Renowned for her work with celebrated auteur Yasujiro Ozu, post-war leading lady Setsuko Hara became an icon of Japanese cinema thanks to a string of performances which challenged the traditional roles of women in society, before causing shockwaves across the industry by retiring at the peak of her career. Born in Yokahama, Japan in 1920, Hara's first brush with the film world came in 1935 when her director brother-in-law Hisatora Kumagai secured her a job at the legendary Nikkatsu Studios. After making her on-screen debut in "Do Not Hesitate Young Folks!" (1935), Hara then landed her breakthrough role in German-Japanese production "The New Earth" (1937), where she played a maiden who unsuccessfully attempts to immolate herself in an active volcano. Hara went on to star as the tragic heroine in a number of wartime films before delivering a powerful turn as crusading political prisoner's wife Yukie in Akira Kurosawa's "No Regrets For Our Youth" (1946), a role which arguably set the strong-willed tone for the rest of her career. After portraying the 'new' Japanese woman in Kimisaburo Yoshimura's "A Ball at the Anjo House" (1947) and Keisuke Kinoshita's "Here's to the Girls" (1949), Hara teamed up with Yasujiro Ozu for the first of six collaborations, "Late Spring" (1949), playing a spinster who prefers to stay at home with her father than look for a potential suitor. Following parts in adaptations of Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" (1951) and Fumiko Hayashi's "Repast" (1951), Hara then reunited with Ozu to play a woman who finds the courage to get married without her family's approval in "Early Summer" (1951). But it was her compelling performance as a widower urged by her in-laws to move on in "Tokyo Story" (1953) which truly cemented her status as a symbol of Japanese cinema's golden age. Hara continued to explore the theme of uneasy domesticity on Mikio Naruse's "Sound of the Mountain" (1954) and "Shuu" (1956) and Ozu's "Twilight In Tokyo" (1957) and "Late Autumn" (1960), playing against type in the latter as the mother of the reluctant nest-leaver. Returning to more familiar territory as a widowed daughter-in-law in Ozu's final film "The End Of Summer" (1961), Hara was expected to dominate the '60s in the same manner as the previous decade. However, following Ozu's death on his 60th birthday in 1963, Hara announced her shock retirement from the industry, leaving period drama "Chushingura" (1962) as her last major screen credit. Hara subsequently claimed that she had never enjoyed acting and had only pursued a film career in order to provide for her family, although Ozu's death and failing eyesight were also rumoured as possible explanations for her swift exit. Hara went onto lead a secluded life away from the public eye in Kamakura, the small city in which several of her films with Ozu were made. Setsuko Hara died of pneumonia on September 5, 2015, although her death was not announced to the public until late November. She was 95 years old.
Cast (Feature Film)
Retired from film industry at the age of 43