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Actress Kyoko Kagawa looks back prior to retrospective at Tokyo fest

Mizoguchi's 'A Story from Chikamatsu' will be among the films screened at TIFF in October
Mizoguchi’s ‘A Story from Chikamatsu’ will be among the films screened at TIFF in October
TOKYO (TR) – Prior to her nine-pic retrospective at next month’s 24th Tokyo International Film Festival, legendary actress Kyoko Kagawa earlier this week compared filmmaking from six decades ago to the modern era.

At a press conference at The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan on Tuesday, the 79-year-old actress said the biggest difference is the lack of big studios making films today. “The studios supported the filmmakers with much money and time so that they could make masterpieces,” said Kagawa, who started her career at now defunct studio Shintoho in 1949. “But today it seems that everyone is an independent filmmaker and there is more freedom, for better or for worse. When I worked with the masters, it was intimidating, but now it is more casual.”

Born in Ibaraki Prefecture, Kagawa was a part of the second “Golden Age” of film, which extended from 1952 to 1960. She got her start in rather innocent roles, but eventually moved on to more serious parts, making her name in such pics as Yasujiro Ozu’s “Tokyo Story” (1953), a post-war drama about a couple feeling emotionally neglected by their children, “Sansho the Bailiff,” Kenji Mizoguchi’s winner of the Silver Lion award at the Venice Film Festival the following year, and Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 tale of extortion, “High and Low.”

Kagawa fondly recalled Mizoguchi’s style during filming. “He did not teach how to act on the set,” she said, “but would make us go through take after take until we got it right. So I learned what acting was in that way.”

Ozu was quite the opposite. “He was meticulous with the actors,” she said. “Kurosawa was very much like Mizoguchi. For example, in ‘High and Low,’ I always had to react to the other actors, and that was what Mizoguchi continued to teach me — to react.”

To add to her collection of accolades that she has received over the decades, Kagawa this year received the FIAF Award, which is given by the International Federation of Film Archives for work in the support of film preservation. A current exhibit running through Dec. 25 at the National Film Center pays tribute to her legacy.

TIFF runs between October 22 and 30.