Hiroshi Shimizu is not a name that springs instantly to mind when one thinks of Japanese film directors. Although Shimizu was a contemporary of Yasujiro Ozu, both having worked at Shochiku Studios, it is Ozu whose body of work is the better known. While not for one moment does this take away from Ozu's reputation as a great film director, it does not mean that Shimizu was not also a director of equal stature. Ozu said: "I can't shoot films like Shimizu." And the great Kenji Mizoguchi once said: "People like me and Ozu get films made by hard work, but Shimizu is a genius" Shimizu made some sublime films in a career that spanned the years 1924 to 1959. A four-disc box set of Shimizu's films is now available. Films included are "Mr. Thank You", "Ornamental Hairpin", "The Masseurs and a Woman" and "Japanese Girls at The Harbour", all with English subtitles. A few days ago I watched Shimizu's 1933 silent film, "Japanese Girls at The Harbour." Set in the port city of Yokohama, two girls, Sunako and Dora who attend a Christian school, pledge to be friends. But when a youth named Henry appears on his motorcycle and offers to take Sunako for a ride, we know that this friendship won't last and that the lives of both girls will change in ways they are barely able to comprehend, and can do little to change. "Japanese Girls at The Harbour." is a microcosm, a snapshot if you will, of Japanese society of the early 1930s, at a time when the old way of life in Japan was about to crumble before the more tempting, faster-paced life of the West. It is clear from this collection that Hiroshi Shimizu was the equal of, if not as good as, Japanese directors like Ozu and Mizoguchi in holding up a bright shining mirror to the minutiae of Japanese life.
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