Series Highlight: Hiroshi Shimizu, Part I: The Shochiku Years 5/3/24

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FILM HIGHLIGHT | May 3, 2024
Hiroshi Shimizu – Part I: The Shochiku Years

Every once in a while, there’s a cinema retrospective in New York that reminds us of the breadth and depth of film history, and of the importance and singularity of certain film artists whose work has perhaps not been as widely known as it should be. Starting tomorrow, we are proud to present the first part of a major series celebrating the Japanese filmmaker Hiroshi Shimizu, an unsung master of the craft who should be mentioned in the same breath as Ozu and Mizoguchi. This is the first New York survey of Shimizu in more than 30 years and the largest ever assembled in North America—co-organized with Japan Society, the National Film Archive of Japan, and the Japan Foundation, New York.

Shot on location and frequently employing non-actors, the loosely plotted, low-key tragicomedies that comprise his most characteristic work foregrounded the transient lives and hardships of everyday people with a marked regard for those pushed to the margins of society, including drifters, migrant workers, war veterans, persons with disabilities, outcast women, and especially children, in whom the director took a personal philanthropic interest and of whom he remarked: “They are natural. They breathe the air. Films must have humans who breathe the air.”

Presented at the Museum, Part I: The Shochiku Years gathers the best films of Shimizu’s protean and varied career with the studio from his stark, strikingly modernist early melodramas, both silent and sound, through the lyrical tours of provincial life with which he would become chiefly associated. All imported 35mm prints!

There are so many highlights it’s hard to narrow it down, but a great place to start is his beloved Mr. Thank You, screening this Sunday, May 5. This charming road movie follows a genial local bus driver (matinee idol Ken Uehara) along his route as he transports a group of travelers, comprising a microcosm of Japanese society, from the far reaches of the Izu peninsula to the train station that links it to Tokyo. Rediscovered in the 1970s, Shimizu’s film is now recognized as a classic of Japanese cinema.

Read Imogen Sara Smith's "Discovering Hiroshi Shimizu" in Reverse Shot.

Tickets are only $7 for MoMI members at the Senior/Student level and above and $15 for the public (with discounts for seniors, students, and youth). There is a $1.50 transaction fee per ticket for all online purchases (waived for MoMI members). Become a member today!

See all of Part I: The Shochiku Years with a $130 series pass! See the full schedule and get tickets here.

Part II: The Postwar and Independent Years opens at Japan Society on May 16 and will illuminate Shimizu’s output after his departure from Shochiku, particularly the trilogy of films he made with the orphans he personally adopted and brought up after World War II.