The death of Setsuko Hara, “the Eternal Virgin” remembered as the symbol of the 1950’s/60’s golden era of Japanese cinema of has been announced by the Japanese press. In the post-war years, Hara appeared in classics from renowned director including Yasujirō Ozu Late Spring (1949) and Tokyo Story (1953), as well as the works of directors such as Akira Kurosawa and Keisuke Kinoshita. Anime fans may be familiar with a fictionalized version of her career from Satoshi Kon’s 2001 anime film Millennium Actress.
In addition to visual references, Kon structured his character’s life like the classic actress’. Hara debut at age 15 and gained fame in the late 30’s, and helped the trajectory of Japanese cinema in decades before her retirement at age 42 with her 101st film, Hiroshi Inagaki’s 47 Samurai. After leaving movie, Hara stayed out of the public eye, never giving interviews or appearing at industry events.
Though only now being publicized, Hara died on September 5 of pneumonia at age 95.