The representation of women in Japanese cinema has been varied. Director Kenji Mizoguchi has portrayed, “an ambivalent attitude toward women….an attitude of mixed adulation, pity and fear toward women” in his films. Ozu Yasujiro, in such films as I Was Born But… (1932), features female characters who are passive and fail at keeping their family together once patriarchal power goes missing. Sharp contrasts are the films of Naruse Mikio whose heroines, “are thinking, active women." Contemporary Japanese movie director Kore-eda Hirokazu’s films are diverse in that each holds either a progressive or conservative representation of women. All of these directors’ filmic portrayals either contribute to perpetuating negative stereotypes of women thereby reinforcing negative sexist ideologies, or provide positive and compassionate viewpoints towards females. Kore-eda’s differing representations are unique in that he consistently uses the same narrative motifs and themes across all of his films, yet each has markedly different female characters representing different societal concerns.
Inspired by actual events, Kore-eda’s 2004 film, Nobody Knows, portrays a negative view of a mother who leaves her children under the care of her twelve year old son as she leads another life elsewhere and unbeknownst to anyone. The real life mother’s events were far more horrific than Kore-eda’s watered-down adaptation; nonetheless, the female figure was a negative comment on several aspects of Japanese society. The mother, Keiko, played by a Japanese actress known as You, is childlike and unpredictable. Keiko can be funny and relate to her kids one moment, and then suddenly, act antagonistic towards them in the next moment...
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