Forever a Woman

Japan 1955, 110 mins
Director: Kinuyo Tanaka

SPOILER WARNING The following notes give away some of the plot.

Inspired by the life of celebrated female poet Fumiko Nakajō, who met an untimely death aged 32 from breast cancer, Tanaka embarked on her first passion project as director. Working with female scriptwriter Sumie Tanaka (who also penned, Girls of the Night), the duo created a moving portrait of a mother and artist which simultaneously illuminated radical ideas of female agency and desire.

Kinuyo Tanaka is best known as the magnetic lead actress in numerous films by Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse and others, where she tended to be cast as women suffering the constraints imposed by a suffocating patriarchy. Less well known is the fact that she directed six of her own films, at least one of which, The Eternal Breasts, is pretty special. Based on a real-life story, the film follows Fumiko, a mother of two dissatisfied with her lot, who discovers an outlet through poetry and divorces her unfaithful husband.

Diagnosed with breast cancer, she undergoes a mastectomy that seems to give her a new confidence and lease of life, at least for a while. There’s an unsparing frankness and directness to the film, especially around female sexual desire, which feels exhilarating. Towards the end, as death encroaches, Tanaka unleashes some bleak, fiercely potent images that will haunt you for weeks after seeing the film.
Kieron Corless, Sight & Sound, October 2015

With a female director (Kinuyo Tanaka) and a female scriptwriter (Sumie Tanaka) adapting the biography of a female poet (Fumiko Nakajō) who died of breast cancer, Forever a Woman is the epitome of women’s cinema. Despite the tragic story, the third film directed by Tanaka is a striking, well-crafted melodrama portraying the struggles of a middle-aged woman and mother facing divorce, illness and death. The film offers a daring depiction of female sexuality and desire as well as a powerful instance of women’s creativity and self-expression on and off the screen. Yumeji Tsukioka’s vivid performance in the leading role is a decisive part of the film’s appeal.
Alejandra Armendáriz-Hernández, 14 May 2020

Director: Kinuyo Tanaka
Production Company: Nikkatsu
Producer: Hideo Koi
Screenplay: Sumie Tanaka
Director of Photography: Kumenobu Fujioka
Lighting: Ko Fujibayashi
Production Designer: Kimihiko Nakamura
Music: Takanobu Saito
Sound Recording: Masakazu Kamiya

Yumeji Tsukioka (Fumiko Nakajō)
Ryoji Hayama (Akira Otsuki)
Junkichi Orimoto (Shigeru Anzai)
Hiroko Kawasaki (Tatsuko)
Shirô Osaki (Yoshio)
Toru Abe (Yamagami)
Masayuki Mori (Mori)

Japan 1955
110 mins

Love Letter (Koibumi)
Mon 1 Aug 18:15; Sat 6 Aug 12:00; Sat 20 Aug 12:15; Fri 26 Aug 18:15
Forever a Woman (aka The Eternal Breasts) (Chibusa yo eien nare)
Wed 3 Aug 20:45; Mon 8 Aug 20:40; Sun 21 Aug 14:45; Mon 29 Aug 14:30
The Moon Has Risen (Tsuki wa noborinu)
Sun 7 Aug 15:40; Sat 20 Aug 18:00; Fri 26 Aug 20:40
Kinuyo Tanaka: Film Pioneer
Mon 8 Aug 18:30
The Wandering Princess (Ruten no ohi)
Sun 14 Aug 12:20; Sun 21 Aug 18:10; Sat 27 Aug 20:50
Girls of the Night (Onna bakari no yoru)
Sun 14 Aug 18:10; Sat 27 Aug 16:00; Mon 29 Aug 18:20; Wed 31 Aug 20:30
Love under the Crucifix (Ogin-sama)
Tue 16 Aug 20:45; Sun 28 Aug 18:20; Tue 30 Aug 20:45

In partnership with

In cultural partnership with

In September we will screen six films with Kinuyo Tanaka as actor, including The Life of Oharu and A Hen in the Wind

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Programme notes and credits compiled by the BFI Documentation Unit
Notes may be edited or abridged
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