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still from The Wandering Princess (Kinuyo Tanaka, JP 1960)

The Wandering Princess

Kinuyo Tanaka / JP, 1960 / 102 min.

Eye is showing four forgotten films by Kinuyo Tanaka, a ground-breaking Japanese director working within a studio system that actively discouraged female directors. The Wandering Princess follows a female aristocrat caught up in the maelstroms of history.

poster The Wandering Princess (Kinuyo Tanaka, JP 1960)
Kinuyo Tanaka’s first film in both color and CinemaScope is an epic about a woman caught in the torrents of history. Based on the memoirs of Hiro Saga, The Wandering Princess tells the story of Ryuko (Machiko Kyo), an aristocrat who, at the outset of World War II, is forced to marry Futetsu (Eiji Funakoshi), the younger brother of the soon-to-be-deposed Chinese emperor. With the story of Ryuko’s enmeshment in the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, Tanaka realizes with startling depth her ambition to relate a historical saga from a critical female perspective.

4K restoration

About Kinuyo Tanaka

A pioneering woman in a studio system that actively discouraged female directors, Kinuyo Tanaka made six groundbreaking features over the course of a decade, dismissing the passivity assigned to most female protagonists of the era and creating a small, radical oeuvre of progressive heroines. Though she has long been renowned as an iconic actor, having starred in films by directors such as Yasujiro Ozu, Kenji Mizoguchi, and Mikio Naruse, Tanaka’s own work as a filmmaker has been conspicuously absent from most studies of Japanese cinema.

The half dozen films that Tanaka made as a director possess significant sociopolitical themes as told from, and informed by, a female perspective. In these films, women avoid becoming objects of the male gaze even though they desire men, and they refuse to conform to restrictive social roles (e.g., the “perfect wife”) as they seek independence and individual agency.

With insight and compassion, Tanaka critiques the social conditions and forces that shape her heroines’ struggles: the reduction of a woman to passive romantic partner (The Moon Has Risen, 1955), taboos surrounding mortality and the female body (Forever a Woman, 1955), colonial politics (The Wandering Princess, 1960), and religious persecution and forbidden love (Love Under the Crucifix, 1962).

This is part of



Kinuyo Tanaka

Production year




Original title

Ruten no Ohhi


102 min.







Part of

Restored & Unseen

At last, a chance to see that Italian classic that’s been on the list for so long? Or relish that wonderful restoration of Blue Movie, the Netherlands’ most talked-about nude film of the seventies, when the Bijlmer district was still a sexual paradise? Restored & Unseen is a biweekly programme featuring classics and recent restorations, with introductions by experts.

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still from The Wandering Princess (Kinuyo Tanaka, JP 1960)
still from The Wandering Princess (Kinuyo Tanaka, JP 1960)

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