1931-1940AsianClassicsHiroshi ShimizuJapan

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


“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. Contemporary critics commented on the darkness of Shimizu’s work at this period, and indeed the director is unsparing in his depiction of the Japanese family, and trenchant in his criticism of the social assumptions that destroy it from outside and from within. Moreover, the film also has a broader political application: William M. Drew has drawn attention to the film’s metaphorical critique of the imperialist activities of the military government of the time. He calls Tokyo no eiyu Shimizu’s “most emotionally overwhelming film, unsparing in its depiction of human tragedy, with its vision probably the bleakest of all his works”. Perhaps surprisingly given its subversive elements, the film was both a critical and a commercial success. ALEXANDER JACOBY & JOHAN NORDSTRöM.”



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