years and inspired by the paintings Picasso did just afterwards: ‘Or at any rate, I wanted to engage objects hand-to-hand.’ Something of this passion, the amalgam of rage and pity that makes for the jagged edges of a painting like ‘Guernica’, is evident: most notably in the factory sequence, where a kaleidoscope of contrasting moods and tempi – police dispersing rioters in the streets, a meeting in a tranquilly moonlit forest, Eiko’s stealthy infiltration of the factory, the lurid brutalities inside, the cleansing flames as it burns – are fused into a genuine fury of protest. Such moments are, for Mizoguchi, relatively rare here. Least satisfactory when it focuses on its formulary characters, My Love Has Been Burning touches brilliance whenever it withdraws into abstraction: the magnificent celebration of the opening sequence, for instance, with the welcoming banners raised by the Liberals on the quayside conjuring a complementary image as the sails bringing Toshiko Kishida to Okayama hove into sight.
Tom Milne, Monthly Film Bulletin, September 1979

Kinuyo Tanaka
Kinuyo Tanaka was Mizoguchi’s key collaborator in the last decade of his career. In the late 1940s, they worked together on a sequence of feminist melodramas. In Victory of Women (Josei no shori, 1946), Tanaka played a lawyer defending a female client accused of murdering her child; in Women of the Night (Yoru no onnatachi, 1948), she was a prostitute in the inhospitable environment of war-damaged Osaka.

In My Love Has Been Burning (Waga koi wa moenu, 1949), a masterpiece of feminist melodrama, she played the wife of a 19th-century liberal politician whose enlightened values do not extend into his own home. Mizoguchi and Tanaka jointly produced one of the cinema’s most radical feminist statements – going far beyond the liberal expectations of the American occupiers. Yet Tanaka’s simultaneous air of vulnerability and resilience also made her indelible as the wise, tolerant, understanding and suffering heroines of Ugetsu monogatari (1953) and Sansho the Bailiff (Sansho dayu, 1954).

In fact, Tanaka gave outstanding performances for almost all of the great Japanese directors. Her range is typified by her collaborations with Keisuke Kinoshita: at the beginning of the 1950s, in Wedding Ring (Konyaku yubiwa, 1950), she was still able to play a sensual romantic lead, falling in love with the doctor (played by Toshiro Mifune) treating her ailing husband; by 1958, she was totally convincing as the old woman preparing for death in Kinoshita’s The Ballad of Narayama (Narayama bushiko). To bring verisimilitude to the harrowing scene in which she bashes out her teeth with a stone, the actress famously had several of her own teeth removed. Tanaka also became Japan’s first successful female director, realising an impressive series of feminist melodramas in the 1950s and 1960s.
Alexander Jacoby, Sight & Sound, November 2017


Director: Kenji Mizoguchi
Production Company: Shochiku Co. Ltd.
Producers: Hisao Itoya, Kiyoshi Shimazu
Production Manager: Tomoji Kubo
Historical Research: Sunao Kai
Assistant Directors: Tatsuo Sakai, Mitsuo Okada
Screenplay: Yoshikata Yoda, Kaneto Shindo
Based on the novel by: Kogo Noda
Based on Mekake no Hanshogai by: Hideko Kageyama
Directors of Photography: Kohei Sugiyama, Tomotaro Nashiki
Lighting: Shigeo Terada, Minoru Yoshikawa
Back Projection: Shozo Kotsuji
Art Directors: Hiroshi Mizutani, Dai Arakawa, Junichiro Osumi
Set Decorators: Kiyoharu Matsuno, Sueyoshi Yamaguchi
Costumes: Tsuma Nakamura
Hairstyles: Yoshiko Kimura
Wigs: Rikizo Inoue
Music: Senji Ito
Sound: Taro Takahashi, Takeo Kawakita

Kinuyo Tanaka (Eiko Hirayama)
Mitsuko Mito (Chiyo)
Eitarô Ozawa (Ryuzo Hayase)
Ichiro Sugai (Kentaro Omoi, leader of Jiyuto party)
Sadako Sawamura (Omosa, prisoner)
Kuniko Miyake (Toshiko Kishida, feminist)
Koreya Senda (Taisuke Inagaki, founder of Jiyuto)
Eijirô Tono (Hirobumi Ito, councillor)
Kappei Matsumoto (Kusuo Arai, Jiyuto employee)
Mitsuo Nagata (Okajima, Jiyuto employee)
Masao Shimizu (Takeshi Sakazaki, editor)
Hiroshi Aoyama (Ikeda, student)
Shinobu Araki (Kaku Hirayama, Eiko’s father)
Ikuko Hirano (Eiko’s mother)
Mitsuaki Minami (Takashige Kanda, head of prison)
Jûkichi Uno, Haruo Inoue (prison guards)
Shigeo Shoyuzama (prison doctor)
Makoto Kobori (restauranteur)
Henpei Tomimoto (police commissioner)
Hirohisa Murata (Chiyo’s husband)
Torahiko Hamada (Silk-Mill factory owner)
Kenji Izumi (Silk-Mill factory superintendent)
Miyoko Shinobu (Tomii)
Kenzo Tanaka, Hideki Kato (policemen)
Akio Miyajima, Mokutaro Minakami (men who buy Chiyo)
Ryuji Tosa, Koji Nadada, Ichiro Katayama (Okayama Jiyuto supporters)
Aizo Tamashima, Kanichi Kato, Sentaro Daito, Koji Tsuruta (Tokyo Jiyuto supporters)
Shiro Niizuma, Fujio Sasagawa, Jiro Mori, Toru Maruno (Chichibu Jiyuto supporters)
Hisako Araki, Kiyo Murakami, Yoshiko Sekiya, Michiko Murata, Junko Hara, Kazuko Satomi, Shizue Hiraku, Teruko Yasaka, Fumiko Yamada (Silk-Mill factory employees)
Kimie Kawakami, Junko Kagami, Toshimi Nishikawa, Kazuko Aoyama, Fusako Suzuki, Mitsue Takigawa, Chigusa Maki (prisoners)
Zeya Chida
Shochiku Kyoto Orchestra

Japan 1949
84 mins

JAPAN 2021
Early Summer (Bakushû)
Mon 18 Oct 14:30; Tue 19 Oct 20:35; Wed 20 Oct 17:50; Thu 18 Nov 20:20 (+ intro by Professor Alastair Phillips, University of Warwick); Sun 21 Nov 11:30
The Flavour of Green Tea over Rice (Ochazuke no aji)
Mon 18 Oct 18:10; Wed 20 Oct 20:40; Thu 21 Oct 14:40; Mon 8 Nov 14:30; Tue 23 Nov 14:40
Tokyo Story (Tôkyô monogatari)
Mon 18 Oct 20:20; Thu 21 Oct 14:30; Sat 13 Nov 14:10; Tue 30 Nov 14:00
Throne of Blood (Kumonosu-jô)
Tue 19 Oct 18:10; Thu 21 Oct 20:35 (+ Inside Cinema: Akira Kurosawa); Wed 27 Oct 20:30; Tue 9 Nov 20:40; Fri 12 Nov 14:15 (+ Inside Cinema: Akira Kurosawa); Sat 27 Nov 20:50
Early Spring (Sôshun)
Tue 19 Oct 14:30; Wed 20 Oct 20:15; Thu 21 Oct 17:30; Sat 20 Nov 14:50; Tue 23 Nov 17:40
Tue 19 Oct 20:55; Thu 21 Oct 17:55; Fri 19 Nov 14:30 (+ Inside Cinema: Akira Kurosawa); Fri 26 Nov 18:10; Sun 28 Nov 12:00 15 (+ Inside Cinema: Akira Kurosawa)
An Actor’s Revenge (Yukinojô henge)
Wed 20 Oct 14:15; Mon 1 Nov 14:30; Thu 11 Nov 20:40 (+ intro by Jennifer Coates, The University of Sheffield); Sat 20 Nov 12:15
Souls on the Road (Rojô no reikion)
Fri 22 Oct 18:00; Sat 30 Oct 15:30
A Page of Madness (Kurutta ichipeiji)
Sat 23 Oct 13:00; Mon 15 Nov 20:50
Silent Cinema presents: I Was Born, But… (Otona no miru ehon – Umarete wa mita keredo)
Sat 23 Oct 15:00; Sun 28 Nov 14:45 (+ intro by Bryony Dixon, BFI National Archive curator)
Our Neighbour, Miss Yae (Tonari no Yae-chan)
Sun 24 Oct 12:40; Mon 1 Nov 18:15 (+ intro by season co-programmer Alexander Jacoby)
Humanity and Paper Balloons (Ninjô kami fûsen)
Sun 24 Oct 15:00; Tue 2 Nov 20:45
Talk: A Time of Change and How Japanese Film Bore Witness to It
Mon 25 Oct 18:20
Children of the Beehive (Hachi no su no kodomotachi)
Mon 25 Oct 20:45 (+ intro by season co-programmer Alexander Jacoby); Mon 8 Nov 18:20
The Life of Matsu the Untamed (aka The Rickshaw Man) (Muhomatsu no issho)
Tue 26 Oct 20:40; Sun 7 Nov 11:40
Fallen Blossoms (aka Flowers Have Fallen) (Hana chirinu)
Sun 31 Oct 13:00; Wed 3 Nov 18:20 (+ intro by Japanese film scholar Alejandra Armendáriz-Hernández)
My Love Has Been Burning (aka Flame of My Love) (Waga koi wa moenu)
Fri 5 Nov 18:30; Mon 15 Nov 17:40
Love Letter (Koibumi)
Sat 6 Nov 12:30; Sun 21 Nov 14:40 (+ intro by Irene González-López, co-editor of ‘Tanaka Kinuyo: Nation, Stardom and Female Subjectivity’)
An Inn at Osaka (Ôsaka no yado)
Sat 6 Nov 15:30; Sun 21 Nov 18:00 (+ pre-recorded intro by Professor Hiroshi Kitamura, College of William & Mary)
Godzilla (Gojira)
Sun 7 Nov 15:50; Tue 23 Nov 20:40
Marital Relations (Meoto zenzai)
Sun 7 Nov 18:20; Thu 25 Nov 18:00 (+ pre-recorded intro by Professor Hideaki Fujiki, Nagoya University)
Sansho the Bailiff (Sansho Dayu)
Mon 8 Nov 20:40; Sun 28 Nov 18:20
She Was Like a Wild Chrysanthemum (Nogiku no gotoki kimi nariki)
Tue 9 Nov 18:20; Tue 30 Nov 20:40
Harakiri (Seppuku)
Wed 10 Nov 18:00; Tue 16 Nov 20:25
Night Drum (Yoru no tsuzumi)
Wed 10 Nov 20:50; Tue 16 Nov 18:15
Talk: Female Archetypes in Classical Japanese Cinema
Thu 11 Nov 18:10
Yearning (Midareru)
Fri 12 Nov 18:20; Fri 26 Nov 21:00
Elegant Beast (aka The Graceful Brute) (Shitoyakana kedamono)
Wed 17 Nov 20:50; Sat 27 Nov 18:30 (+ pre-recorded intro by Professor Yuka Kanno, Doshisha University)
Talk: The Family and Home in the Golden Age of Japanese Cinema
Thu 18 Nov 18:00
Fri 19 Nov 20:50; Tue 30 Nov 17:50
Tokyo Olympiad (Tôkyô orinpikku)
Sat 20 Nov 16:40; Wed 24 Nov 18:40

Supported by

In partnership wtih

With special thanks to

With the kind support of:
Janus Films/The Criterion Collection, Kadokawa Corporation, Kawakita Memorial Film Institute, Kokusai Hoei Co. Ltd, Nikkatsu Corporation, Toei Co. Ltd

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