Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

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Tommaso
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#76 Post by Tommaso » Sun Mar 08, 2009 7:44 am

Fan-of-Kurosawa wrote:I am also very surprised about the differences in the transfers. The plain truth is that the Eclipse set looks a lot better.
I'm not sure about this. Looking at the Beaver caps, sharpness seems to be better on the Eclipse, but the difference might well be due to the Eclipse caps being a little smaller because of the picture-boxing, and as Schreck noted, CC have done their usual blackness boosting affair. The Shochiku probably is closer to the original look of these films as far as greyscale is concerned. However, considering the price and especially the addition of a soundtrack to "Japanese Girls at the Harbour", there's no question that the Eclipse offers better value.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#77 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:00 pm

Quite honestly, I don't think Japanese Girls really needs any accompaniment (but I'd be somewhat tempted by one if was constructed out of suitable music of the proper vintage).

I suspect this release would have to sell like hotcakes to ensure any further Shimizu sets by Eclipse. Shimizu's films certainly "deserve" to sell -- but then so did Naruse's.... ;~{

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#78 Post by artfilmfan » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:42 pm

Whatever Criterion did, in HerrSchreck's words, "that drains the hue to pure b&w" (I call it the "Criterion touch"), they have made buying this set (double-dipping) very tempting :) The best example of this "Criterion touch" can be found on their (second) DVD release of "The 400 Blows" which, among the different world-wide DVD releases of this film, makes theirs the best looking one.

With my days of being wild about buying multiple DVD versions are over, I, too, will stick with my Shochiku set. I'll keep reminding myself that the packaging of the Shochiku set is a lot nicer :) But, I don't mind double or triple dipping if Criterion release more Ozu or Naruse films :)

(MEK: Were you able to find one of the spots where Setsuko Hara once stood ? :) )

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#79 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:58 pm

artfilmfan wrote:(MEK: Were you able to find one of the spots where Setsuko Hara once stood ? :) )
A couple of Kiyomizudera pictures: 1 - 2

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#80 Post by artfilmfan » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:39 pm

Nice pictures! It must have been a thrill for a Hara fan to be standing in the spot where Hara once stood, to breathe the same air she once breathed. No? :)

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#81 Post by Fan-of-Kurosawa » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:50 pm

Ok, I know that this is out of topic but Michael do you know for certainty that When a Woman Ascends the Stairs didn' t sell many copies or are you guessing this from the fact that Criterion has not released any other Naruse film either in the main line or in the Eclipse line? Or are you refering to MOC's set? Because I actually remember reading somewhere in the MOC thread that the wonderful Naruse Vol. 1 set has not sold well. (and of course that is the reason there has been no Volume 2 so far.)

The reason I am asking is because if this true about Criterion's When a Woman Ascends the Stairs it would be a great pity. Until now I always thought that the reason for the low sales of MOC's set was the fact that it was a 3-disc set and it appeared expensive to the average buyer. But if the single Criterion release also didn't sell well, then what can I say?
That' s horrible. :cry:

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#82 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:56 pm

Fan-of-Kurosawa wrote:Ok, I know that this is out of topic but Michael do you know for certainty that When a Woman Ascends the Stairs didn' t sell many copies or are you guessing this
I am just speculating based on the reports as to the sales volume of the MOC Naruse set and Criterion's own lack of follow up on Naruse. I wonder if Shimizu can break through to a somewhat wider audience where Naruse (apparently) can't.
artfilmfan wrote:Nice pictures! It must have been a thrill for a Hara fan to be standing in the spot where Hara once stood, to breathe the same air she once breathed. No?
I must say I was sufficiently intrigued by Kiyomizudera itself (and its attached Shinto shrine, devoted mostly to love and romance) that I didn't think too much about Setsuko Hara.

A much stronger movie connection was that between the streets of Naramachi and Naomi Kawase's Sharasojyu (which was surely shot quite near to our inn).

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#83 Post by Tommaso » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:14 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:I am just speculating based on the reports as to the sales volume of the MOC Naruse set and Criterion's own lack of follow up on Naruse. I wonder if Shimizu can break through to a somewhat wider audience where Naruse (apparently) can't.
Yes, and I have the feeling that the wonderful BFI Naruse set didn't fare much better, too. Nick also mentioned that even the MoC Mizoguchis barely (if at all) recuperated the costs and that for this reason they don't plan to release any further Mizo in the foreseeable future. It is a real pity, but it indicates that the 'general audience' probably isn't willing to experiment as much as many here on the forum with buying discs from directors one hasn't heard of before. As long as Kurosawa or Ozu is written on the cover nothing can go wrong, but if it comes to Naruse or Shimizu, things get problematic. I guess the only way to 'popularize' these directors is indeed more releases from Criterion; more people seem to buy their discs blindly than they would MoC or BFI discs.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#84 Post by kaujot » Mon Mar 09, 2009 11:58 pm

More people have heard of them.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#85 Post by AisleSeat » Tue Mar 10, 2009 12:14 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:Quite honestly, I don't think Japanese Girls really needs any accompaniment (but I'd be somewhat tempted by one if was constructed out of suitable music of the proper vintage).

I suspect this release would have to sell like hotcakes to ensure any further Shimizu sets by Eclipse. Shimizu's films certainly "deserve" to sell -- but then so did Naruse's.
Unless there was musical accompaniment when Japanese Girls was initially released in Japan, including it as part of a DVD, while not improper, is questionable. Did music accompany the benshi narrative? If it did, then the inclusion of music from the period at hand is fitting. But, if not, the musical addition is inappropriate as it injects an extraneous element where originally there was none, altering the experience of the viewer in a way never intended or planned by the director.

It may take time for the films of Shimizu and Naruse, as well as those from other Japanese directors little known outside of Japan, to garner a broader following. Naruse, for instance, remains a virtual unknown to the vast majority of film viewers, even to those familiar to some degree with classic Japanese film. But with each additional DVD release, his visibility will rise, and some DVD synergy will develop and build, as the viewer and collector alike will seek out other works if what he or she initially finds is pleasing. Twenty years ago, the name Ozu was recognized by only a select few, and the opportunities to see an Ozu film in the U.S., outside of New York City, were few and far between. But then came the New Yorker video releases, followed by the initial Criterion DVD releases, each additional release building on the earlier.

With Naruse and his work, his exposure to a broader audience only began with Criterion's 2006 release of When A Woman Ascends the Stairs. It will take more than a film or two to determine whether Naruse's films succeed for Criterion or are a bust. The same goes for the films of Shimizu and other Japanese film directors whose names don't normally ring a bell. In some ways, the Shimizu DVD releases help Naruse, and vice versa, because each new Japanese film DVD entices viewers to plunge deeper into the realm of Japanese film, and of those who do indeed dig deeper, once inside, they may move horizontally with their explorations, seeking out new finds.

Recently, in a response to an inquiry about more Naruse releases by Criterion, Mulvaney said "most definitely." So Criterion continues to push ahead with Japanese film, much to the benefit and delight of many film aficionados across the U.S. and beyond. If Japanese film wasn't working, in terms of reaching expected profit points, we would be seeing fewer Criterion releases. But just the opposite appears to be the case, at least at this time.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#86 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Mar 10, 2009 5:58 am

AisleSeat wrote:Unless there was musical accompaniment when Japanese Girls was initially released in Japan, including it as part of a DVD, while not improper, is questionable. Did music accompany the benshi narrative? If it did, then the inclusion of music from the period at hand is fitting. But, if not, the musical addition is inappropriate as it injects an extraneous element where originally there was none, altering the experience of the viewer in a way never intended or planned by the director.
This would initially have been shown with not only period music but also with narration. By the 30s, neither Shochiku nor its directors were enthusiastic about the narration. So various devices were tried to constrain the role of these narrators (such as including -- eventually -- almost as much inter-titled dialog as talkies had spoken dialog). The exact music used for these silents is not known -- but Shimizu made a number of transitional films (no dialog, but a synchronized score) and one can get a good idea of what kind of music would have been used from these (perky background music, that rarely tried to annotate or intensify the images being seen -- rather like what one hears in much of late Ozu).
AisleSeat wrote:Recently, in a response to an inquiry about more Naruse releases by Criterion, Mulvaney said "most definitely." So Criterion continues to push ahead with Japanese film, much to the benefit and delight of many film aficionados across the U.S. and beyond. If Japanese film wasn't working, in terms of reaching expected profit points, we would be seeing fewer Criterion releases. But just the opposite appears to be the case, at least at this time.
Glad to hear Criterion still plans to issue more Naruse... eventually ...

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#87 Post by jbeall » Sun Mar 15, 2009 10:33 am


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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#88 Post by evillights » Tue Mar 17, 2009 2:21 am

Dave's columns have been appearing regularly in the Times ever since the switch to the Sunday paper. They just haven't been appearing at the Times site in the "main three articles" roster of the Films section until this weekend's Shimizu piece. The best way to make sure you catch his DVD column is by checking in regularly at davekehr.com, and/or adding his blog to your Google Reader.

ck.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#89 Post by Murasaki53 » Mon Mar 23, 2009 8:17 am

I watched 'The Masseurs and a Woman' and 'Mr Thank You' over the weekend and was enraptured by both of them, so much so that I am considering buying the second Shochiku box set even though it is ruinously expensive.

However, I understand that this box set consists of children's movies. Would these films also appeal to those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth?

I should add that I have also enjoyed several Ozu silents in which children played a prominent part.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#90 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Mar 23, 2009 8:56 am

Murasaki53 wrote:I watched 'The Masseurs and a Woman' and 'Mr Thank You' over the weekend and was enraptured by both of them, so much so that I am considering buying the second Shochiku box set even though it is ruinously expensive.

However, I understand that this box set consists of children's movies. Would these films also appeal to those of us who are a bit longer in the tooth?
The films in Shochiku's Box 2 are quite interesting, but not of the same extremely high average quality as those in Box 1. Children in the Wind and Four Seasons of Children are probably the best of the bunch (and are the most child-focused). I really like Nobuko, but think it is probably a step down in importance (with a few rough spots) -- it is actually about high school girls (rather than elementary school boys) -- and the principal character is a young woman teacher (only a few years older than the oldest students). Introspection Tower is even more uneven (with as much focus on adults as children).

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#91 Post by Murasaki53 » Mon Mar 23, 2009 9:46 am

Thanks for the quick reply, Michael. I might hold fire on those, given their cost (or wait until I'm next in Japan).

I'd just like to add that I would unreservedly recommend this release. In fact, the highlights of the last year or so for me have been the Kurosawa, Shepitko, Mizoguchi and Silent Ozu Eclipse sets. But I suspect that this might just be the best of the lot, with 'Mr Thank You' now heading the list of my favourite Road Movies.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#92 Post by ByMarkClark.com » Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:18 pm

I finished the Shimizu set yesterday and must report that it was both a revelation and a delight -- certainly one of the best Eclipse sets so far. At first, I didn't quite know what to make of JAPANESE GIRLS AT THE HARBOR -- it seemed a bit too heavy-handedly moralistic, like something out of DW Griffith. But it's really stayed with me, I think because the characters were so well and lovingly sketched. I was smitten with all three talkies immediately, especially MR. THANK YOU. Just glorious filmmaking, with a feathery touch that belies the darker undercurrents of the material. (I think I've discovered yet another Japanese director I prefer to Mizoguchi!)

I hope there are further Shimizu sets in the works from Eclipse.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#93 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:27 pm

I think that Japanese Girls is morally rather complex -- once one actually ponders it for a while.

Mr. Thank You is a remarkable film -- I wonder if any Japanese film of the era addressed the issue of Korean migrant workers in the way Shimizu did (and he depicts the children of Chinese migrant workers in Forget Love For Now).

We need at least 20 subtitled Shimizu films out on DVD (and at least 40 Naruse ones).

;~}
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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#94 Post by ByMarkClark.com » Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:39 pm

Bring 'em on!

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#95 Post by peerpee » Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:58 pm

Tommaso wrote:Nick also mentioned that even the MoC Mizoguchis barely (if at all) recuperated the costs and that for this reason they don't plan to release any further Mizo in the foreseeable future.
I can't remember saying this. The MoC Mizoguchi twinpacks have sold relatively well in their first year. We released eight Mizoguchi films over the course of a few months (which is two more than Criterion/Eclipse have out in the USA) and we suffered from Mizoguchi burnout for a while (from which we've now recovered). We certainly haven't ruled out more Mizoguchi or Naruse.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#96 Post by Tommaso » Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:13 am

Well, on 16th July 2008, you wrote in another thread:
peerpee wrote:We currently do not have any Mizoguchi titles on our release schedule radar for 2009/2010. I don't know where the information began (other than Gary's announcement on a DVDBeaver page).

We'd very much like to release more Mizoguchi, and had hoped to release more in the future (this hope may have been the source of Gary's comment) but at the moment, the eight we've just released have not sold as well as Eureka had hoped. Together with the imminent rise of Blu-ray the future becomes more difficult to predict. These are transitional times.
I'm very happy to hear that the situation has changed! So bring'em on! :D

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#97 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Mar 25, 2009 9:11 am

peerpee wrote:We certainly haven't ruled out more Mizoguchi or Naruse.
Glad to hear this. Need any recommendations? ;~}

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#98 Post by jojo » Wed Mar 25, 2009 5:29 pm

I think I'm attracted more to Shimizu's treatment of the material more than the material itself. Don't get me wrong, these are all charming features, but Shimizu's storytelling rhythms and his unique way of staging scenes make these films shine in a way that they wouldn't under lesser (or just even different) directors. More importantly, after seeing these films, one can see a very distinctive style wholly his own--and he didn't always work with the same production staff, apparently. I can't imagine someone like Mizoguchi handling material like this and making it as engaging as Shimizu has.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#99 Post by peerpee » Wed Mar 25, 2009 7:23 pm

Tommaso wrote:Well, on 16th July 2008, you wrote in another thread:
peerpee wrote:but at the moment, the eight we've just released have not sold as well as Eureka had hoped.
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.

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Re: Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu

#100 Post by Michael Kerpan » Wed Mar 25, 2009 8:03 pm

jojo wrote:I think I'm attracted more to Shimizu's treatment of the material more than the material itself. Don't get me wrong, these are all charming features, but Shimizu's storytelling rhythms and his unique way of staging scenes make these films shine in a way that they wouldn't under lesser (or just even different) directors. More importantly, after seeing these films, one can see a very distinctive style wholly his own--and he didn't always work with the same production staff, apparently. I can't imagine someone like Mizoguchi handling material like this and making it as engaging as Shimizu has.
I pretty much agree. It is the way Shimizu handles his material that makes it distinctive.

And yet, there is overlap. Some of very early Ozu is rather similar (especially Walk Cheerfully, which Shimizu helped write) -- and Naruse occasionally came up with great films that almost out-Shimizu'ed Shimizu -- especially Tomorrow's Tree-lined Streets, Hideko the Bus Conductress, Traveling Actors and Spring's Awakening (as well as quasi-Shimizu-esque oddities like This Happy Life).

One gets a sense that Shimazu shared some stylistic characteristics with Shimizu -- but his work is pretty hard to see. And Gosho's Nyobo to madamu (the first Shochiku talkie, from 1931) also seemed rather like Shimizu's films from a few years later. On the other hand, the comic works of Torajiro Saito (who was from an earlier sub-generation) seems very different from that of Shimizu, Ozu, Naruse et al.

So, Shimizu's style seems to be rooted in the same soil as his contemporaries -- but all soon grew in somewhat different directions.

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