Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Eclipse Series 15 Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu|
Actors: Chishu Ryu, Oikawa Michiko, Kinuyo Tanaka
Director: Hiroshi Shimizu
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
A young woman is driven by jealousy to commit a terrible crime; follows the route of a good-natured bus driver, peering into the lives of his passengers.
Another Fine Discovery from Eclipse
Randy Buck | Brooklyn, NY USA | 04/06/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Criterion's bare-bones Eclipse line continues its winning streak with another excellent package of films, this time from Japanese director Hiroshi Shimizu. A contemporary of Ozu's, and with a similarly long-lasting career, Shimizu's relatively unknown in the West, but these pictures serve as a sterling introduction to his work. The "travels" in the package title are literal as well as figurative -- not only do these movies cover a lot of ground, with fascinating shots of various Japan locales in the 1920s-40s, Shimizu is fond of rapid horizontal tracking shots and dissolves that give his work a dynamic feeling. These films are nicely acted, filled with gentle humor and touching humanity, and provide a fascinating exploration of a society in transition between traditional ways and the modernism of the twentieth century. According to the liner notes, Shimizu liked to work from actor improvisation, rather than fully written scripts, and that impulse pays off with work that feels as fresh as if it were done yesterday. Here's one trip any lover of Japanese cinema will find richly enjoyable."
Fascinating glimpses of pre-war Japan
Glenn E. Stambaugh | Carlisle, PA USA | 06/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Four films, each a little over an hour long, provide fascinating glimpses of pre-war Japan. Maybe the best way to describe their charms is to provide some details about two of them.
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. For instance, they decide to form a discussion group (led by a crusty old professor who somehow maintains his dignity even while waking the others with his snoring each night), and the first topic is to complain about the inn's food - every day breakfast is the same: miso soup, egg, sea weed, and pickles; dinner is invariably sashimi, grilled fish, soup, and boiled greens. Finally, recovered, the soldier returns to Tokyo, and the closing scenes, in which the geisha realizes her dreams of marriage will end in disappointment, are somehow heartbreaking and unsentimental at once.
Poignant slices of life
William Timothy Lukeman | 04/09/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I can only echo the previous reviewers in praising this collection from pre-War Japan. For such short films with such simple plots, they all possess a remarkable richness of detail & a wide range of idiosyncratic characters, each with his or her own story. And there's a real freshness to them, with surprising humor interwoven through the quiet drama, that makes them feel quite contemporary. Sometimes the prospect of watching acclaimed older films can make the viewer fear obligatory drudgery -- nothing of the sort here, though! We're introduced to the characters & get caught up in their lives almost immediately.
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. The Westernized young woman constantly mocks the lecherous man for his blatant leering, even as she chats jokingly with the good-hearted bus driver, clearly trying to convince him to help the village girl. But as straightforward as that sounds, it's told with a compassionate eye for sorrow, tenderness, and even a moment of lovely transcendence.
I'll say no more, except that all four films share these thoroughly humane qualities. They may be more than 70 years old now, but there's nothing out-of-date about them. Thanks to Criterion for making them available in such a reasonably-priced package -- most highly recommended!