Making his directorial debut in 1924 at the age of 21, Hiroshi Shimizu (1903–66) went on to make over 160 films in a career contemporaneous with widely acknowledged masters Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi, in whose critical shadows he often, undeservedly, resided. The warmth and lightness of his work has always been highly praised but, as Alexander Jacoby notes, he shares with Jean Renoir the double-edged nature of such plaudits: “Those few critics who have written about Shimizu’s work tend to make him sound less interesting than he is.” Chris Fujiwara notes several key recurrent elements in the director’s work, including: a resistance to plotting; anarchy and unpredictability; “the expressive possibilities of camera movement”; and the subversion of the couple. Shimizu’s world is one where the actions of the individual character defines them.
He is also often overtly condemnatory of restrictive social structures and institutional norms. His films repeatedly focus on those excluded from mainstream society – 'fallen women', itinerant workers, those with disabilities or children. But, despite his concern with serious subject matter, Shimizu always retained an open approach to filmmaking. David Bordwell describes how he wrote only vague screenplays, making up new dialogue as required, and “rarely budged from his chair on set, even when the camera was moving”. This season of rarely screened 35mm prints, focusing on films from the golden period of 1930s Japanese cinema, reveals a filmmaker of generosity and casual precision. Working with a roster of Shochiku’s finest contracted actors, including Kinuyo Tanaka, Shin Saburi and Chishu Ryu, Shimizu created a body of work that deserves to be regarded as among the best cinema of its era.
– Melbourne Cinémathèque
Hiroshi Shimizu: Forgotten Master
Ornamental Hairpin (1941) – Wed 29 Jun, 7pm
A Woman Crying in Spring (1933) – Wed 29 Jun, 8.25pm
Eclipse (1934) – Wed 6 Jul, 7pm
Notes of an Itinerant Performer (1941) – Wed 6 Jul, 8.50pm
The Masseurs and a Woman (1938) – Wed 13 Jul, 7pm
Mr. Thank You (1936) – Wed 13 Jul, 8:20pm
A Hero of Tokyo (1935) – Wed 13 Jul, 9.45pm
Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.
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