Japanese Screen Classics: In Honor of Madame Kawakita
July 30 – August 14, 2008
From the mid-1930s until her death in 1993, Madame Kashiko Kawakita, along with her husband Nagamasa Kawakita (1903-1981), was the ambassador of Japanese cinema to the world. The annual award she established has celebrated a veritable roll call of Japan’s greatest film artists. [More on Madame Kawakita]
We honor the memory of one of the true angels of international cinema with this collection of 24 films by eight remarkable Japanese filmmakers who have received the prestigious Kawakita Award.
1984 Kawakita Award Recipient
One of the originators of Japan’s Golden Age of cinema. Stray Dog / Nora inu
Ikiru, aka Doomed
1985 Kawakita Award Recipient
A leader of Japan’s Shochiku New Wave of the ’60s and a dynamic political force in Japan for more than 50 years. Violence at Noon / Hakuchu no torima
Boy / Shonen
The Ceremony / Gishiki
1996 Kawakita Award Recipient
Prolific does not begin to describe him: this subtle observer of Japanese life has crafted more than 40 films and 150 screeneplays. The Island, aka Naked Island / Hadaka no shima
A Last Note / Gogo no Yuigon-jo
1997 Kawakita Award Recipient
A New Wave icon who began as an assistant to Ozu before moving to Nikkatsu studio, where he made a number of legendary films. Intentions of Murder / Akai satsui
Vengeance Is Mine / Fukushû suruwa wareniari
Black Rain / Kuroi ame
1998 Kawakita Award Recipient
One of Japan’s most respected documentary filmmakers, highly regarded for her perceptive observational style. Ode to Mt. Hayachine / Hayachine no fu
Akiko: Portrait of a Dancer / Akiko – aru dansa no shozo
Into the Picture Scroll: The Tale of Yamanaka Tokiwa
2001 Kawakita Award Recipient
One of Japan’s finest postwar directors, whose work ranges from massive war films to intimate domestic dramas. A Full-Up Train, aka Crammed Streetcar / Manin densha
Conflagration / Enjo
Her Brother / Ototo
2003 Kawakita Award Recipient
One of the most successful directors in Japanese film history, who often alternated between commercial films and personal works. Where Spring Comes Late / Kazoku
Tora-san’s Sunrise and Sunset / Otoko wa tsuraiyo: Torajiro yuuyake koyake
The Yellow Handkerchief / Shiawase no kiiroi hankachi
2006 Kawakita Award Recipient
A visionary stylist championed by such wide-ranging directors as Jim Jarmusch, Wong Kar Wai, and Quentin Tarantino. Tokyo Drifter / Tôkyô nagaremono
Branded to Kill / Koroshi no rakuin
Click Program Overview for a detailed listing of the films in the series. Browse the
Calendar to view the schedule & purchase tickets online ($1.25 service charge per ticket). Series Pass admits one person to five titles in the series ($40 public/$30 Film Society members) ~ available only at the Walter Reade Theater box office (cash only).
More on Madame Kawakita
Born in 1908 in Osaka, Kashiko Kawakita had established her discerning eye for cinematic artistry by the mid-1930s, finding enormous success with her husband Nagamasa in distributing in Japan films by Gallic directors Jean Renoir, Rene Clair, Jacques Feyder and Julien Duvivier. She and the members of her family “were bridges across which cinema traveled,” writes Japanese film scholar Donald Richie, who had known Kawakita from 1948 until her death in 1993. “She went to all the film festivals and brought to Japan films it might otherwise never have seen, she found outstanding Japanese films and made certain that they were seen abroad.”
Inspired by the examples of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris and the British Film Institute in London, Kawakita helped establish the Japan Film Library Council to acquire and preserve prints of Japan’s finest cinematic treasures. She also cultivated the success of emerging Japanese filmmakers by financially supporting such directors as Nagisa Oshima and Masahiro Shinoda through her founding work with the Japan Art Theater Guild and organizing retrospectives of Japanese filmmakers, including series devoted to Kurosawa and Mizoguchi.
Her international reputation blossomed through her relationship with worldwide film festivals: starting with the 1956 Berlin International Film Festival, she sat on 26 juries—including Cannes, Chicago and Montreal— while attending approximately 200 festivals in her lifetime. “‘Tea with Madame Kawakita’ at the Cannes Film Festival was an annual ritual to which I always looked forward, knowing that I’d leave with some wonderful recommendations for film programs on Japanese and other international cinemas,” said Richard Peña, Program Director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
Madame Kawakita incorporated the voluntary Japan Film Library Council into the newly christened Kawakita Memorial Film Institute following Nagamasa’s death in 1982. The organization supports Japanese films selected for international film series, making it an essential partner in the screening of Japanese cinema worldwide. The institute’s Kawakita Award celebrates an individual whose lifelong career in film has contributed to the evolution of Japanese culture. Apart from the eight celebrated directors included in the series, other honorees include Richie, actors Toshiro Mifune and Chishu Ryu, cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa, and critics and historians Tadao and Hisako Sato, Inna Y. Gens, Naoki Togawa, Kyoko Hirano and Tony Rayns.