Hiroshi Shimizu – Tokyo no eiyu AKA A Hero of Tokyo (1935)

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“This late silent film is little more than an hour long, and achieves a narrative concentration and emotional intensity which place it among the neglected gems of the Japanese cinema of the 1930s. The story focuses on the widower Nemoto, ostensibly a businessman, who has one son, Kanichi, the hero of the title. Nemoto remarries; his new wife is a widow with a son and daughter of her own. However, Nemoto’s business turns out to be out a shady scam, and he disappears, leaving his wife to raise the three children alone. In order to support the family, she is obliged to become a bar hostess. She conceals this shameful employment from the children, but the truth comes out years later, after her daughter is rejected by her husband’s family when they investigate her background. The film contains powerful performances from Mitsugu Fujii, here making the last of his regular appearances for Shimizu, and Mitsuko Yoshikawa, a specialist in the haha-mono (“mother-film”) genre. Continue reading

Hiroshi Shimizu – Kanzashi aka Ornamental Hairpin (1941)

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Synopsis
Based on an Ibuse Masuji short story, this delightful escapist drama is set at a hot spring resort providing sanctuary to people of vastly different backgrounds and personalities bounded by one thing: their common desire to not leave. The resort’s patrons include a Tokyo woman (Tanaka Kinuyo) with a mysterious past who develops a brief relationship with a wounded soldier (Ryu Chishu). A comedic piece filmed and set during wartime Japan, Kanzashi makes a statement with its lightness. Continue reading

Hiroshi Shimizu – Hachi no su no kodomotachi AKA Children of the Beehive (1948)

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The movie focuses on the plight of ten war orphans hailing from different cities across Japan. With nowhere to go, they scavenge around train stations, scratching out an existence by means of black market work for a one-legged tramp whilst avoiding being picked up by the police for vagrancy. Soon however, they find a more inspiring role model in the figure of a nameless soldier just repatriated after the war. An orphan himself, the soldier also has no home to return to, and so sets out across the country with the kids in tow in search of work before settling on the goal of leading them to the orphanage where he himself grew up. Continue reading