Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

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Tommaso
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#101 Post by Tommaso » Thu Mar 26, 2009 5:54 am

peerpee wrote: Tommaso, I'm concerned about being misquoted. I did not say "the MoC Mizoguchis barely (if at all) recuperated their costs" as you implied I'd said. My comments were made just as the last of the twinpacks had been released and was based on initial sales.
Nick, no offence meant and let me apologize for obviously misunderstanding your comments way back then and then referring to them from memory months later. I only requoted your comments in this thread to make clear to which statement I was referring in this thread here. There is indeed a difference between what you said and how I misquoted it here.
Re-reading some replies to your post way back then, it seems that there was a genuine concern from people here about no further Mizoguchi (or Naruse) films coming from MoC soon. Again, sorry for expressing this concern in an inappropriate way which twisted the facts of what you wrote and how things are in reality.

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Fan-of-Kurosawa
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#102 Post by Fan-of-Kurosawa » Thu Mar 26, 2009 10:09 am

I read Nick' s comments about the sales of MOC's Mizoguchi and Naruse films, that the sales are not bad and that we might see more films from these directors in the near future and the whole debate about the good or bad sales of Japanese films.

Well, there is something about this whole issue that I never understood. In France there are so many wonderful sets. There are 3 Mizoguchi sets, an Uchida set, a Kinoshita set etc. All these films are unavailable with eng subs.

The argument that the US and UK companies use is that these films don' t sell. However, since the French companies continue to release them it means that they generally sell. I can't imagine that the French companies release these films and take losses and continue to release more. So why the same thing doesn't happen in the States or the UK?

One easy answer has always been that the French public is more "cinephile" and thus more interested in Japanese films. I have to admit that I don't understand this explanation. Even if we accept that the French are more "cinephile" than the English or the Americans and the sales of Japanese films are better in France, the UK and American companies have the advantage of the english subs that should increase the international sales since, for better or for worse, more people in the world know English than French.

P. S. I know that my post has nothing to do specifically with Shimizu but here is where this discussion takes place.

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Arn777
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#103 Post by Arn777 » Thu Mar 26, 2009 12:08 pm

I don't think they sell that well, I remember reading an interview with Wild Side, and they were saying taht their Naruse set didn't sell particularly well. The big difference is that French publishers get funding from the CNC (Centre National de la Cinématographie) to help them produce DVDs and I doubt MOC and other anglo-saxon publishers get any public funding (BFI excepted).

Ishmael
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#104 Post by Ishmael » Thu Mar 26, 2009 1:25 pm

Fan-of-Kurosawa wrote:The argument that the US and UK companies use is that these films don' t sell.
What US and UK companies are saying this? Nick just pointed out that he never said this, and Criterion has certainly never said any such thing. As far as I can tell, the idea that Mizoguchi and Naruse don't sell is just speculation around here based on a combination of desire for more titles combined with fear that they'll never be released.

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movielocke
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#105 Post by movielocke » Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:30 am

Japanese Girls at the Harbor (does this literally translate as Japan's Harbor, My Daughter?) was very good, not great, but an excellent introduction to Shimizu, I'd put it on par with Passing Fancy. Looking forward to the rest of the set. Love the director's overall aesthetic and tone. :)

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#106 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Mar 31, 2009 8:42 am

movielocke wrote:does this literally translate as Japan's Harbor, My Daughter?
No. ;~}

More like....

The young Japanese women of the port

Minato = port (or harbor -- but port is more suitable here)
no = of (turns the word _preceding_ it into a possessive)
nihon = Japan (or Japanese, in this case)
musume = can mean either daughter(s) or young woman (or women), here it means the latter

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movielocke
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#107 Post by movielocke » Tue Mar 31, 2009 3:35 pm

now that's a lesson on the possessive I won't forget, unlike the other ones. ;) and when I learned musume and musuko as vocab words, they were only given as my daughter/my son though that was a really generic japanese primer. :-p

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movielocke
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#108 Post by movielocke » Mon Apr 06, 2009 11:04 pm

I had another question about Japanese Girls at the Harbor. Is there additional significance to the names Henry and Dora? I remember noting in the intertitles that their names were in katakana, while Masumi's name was in hiragana. Are we (or was the original Japanese audience) supposed to infer that Henry and Dora are not Japanese but Caucasian?

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#109 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Apr 06, 2009 11:45 pm

movielocke wrote:I had another question about Japanese Girls at the Harbor. Is there additional significance to the names Henry and Dora? I remember noting in the intertitles that their names were in katakana, while Masumi's name was in hiragana. Are we (or was the original Japanese audience) supposed to infer that Henry and Dora are not Japanese but Caucasian?
Yes -- they are mixed-race individuals. (As was the actress who played Dora -- who recently appeared in Shiota's Canary -- more than 60 years after her retirement from acting in the 1930s).

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#110 Post by Jonathan S » Tue Apr 07, 2009 1:53 am

And I guess "Henry" goes with the "Harley" he rides....!

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Finch
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#111 Post by Finch » Tue Apr 07, 2009 3:06 pm

I got the set last Thursday and watched one film at a time in chronological order; finished with Ornamental Hairpin tonight. This was my first ever exposure to Shimizu and it has been a great experience to watch these films: going by first impressions, I found Japanese Girls at The Harbour and Mr Thank You excellent; Masseurs and Hairpin had moments of greatness but ultimately I found them merely good to very good. I had the same experience as Schreck with Ryu's acting in Ornamental Hairpin and the extended scene where he tries to cross the river: while I do think that the scene is also meant to be comical, Ryu's attempt at a serious limp is far too exaggerated and it turns this sequence into a bit of a farce. It should have been moving as well as humourous but Ryu almost kills it (for my taste, it also goes on for too long; it didn't need to linger on the blind monks crossing over). I can't remember where I read this (may have been Donald Ritchie's Ozu book) but it was once said that Ozu was one of the few directors who coaxed a good performance out of Ryu who was allegedly terrible in other films. That said, Hairpin has some of the best tracking shots in these four films, especially when Tanaka climbs up the stairs in the concluding shot.

Generally, looking back at all four films, I loved Shimizu's handling of his material: compassionate, graceful and sensual (the passengers sharing cigarettes on the bus in Mr Thank You is one of many scenes that comes to my mind). Ozu-esque in the way he makes us aware of the poignant turns that his characters' lives take, or the hard choices they have to make, and yet effortlessly combines it with humour and optimism. If there is any flaw with this set, it is, as usual, Eclipse's lackluster packaging. Why not use one or two screenshots from each film for each artwork as they did with the Late Ozu release? All the same, I guess they could and would have charged more for a more stylish package along the lines of the Shochiku set. Meh packaging aside, this looks certain to be among the best releases of the year, and I only wished that CC would release a new Eclipse monthly. In the past six months, I've bought more Eclipses than mainline discs.

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movielocke
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#112 Post by movielocke » Mon Apr 20, 2009 4:44 pm

Loved Arigatosan, and I think it's up there with Umarete wa mita karedo and Gion no shimai as one of the best Japanese films of the decade.

The Masseurs and the Woman was outstanding as well.

still haven't watched Ornamental Hairpin, but already this set is the best blind buy I've made in years.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#113 Post by arigato-san » Tue Apr 21, 2009 12:59 pm

movielocke wrote:I had another question about Japanese Girls at the Harbor. Is there additional significance to the names Henry and Dora? I remember noting in the intertitles that their names were in katakana, while Masumi's name was in hiragana. Are we (or was the original Japanese audience) supposed to infer that Henry and Dora are not Japanese but Caucasian?
A lot of Japanese names, especially female ones were written in katakana back then too. It's less common now.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#114 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Apr 21, 2009 1:01 pm

arigato-san wrote:A lot of Japanese names, especially female ones were written in katakana back then too. It's less common now.
True in the abstract. but not applicable here.

Henry and Dora _are_ supposed to have mixed backgrounds (and do have Western names).

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esl
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#115 Post by esl » Tue Apr 21, 2009 5:36 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
arigato-san wrote:A lot of Japanese names, especially female ones were written in katakana back then too. It's less common now.
True in the abstract. but not applicable here.

Henry and Dora _are_ supposed to have mixed backgrounds (and do have Western names).
Katakana is used for words of foreign origin, so it is appropriate that Henry and Dora are written in katakana not hiragana. Katakana can also be used like italics to add emphasis to a word or, as stated above, is used at times because it is fashionable.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#116 Post by arigato-san » Wed Apr 22, 2009 4:26 am

esl wrote:Katakana is used for words of foreign origin, so it is appropriate that Henry and Dora are written in katakana not hiragana. Katakana can also be used like italics to add emphasis to a word or, as stated above, is used at times because it is fashionable.
Not entirely true. If you ask the average elderly woman in Japan, their name is likely written in katakana, which hasn't much to do with fashionability.

Of course in this case the names are written in katakana because they're mixed and have western names, like Michael already said.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#117 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Apr 22, 2009 11:08 am

Very few classic era actresses used katakana for their personal names -- Machiko Kyo was one of the rare ones who did this. (I always wondered whether "machi" was an attempt to localize "Margie here").

Interestingly, both Shozo (father) and Masahiro (son) Makino wrote their family name with katakana and personal name with kanji. Possibly the katakana rendering of Makino originated as a distinctive name brand for their movie studio?

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#118 Post by arigato-san » Wed Apr 22, 2009 11:57 am

The reason why some people wrote their names in katakana back then isn't very clear, but some people say it's because hiragana looks childish. Machiko probably means the same as its most commonly used kanji equivalent; Knowledge (Machi) and ko meaning child.

Your explanation for Shozu and Masahiro writing their family name in katakana seems likely though.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#119 Post by Murasaki53 » Sun Apr 26, 2009 4:21 am

I've just watched Ornamental Hairpin. Deliberately didn't read the blurb on the box and so never realized throughout that Chishu Ryu was playing a soldier. Makes the whole film that much more poignant retrospectively. And what of the hairpin itself? It's certainly a wonderful poetic symbol but not of the kind professed by Mr Nanmura.

And that is also one of the reasons that this is such a wonderful film. Off the top of my head I can't think of any other movie (or novel or play) where the characters themselves debate the symbolism of an element in the story in which they are participating. I'm sure some other writer or director has employed this as a stylistic device. But here it's use goes much further than seeking to impress discerning critics with one's technical artistry. Instead it serves to deepen the viewers empathy with the predicament of the protagonists (even though Mr Nanmura seems cheerfully oblivious when it comes to his own likely destiny).

Also one of the most intelligent movies I've seen if I am correct in thinking that the symbolic elements of the story would have presumably been designed to elude the wartime censors. The typically bittersweet humour that one finds in Shimizu's movies might also possibly be serving this purpose on this occasion.

I was also left wondering whether Masuji Ibuse's original story contained these elements.

Finally, Nanmura's antics when it comes to lurching between trees and crossing rivers made me think of those Japanese troops that bought into their government's nationalistic/militaristic propaganda and were thus blindly eager to get back to the front line.

On the basis of the films I've seen so far, Hiroshi Shimizu has become my favourite Japanese movie director.

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esl
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#120 Post by esl » Sun Apr 26, 2009 9:01 am

arigato-san wrote:Not entirely true. If you ask the average elderly woman in Japan, their name is likely written in katakana, which hasn't much to do with fashionability.

Of course in this case the names are written in katakana because they're mixed and have western names, like Michael already said.
Well, I did ask nine women here in Yokohama this past week, mostly elderly, a few not so elderly. Several of the older ones do use katakana to write their name. Not a one of them could give a reason(legal or tradition) as to why that was so, other than that is what their parents put on their birth certificates. Two even stated that until I asked they had never thought about why it was more common for women to use katakana back then. All stated that it is less common now to see women use katakana to write their names. So, what to make of this? Well, from my unscientific poll, it seems that women using katakana to write their name has fallen out of favor.

Now, back to movies. I saw Shimizu's Children of the Beehive this past week in Tokyo. The showing I went to was sold out. It was nice to see a mix of ages.

Of the 14 films by him that I have seen, this ranks as one of my favorites. All his trademarks are there. I especially liked the tracking shots used during the sequence where two of the boys(one carrying the other on his back) climb up some steep mountains to get a view of the ocean. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the print shown was in sad shape. This was the first film by Shimizu under his own production company and I do not know who now owns the rights to this film but it needs to transferred to DVD before its too late. Actually, quite a bit more of Shimizu should be transferred. This one just has a stronger case.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#121 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Apr 26, 2009 2:29 pm

I haven't yet found a translation of the Ibuse story that served as the source for Ornamental Hairpin. I 'd love to read this -- and also the story that inspired Naruse's Hideko the Bus Conductress. (I think the two films have a lot in common, actually)

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#122 Post by Murasaki53 » Mon Apr 27, 2009 1:55 am

I am half-way through watching Ornamental Hairpin again and have not encountered any specific references to Mr Nanmura being a soldier thus far. But it says this on the blurb on the box. How do we know that he is a soldier?

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#123 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:08 am

Maybe it was in the script?

I can't recall a specific reference in the film, but I always sort of assumed he was a soldier recovering from some sort of injury (which why his foot injury had more impact than one would normally have expected).

I wonder when Ibuse's original story was written?

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Re: Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#124 Post by arigato-san » Tue Jun 23, 2009 3:29 am

In the book Japanese cinema: text and contexts by Alastair Phillips and Julian Stringer, they refer to a brief scene where Ryu's character fires a rifle at a fireground booth. I don't remember this scene, but it's been a while since I saw the film.

As for the Ibuse story, it's likely that he wrote it in the 20s, since Ibuse wrote most of his short stories in the 20s, and was especially populair with the critics at the end of the decade. The story is actually called The Four Bathtubs. Does anyone remember any specific reference to Four Bathtubs? (If there was any at all)

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#125 Post by PillowRock » Mon Jul 13, 2009 5:57 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:Maybe it was in the script?

I can't recall a specific reference in the film
I speak no Japanese (I recognize a few words, no more; which makes it kinda scary when even *I* can spot a mismatch between subtitles and what was actually said).

Is it possible that the implication is in some of the idiomatic usages and don't really make it across in the English subtitles? Or perhaps mentions of returning to Tokyo referred to a section of town that would tend to imply a military base at the time?

Just guessing at possibilities.

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