Friday, April 26, 2013

The Trio's Engagements (1937)

Ken Uehara, Shin Saburi, Shuji Sano in THE TRIO'S ENGAGEMENTS

Star system is always the central piece of movie industry. A big star muttering horrible lines in an awful script is still better than unknown actors playing the performance of the decade in an excellent indie movie. At least in box office terms. When you need a boost in numbers, you are better off with two stars instead of one. Let's make it three, then you have a sure hit. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Seven Seas (1931, 1932)

SEVEN SEAS, the opening shot

Until recently, Hiroshi Shimizu was not a familiar name even among Japanese cinema aficionados. Though he had been well-regarded in Japanese movie industry during 1930's and 40's, and his works had been extremely popular among domestic movie-going public, Hiroshi Shimizu was eclipsed by his contemporaries after the war: Yasujiro Ozu, Mikio Naruse and Kenji Mizoguchi. How many movies did he direct in his lifetime? Ever-exhaustive IMDb lists 57 titles as of today. More complete database for Japanese movies, jmdb, lists 166 tiles as his directorial works, large part of which are from 20's and 30's. As typical of Japanese films of the era, the body of his works were largely forgotten, neglected and lost. Even in Japan, his movies were mainly history book curiosities or nostalgic memorabilia until recently. In his memoir, Chishu Ryu lamented about the fact that little attention was paid to Shimizu's works. In recent years, his surviving movies are receiving the appraisal they should have. In 2009, Criterion released his pivotal works from 30's to early 40's on DVD. These four titles, JAPANESE GIRLS AT HARBOR (1933), MR. THANK YOU (1936), THE MASSEURS AND A WOMAN (1938) and ORNAMENTAL HAIRPIN (1941) are not only his masterpieces, but also the very example of the quality of 30's Japanese cinema.
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