Hiroshi Shimizu – Kaze no naka no kodomo AKA Children in the Wind (1937)

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The best way to describe this film would be “bright”. The story is simple, two young boys are usurped from being the head of their gang of children by the son of the man who indicts their father on charges of embezzlement (him being fired and arrested for this.) They’re sent to live with their uncle (Takeshi Sakamoto, fast becoming my favorite Japanese actor of this decade) and spend their time thinking of ways to escape back home. Father is found innocent, and they live happily ever after. This film is beautiful, the music and the sound of the children playing are both unforgettable. It was no. 4 in the Kinema Jumpo that year, and it was adapted from a Tsubota novel (his 1939 film Four Seasons of Childhood, which contains the same characters, is also based on a Tsubota book.) The cinematography is “gliding” (a term which consistently seems to be used to describe the look and feel of his films) and more reminiscent of Arigato-San than any other film I’ve seen by him. There are also some strong similarities in plot and character to Ozu’s I Was Born But… and according to Keiko McDonald he, “tells of finding himself in tears as he read in the short story (Naoya Shiga’s “Manazuru”) about the little children shuffling along a road at night”. I watched Children in the Wind without subtitles, but more than any other unsubtitled film I’ve seen, It was extremely easy to follow along with. One of my favorites from this director, and I can’t wait to see more of his children’s films. Continue reading

Hiroshi Shimizu – Hanagata senshu aka A Star Athlete (1937)

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From acquarello at Strictly Film School Blog: Hiroshi Shimizu’s government-pressured, militarism-era film A Star Athlete is a breezy, refreshingly lighthearted, and subtly subversive slice-of-life comedy that centers on an all-day student march in formation and armed combat drills through the rural countryside for military training exercises. Shimizu demonstrates his deceptively facile adeptness and virtuoso camerawork through a series of extraordinarily choreographed plan sequence shots: a track-and-field race around the campus track between the school’s start athlete Seki (Shuji Sano) and his constantly spurring – and sparring – team mate (Chishu Ryu); an extended dolly sequence of the students’ march as bemused villagers and flirtatious, love-struck young women alternately respectfully step aside, playfully trail, obliviously obstruct, and amorously chase the dashing students in uniform; a mock battlefield charge assault through muddy fields as a guilt-ridden motley crew of travelers on the road scramble to flee from the students in a mistaken belief of being chased in retribution for their petty transgressions during their brief stay in the village. Continue reading

Mary Ellen Bute & Ted Nemeth – Tarantella (1940)

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This new medium of expression is the Absolute Film. Here the artist creates a world of color, form, movement and sound in which the elements are in a state of controllable flux, the two materials (visual and aural) being subject to any conceivable interrelation and modification. – Mary Ellen Bute Continue reading

John Ford – Arrowsmith (1931)

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Promising medical student Martin Arrowsmith turns down a chance to do research at the McGurk Institute with Professor Max Gottlieb because he wants to marry his sweetheart Leora Tozer. The newlyweds have a tough time on the rural doctoring circuit in Minnesota, but through the encouragement of touring lecturer Gustav Sondelius Martin finds his way back to the Institute in New York with Gottlieb. After a couple years, he’s “scooped” on a major find by Louis Pasteur, but then takes a dangerous trip to the Caribbean to do experimental serum trials on a runaway plague. Continue reading

Mario Peixoto – Limite AKA Limit (1931)

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An astonishing creation, Limite is the only feature by the Brazilian director and author Mário Peixoto, made when he was just twenty-two years old. Inspired by a haunting André Kertész photograph on the cover of a French magazine, this avant-garde silent master­piece centers on a man and two women lost at sea, their pasts unfolding through flashbacks propelled by the music of Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, and others. An early work of independent Latin American filmmaking, Limite was famously difficult to see for most of the twentieth century. It is a pioneering achievement that continues to captivate with its timeless visual poetry. Continue reading

Lewis Seiler – You Can’t Get Away with Murder (1939)

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Humphrey Bogart plays mobster Frank Wilson, the heavy headlining this crime thriller that sprung from the pen of Sing-Sing’s warden himself! Based on the play “Chalked Out” by Warden Lewis E. Lawes and Jonathan Finn, You Can’t Get Away With Murder tells the grim tale of a young punk taken in by the glamorous gangster life, only to find himself sent away to the federal pen with a man’s fate resting in his hands and a murderer dogging his every step. Young Johnnie Stone (original “Dead End Kid” Billy Halop) hooks up with hoodlum Wilson only to help Wilson frame his sister’s (Gale Page) straight and narrow fiancé Fred (Harvey Stephens) for Murder One. All three men soon find themselves sent to the “Big House” – two serving a stretch for robbery, the third for Death Row. Can Johnnie come clean in time to save Fred, with Frank watching his every move? Continue reading