Former female impersonator who entered films in 1917 as an actor, turned to directing in 1922 and made some of the most formally brilliant Japanese films of the following decades. The few of Kinugasa's early works to have reached the west betray a highly mature, sophisticated talent. His best-known silent films are the striking and powerful "A Page of Madness/A Crazy Page" (1926), an old print of which was found by Kinugasa in his attic and re-released in the 1970s, and "Crossways" (1928). Both have been hailed for their inventive camera work, which has been compared to that of the celebrated German expressionist films being made during the same period. (It was not until 1929 that Kinugasa himself traveled abroad and encountered European directors and their films.)
In the 1950s and 60s Kinugasa made a number of period dramas noted for their sumptuous color and imaginative use of the wide screen; "Gate of Hell" (1953) was named Best Film at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival and won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.