Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu
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Includes films: Japanese Girls at the Harbor (1933), Mr. Thank You (1936), The Masseurs and a Woman (1938), Ornamental Hairpin (1941)
A great filmmaker...our tragedy is that his best work has been kept from us for so long. Don't miss it now. --John Gillett, British Film Institute
Top Customer Reviews
In THE MASSEURS AND A WOMAN, two blind men who make tenuous livings as migratory masseurs, moving from seaside resorts to mountain spas each summer, are walking along the road, counting and taking pride in the number of sighted people they overtake - seventeen so far. One alerts the other that he senses eight and a half children are approaching. Eight and a half? Yes, one of the children is carrying another piggyback. Later on the journey, a wagon passes them, and the same masseur somehow detects from her scent that one of the passengers is an exciting woman from Tokyo, who, as the film progresses, carries on a flirtation with him and also with a potential rival, a young man on vacation with his orphaned pre-teen nephew, who with his baseball cap and intolerance of adults could have stepped out of a fifties Ozu movie. The woman turns out to be on the run, and perhaps both suitors will be disappointed.
ORNAMENTAL HAIRPIN, also set in an inn, relates the blossoming romance between a young soldier (Ozu's favorite actor, Chishu Ryu) and a geisha who wants to leave her profession and marry. The soldier, in the inn's public baths, cuts his foot on a hairpin left behind by the geisha, and she returns to the inn, apologizes, helps him recover as he takes more challenging walks each day, and falls in love with him. Meanwhile, we meet many of the inn's guests and discover their eccentricities in casual scenes.Read more ›
While the theme of travel certainly runs through all four films, so does that of a woman's plight in the (then) modern world. Director Hiroshi Shimizu is quite sympathetic to his female leads, a quality that many Japanese films from the 1930s seem to share. These woman appear in both traditional & Western clothing, visual shorthand for the two worlds they're struggling to negotiate. This is especially notable in my favorite of the four, "Mr. Thank You."
A cheerful young bus driver, nicknamed "Mr. Thank You" for his habit of calling out "Arigato!" to travelers getting out of his way, has the usual group of assorted passengers for the day's journey. These include a spunky young woman, very Westernized & not unlike her independent sisters in 1930's Hollywood films; a shy village girl being taken to the city by her mother, obviously to go into prostitution to support her family; and a rather pompous, lecherous middle-aged man who can't stop leering at & propositioning the dispirited village girl.
During the journey, we watch these characters interact, along with several other passengers.Read more ›
Shimizu was a prolific director whose work (a great deal of which seems to have been lost) spanned the silent and sound ages of film, so it is not possible to say whether these are his best or most representative works. The four films here include one silent production and three pre-war sound films. Interestingly, the most recent of them (1941), "Ornamental Hairpin", has survived least well. That's not to say this DVD edition is bad quality - only a few scenes are seriously degraded, and the the film's intrinsic interest overwhelms any such concern. The three earlier films are wonderfully preserved.
All share a similar theme: a character's desire for escape from a social predicament. Shimizu's method is completely fresh: he deftly combines humour with pathos, cinematic artistry with subtle characterisation. The stories flow with no sense whatsoever of premeditated staging. Shimizu was famous for working outside a script and improvising scenes. This leads to some genuine surprises. In "Mr Thank You", for instance, Shimizu and crew came across a group of Korean labourers walking a rural backroad between assignments, and incorporated them into the story. This is consistent with the director's abiding interest in non-mainstream and working class characters, particularly women of the "water trade" (mizu shobai).
"Mr Thank You" possibly best illustrates Shimizu's strengths as a film-maker. He takes a very simple situation - a bus journey through rural Izu (beautifully shot) - and makes it a vehicle for a penetrating study of character and social conditions.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
what an adventure, being introduced to the works of yet another superlative japanese screen artist! after watching 'mr. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Anthony Sol
MR. THANK YOU
Rating = ****
A film you don't want to end! Film = four stars; restoration = 2-1/2 stars. Read more
Its lovely to come across such a little known director to find his works are little jewels. Shimizu has been largely forgotten, but his contemporaries saw him as one of Japan's... Read morePublished on May 6, 2013 by Philip Davis
from my own viewpoint Shimizu, offered here by the Eclipse series gives us a necessary link needing major mention. Read morePublished on May 4, 2013 by Russell E. Scott
Shimizu's films are a series of unqualified delights. Recommended to anyone. The Criterion release is a great pleasure to watch.Published on January 24, 2013 by harold d walters