Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

Discuss DVDs released in the Eclipse and Essential Art House lines and the films on them.
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knives
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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#201 Post by knives » Tue Nov 13, 2018 6:38 pm

Ditto.

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#202 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Nov 13, 2018 8:01 pm

As wonderful as both of the 2 Japanese sets were (and they were indeed), they are a drop in the bucket -- so many more Shimizu films are equally wonderful. I doubt we'll ever get subbed releases of any more Shimizu, alas.

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#203 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun May 23, 2021 5:34 pm

Not sure where to put this exciting (but personally disappointing) news.

From May 26 through June 20, 2021, the Cinematheque Francaise will be showing almost 60 films by Shimizu:
https://www.cinematheque.fr/cycle/hiros ... u-567.html .

It this were not happening during "coronavirus time" I'd definitely move to Paris for a month.

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#204 Post by Yakushima » Sun May 23, 2021 10:44 pm

I am amazed and heartened to learn that there are so many Hiroshi Shimizu films still in existence, and equally dismayed about their chronic unavailability on home video. I treasure my two Japanese DVD boxed sets, and do hope that someone somewhere will find it worthy to release some of those yet unavailable gems on Blu-ray.

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#205 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun May 23, 2021 11:20 pm

Yakushima -- At one point I heard that there 75-80 of his films still in existence. I think I've seen 20 or so (mostly in the form of unsubbed copies of VHS tapes and DVDs).

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#206 Post by Yakushima » Mon May 24, 2021 12:00 am

Michael, 80 films is a mind-blowing number! Do you know if any of them are getting restored?

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#207 Post by Tim » Mon May 24, 2021 4:29 am

If this is being sponsored by the Japan Foundation, among others, is there a chance that it will travel to other locations?

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#208 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon May 24, 2021 8:58 am

All I know is that Shochiku's leadership really thought they could drum up more interest in Shimizu at the time of his centennial and poured their hearts into the two lovely sets they issued (expecting to issue many more). I suspect the lack of sales in Japan and abroad was pretty devastating to them. This new retrospective in Paris may mean that they have renewed hopes -- or it may be a fluke. We will just have to wait and see. As far as I can tell, Naruse has always gotten more acceptance from French (and Italian and Spanish) cinephiles than from other western ones. Let's just cross our fingers.

Some rare Japanese classics just might become available via streaming outside Japan (but no mention of Naruse here): http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14347 ... gucgnAQJlo

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#209 Post by esl » Wed May 26, 2021 8:26 pm

Yakushima wrote:
Sun May 23, 2021 10:44 pm
I am amazed and heartened to learn that there are so many Hiroshi Shimizu films still in existence, and equally dismayed about their chronic unavailability on home video. I treasure my two Japanese DVD boxed sets, and do hope that someone somewhere will find it worthy to release some of those yet unavailable gems on Blu-ray.
Ditto, holy ****, this lifts my heart. I posted just this past week on another site that I had all but given up hope that I would ever see some of his films such as Children and the Great Buddha and many of his early films. I have seen just over 20 of his films - mostly middle and late period, some of those (without English subtitles) while living in Japan, including The Shiinomi School - in the presence of Kyōko Kagawa(what a thrill to be introduced to her), Children of the Beehive and the obscure 何故彼女等はそうなったか [NAZE KANOJORA WA SO NATTA KA] from 1956.

One can live in hope some will be released in the near future.

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#210 Post by FilmSnob » Thu Sep 23, 2021 4:38 am

I have all but finished my Shimizu challenge (I've seen 15-20 now) and recommend the following films:

Japanese Girls at the Harbor
Mr. Thank You
The Masseurs and a Woman
Nobuko
Sayon's Bell (if one can overlook the propaganda elements)
Children of the Beehive

Further opinion:

Shimizu came from a very wealthy family and, as far as I'm aware, he could buy his job at the studio as soon as he turned 18. Most of his 1920s films are lost, and judging by his late-1920s to mid-1930s films I watched, I doubt any of them amounted to more than frivolity and trite, imitative melodrama. The one exception would be Japanese Girls at the Harbor. Here is a film where the story hardly matters (it's not that good) but there are some extraordinary stylistic flourishes by the director. Shimizu takes what is an average and forgettable script and sometimes turns scenes and sequences into lyrical poetry. It's a total outlier in his early filmography, and I can't help but compare to Ozu's Dragnet Girl which was shot at the exact same time. The two movies use the same actors and duplicate many shots.

I'm actually quite curious whether they collaborated on these two films or who inspired whom (Dragnet Girl was also an outlier at that point in Ozu's career).

Without any authoritative source, I have decided Shimizu must have experienced a mid-life crisis sometime during the mid 1930s, because that's when everything started coming together for him and his films. Three years and several terrible studio dramas passed until -- completely out of nowhere -- he filmed the remarkable Mr. Thank You, one of my favorite movies ever made. Right here is where the signature Shimizu road travelogue style starts to emerge, location films with non-actors, passing characters borrowing each other's time, warm communal fondness, set against backdrops of poverty and despair. Compare that to modern films which are usually the exact opposite: wealthy milieus invaded by cynical, selfish and desperate longing.

In any event, Shimizu was quite different from his contemporaries. After the war, Kurosawa went from A to B to C (his films almost linearly increased in quality, then plateaued). Ozu and Mizoguchi did have their hits and misses in the 1930s but generally seemed more organized and accurate. Shimizu's biography on the other hand was an extremely wealthy, womanizing playboy, drinking lots of sake and moving from sushi dish to sushi dish, such that he became an obese man as he got older; so that's a personality association that I've constructed with him, moving from one idea to the next, trying this and trying that, whether the light bulb ever went off or not.

He improvised all of his films, and after Mr. Thank You's brilliance in 1936, he didn't follow up with another signature road picture as one would maybe think; instead he turned to children's movies with Children in the Wind in 1937. There were moments where some of his earlier melodramas started focusing more and more on the children, so this film didn't exactly come out of nowhere, but I didn't find it to be that remarkable, and would rate quite a bit lower than some other reviews I have seen.

After that he again hopscotched back to The Masseurs and a Woman in 1938 and Four Seasons of Children in 1939. The Masseurs and a Woman was just excellent, like Mr. Thank You I can't recommend that one enough. Quintessential Shimizu road film -slash- mono no aware strangers passing in the night. The adult drama was rather dumbed down in Four Seasons of Children, and at almost 2 hours and 30 minutes the movie is far, far too long for a kid's flick, but Shimizu did capture rather remarkable child performances and blocking with his diminutive charges, so if anyone wants to see the building blocks for his kid's movies, that would be the one I would select.

Nobuko was not the meat and potatoes or the ice cream sundae for his pre war filmography, but it was a nice cherry on top. I enjoyed this one more than I expected, especially Mieko Takamine's performance.

As some others mentioned upthread, what was going on with Chishu Ryu in Ornamental Hairpin jumped the shark for me, and I squirmed at the inadequate lack of counterpoint for Tatsuo Saito's rather unlikeable character. I know Ornamental Hairpin is one of Shimizu's highest rated films, but it was a little too much for me.

Sayon's Bell contains some rather despicable sleight-of-hand propaganda, but if you can overlook that then it's classic Shimizu with a beautiful Shirley Yamaguchi performance.

Finally, I watched Children of the Beehive tonight, his post-war masterpiece. And this was really the apotheosis of his career. After watching 15-20 Shimizu movies, the good, the bad, the road travelogues, the children's films, the war-- everything comes together in this film and it's remarkably moving. Children of the Beehive was released the same year as Bicycle Thieves but let me tell you, Shimizu's neorealism was better than De Sica's neorealism. Children of the Beehive contains all of Shimizu and is the culmination of all of Shimizu, almost to a scene when the one kid carries the other kid on his back up to the top of the mountain to look out at the sea. I was fully ready to give this full masterpiece marks, but the expected and welcome ending was marred by a couple minor flaws.

I'm going to watch one of his late 1950s films Shiinomi School tomorrow, and that will be the end of my Shimizu quest, but there are still two others I'd like to watch, Sound in the Mist (1956) and Dancing Girl (1957), maybe I will get to see them one day.

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#211 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Sep 23, 2021 11:12 am

FilmSnob -- Did you manage to see "Forget Love For Now"? I found this one of Shimizu's most powerful (and devastating) films.

Children of the Beehive is a stunning film -- and it is a crime it is not more available (in optimal form). The fact that part was shot on the sly in war-devastated Hiroshima, that the children WERE war orphans, and that Shimizu made sure that all the children were either adopted (or he ensured their support and education himself if they weren't) are bonuses to a film that would be amazing in its own right.

I love lots of the silents I've seen. Some are uneven, some have problematic issues, but I don't regret seeing any -- and wish I could see more, much more.

Mr. Thank You is one of my favorite films ever, by anyone...

I never found a watchable version of Sayon's Bell.

If its not a bother, FilmSnob, could you let me know which other films you saw?

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#212 Post by FilmSnob » Fri Sep 24, 2021 10:00 pm

Sure. I have seen the following Shimizu films:

Eternal Heart (1929)
Seven Seas: Virginity Chapter (1931)
Seven Seas: Chastity Chapter (1932)
A Woman Crying in Spring (1933)
Japanese Girls at the Harbor (1933)
Eclipse (1934)
Hero of Tokyo (1935)
Mr. Thank You (1936)
Forget Love for Now (1937)
Children in the Wind (1937)
The Masseurs and a Woman (1938)
Four Seasons of Children (1939)
Nobuko (1940)
Introspection Tower (1941)
Ornamental Hairpin (1941)
Sayon's Bell (1943)
Children of the Beehive (1948)
The Shiinomi School (1955)


I had only seen (and loved) Mr. Thank You when I decided to start back at the beginning of his filmography and watch as many as I could. Of course I don't expect a director's earliest efforts to be terrific or anything, but I was surprised at how long it took for Shimizu to really get going for me. I don't care for his studio melodramas (but then again, I also dislike films like The Ball at the Anjo House. Even Michiko Kuwano couldn't save films like Hero of Tokyo and Forget Love for Now.

A Woman Crying in Spring was the first Shimizu that started to improve for me, and I think it may have been because of the location shooting. Shimizu supposedly hated Hokkaido but maybe getting out of his comfort zone was just the push he needed. I wanted to like the movie even more but ultimately it's not a hidden masterpiece or anything, just something that is fine and enjoyable for a director's early filmography.

Any others you've seen besides these MK?

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#213 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Sep 24, 2021 10:58 pm

I've never run across A Woman Crying in Spring, alas (1933).

In addition to those you list I've seen Daigaku no wakadanna (1933) (light-hearted frivolity mostly), A Star Athlete (1937) (a very strange vibe -- is it proto-militarist-leaning or does it sort of undercut this -- hard to tell), Home Diary (1938) (no current recollection, maybe it was a problematic copy), Notes of an Itinerant Performer (1941) (mostly wonderful, but with some troubling aspects) and Ohara Shôsuke-san (1949) (sort of a Walter Mitty-esque tale -- rather delightful overall, if "minor"). I would note that I loved the silent melodramas overall, even if there were some slack spots here and there. There's one scene in the second half of Seven Seas (little Hideko Takamine's interaction with the male lead in the snow -- a silent scene in a "silent" film) that is one of my favorite scenes ever.

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#214 Post by FilmSnob » Sat Sep 25, 2021 12:44 am

I think you would like A Woman Crying in Spring. I passed on the opportunity to watch The Boss's Son Goes to College, Star Athlete, and Mr. Shosuke Ohara but I would like to see Sound in the Mist and Dancing Girl one day.

I vaguely remember the snow scene with little Hideko, which is saying something, because otherwise I forgot most of what I watched with those first three films.

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#215 Post by FilmSnob » Sat Sep 25, 2021 4:46 am

Forgot to mention I really liked Shiinomi School too. Watched that one yesterday. Shimizu's direction starts off rather unusually heavy handed, and there's some sketchy organ music throughout, but the movie turns into a beautiful if slightly over dramatic story about a boarding school for handicapped kids and the adults who provide love and help them overcome their physical and emotional disabilities.

Tender film, not sure the tone matched my expectations at the end, but I won't ever forget the amazing scene of Kyoko Kagawa playing Julie Andrews and singing with the children in the field by the stream.

Catchy song and Kyoko may be my favorite actress.

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