Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hiroshi Shimizu box-set on its way from Criterion/ Eclipse

by Chris MaGee

This was a bit of news that had all of the Pow-Wow writers buzzing with anticipation over the holidays. The folks at Criterion/ Eclipse have announced that they will be releasing a 4-disc box-set titled "Travels with Hirsohi Shimizu" on March 17th.

Never heard of Shimizu? Well, if you haven't you're forgiven. While Yasujiro Ozu, Mikio Naruse and Kenji Mizoguchi have become common names associated with the first golden age of Japanese cinema Shimizu's name has been more often than not relegated to the footnotes in the ocean of ink that's been used to discuss his more famous contemporaries and friends. When you look at the the enormity of his output it's a bit puzzling though. Shimizu, born to a wealthy family in Shizuoka in 1903, produced an astonishing 166 films from the time he joined Shochiku in 1924 until his death of a heart attack in 1966. It's a staggering body of work that easily surpasses those of Ozu, Naruse or Mizoguchi. To this day he's still known in Japan for his films featuring children. (Shimizu actually used his wealth to found a home for children orphaned during the Second World War.)

The set will include Shimizu's 1933 silent film "Japanese Girls at the Harbor", 1938's "The Masseurs and a Woman", the 1936 road movie "Mr. Thank You" and "The Ornamental Hairpin" a 1941 film that starred one of Shimizu's many wives Kinuyo Tanaka (Life of Oharu, Sansho the Bailiff).

It seems like the timing is just right for this box-set. Shimizu's 1938 film "Anma to Onna" was recently remade by "Taste of Tea" and "Funky Forest" director Katsuhito Ishii with the intention of finally making a film that his parents would like(!)

For full details on "Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu" check out the Criterion Collection website here. And to tide you over here's a beautiful clip form"The Masseurs and a Woman" courtesy of YouTube.

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