Released in March 1947, Four Love Stories is a four-part omnibus feature that was intended to showcase the postwar revival of Toho studio. It placed eighth in Kinema Junpo’s top films of the year.
Mikio Naruse is one of the least known of Japan’s early master directors, both in the West and in Japan, yet he created some of the most moving, darkly beautiful works in Japanese cinema. Like Kenji Mizoguchi, Naruse showed an uncanny understanding for the psychology of women. Like Yasujiro Ozu, he preferred subtle shifts of character over broad strokes of plot. Unlike either of these early greats, however, Naruse’s vision of humanity was much darker and more clinical. He stripped all vestiges of hope or acceptance from his films, what remains is only a willful struggle to endure. His relentlessly negative view of human existence has resulted in Naruse’s often being labeled a nihilist.
Born in Tokyo, in 1905, Naruse was the youngest of three sons of a desperately poor embroiderer. Although he excelled in elementary school, his family could not afford to further his education. He was instead enrolled in a two-year technical school. There, he spent virtually all of his free time… read more
During the 1920s, Teinosuke Kinugasa’s startlingly modern experimental movies infused Japanese film with a sophistication that rivalled the best European art films. His innovations, along with those of Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, and Sadao Yamanaka, helped Japanese cinema develop a distinct cinematic voice.
Born in 1898, in Mie, Kinugasa entered film in 1917, as an onnagata, a man who specialized in female roles. At the time, Japanese cinema was evolving away from staged performances of Kabuki to become a unique cultural art form unto itself, though conventions from the theater, such as the onnagata, remained. Kinugasa turned to filmmaking in 1922, and managed to crank out several silent features (sadly lost), until the infamous 1923 Kanto earthquake, which leveled Tokyo and killed thousands of people. The quake signaled the beginning of an unprecedented influx of Western ideas into Japan. Bauhaus-inspired buildings rose from the rubble, while Marxism and Freudianism became… read more
Shirō Toyoda (豊田 四郎 Toyoda Shirō, born 3 January 1906, Kyoto, Japan – 13 November 1977, Tokyo, Japan) was a Japanese film director. Born in Kyoto, Toyoda moved to Tokyo in his teens and began studying under the pioneering film director Eizō Tanaka. He joined Shōchiku’s Kamata studio in 1924 and worked as an assistant director under Yasujirō Shimazu. He debuted as a director in 1929 and moved to the independent Tokyo Hassei studio in 1935, where he scored a hit with Young People and gained a reputation for directing literary adaptations with a humanistic touch. After a slump during World War II, he became one of the top directors at Toho (into which Tokyo Hassei had merged during the war), famed for his adaptations of literary works by such giants as Yasunari Kawabata, Kafū Nagai, Naoya Shiga, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Masuji Ibuse, and Ango Sakaguchi. He was particularly known for portraying weak men and strong women with a humorous touch, such as in films like Meoto zenzai (1955). His career… read more