Musings / May 16, 2019

The Yomiuri Shimbun Legendary film director Akira Kurosawa was strict about acting. During one of his big productions, the lead actor pulled out during filming due to a difference in opinion. With actress Machiko Kyo, however, Kurosawa wore a warm and gentle expression on his face.

“Kyo-chan, how’s it going?” Kurosawa came into the hairdressing room at the beginning of shooting for “Rashomon.” At that moment, Kyo had just shaved off her eyebrows. Kyo, thinking that her eyebrows were so thick that they weren’t suitable for a period film, was said to have made this change to her face on her own volition.

“The master told me this was interesting, so he let me act as I wished,” she once said during an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun. Perhaps Kurosawa may even have been one of those film people who early on were aware of the overwhelming presence of “Kyo-chan” on her way to becoming a great actress.

Kyo died at 95 after acting in many famous films, starting with “Rashomon,” the winner of the Golden Lion, the top prize of the Venice International Film Festival. Soon after Kyo’s debut, a film critic said, “Her eyes, like points of light, are what give her vitality.” Even now, when dozens of years have passed since the golden age of Japanese cinema, there are perhaps many people who have etched in their memory her eyes shining from the black-and-white screen as if they were sources of light.

Those eyes are closed forever. Her remains will reportedly be buried in a grave in Hawaii.

(This is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s May 16 issue.)  Speech

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