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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:04 pm 

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Mr Finch wrote:
it didn't need to linger on the blind monks crossing over.

Not a big deal, but .....
My impression was that the blind men that we saw in Ornamental Hairpin were masseurs, just as the were in The Massuers and the Woman. That was certainly the appearance near the beginning of the movie when all of the masseurs were sent out at once to all of the tour group's rooms.

I actually found the implication of these movies that masseurs apparently once were always drawn from among the blind to be interesting.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 13, 2009 7:03 pm 
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Yes, the blind people crossing the bridge were masseurs.

Background trivia:

One of the early shoguns helped organize the first "union" in Japan -- for blind workers. This group was not limited to masseurs, but included all professions that blind people specialized in. Blind itinerant musicians also belonged to the same organization.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 11:54 am 
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I'm about to dive into this set, and I'm just curious about something. There are songs listed in the credits to "Japanese Girls At the Harbor", and the back of the disc says that "Recordings of these songs are no longer extant." Does anybody know about them, and how they accompanied the film? (by live musician(s), recording, soundtrack, etc.??)


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2009 12:11 pm 
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jorencain wrote:
I'm about to dive into this set, and I'm just curious about something. There are songs listed in the credits to "Japanese Girls At the Harbor", and the back of the disc says that "Recordings of these songs are no longer extant." Does anybody know about them, and how they accompanied the film? (by live musician(s), recording, soundtrack, etc.??)

These may have been popular songs of the time, which the narrator (benshi) would have known and could have sung (along with live accompaniment). One gets a pretty good idea as to the musical accompaniment for Shimizu's "silent" films by watching and hearing his transitional films (recorded score and sound effects, etc -- but not normal dialogue). Examples of these include The Boss's Son Goes to College and Eclipse (Kinkanshoku -- not in IMDB).


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 11:29 am 
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Plot question on the end of Mr. Thank You:

[Reveal] Spoiler:
I don't understand how the young woman was "saved." The bus driver was saving money for his own company/bus, and apparently ended up giving this to the woman? Isn't this just a stopgap, or would this really have been a sufficient amount of money to save that family from poverty? I don't want to over-analyze it and miss the point of his charity (or the film, for that matter), but it didn't seem like a lasting solution to me -- which makes me concerned that I missed something all together. At the end of the film, the young woman states that she wants to write the city/modern woman ... did that woman contribute financially to save the young woman?


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 08, 2009 12:07 pm 
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cgray wrote:
Plot question on the end of Mr. Thank You


[Reveal] Spoiler:
The driver and the young woman are going to get married. The girl recognizes the fact that the tough-seeming "modern girl" was sweet on the driver herself, yet pushed the driver into making up his mind before it was too late for the not yet "ruined" country girl.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:44 pm 
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Thanks for the explanation, Michael. I had exactly the same question about the ending that cgray had; perhaps it's just lack of knowledge about Japanese culture and (language) codes that made it incomprehensible to me.

But anyway, somewhat belatedly I got me the set and started with "Mr. Thank You" last night. Well, what shall I say? I expected it to be quite good, very good perhaps, but the film almost felt like a revelation to me. Everything about it left me in a state of pure joy; there's a featherweight quality to it which never obscures the darker themes going on in the background, and I admired how Shimizu managed to fill 76 virtually plotless minutes in such a way that you think the film only lasted 40 min. or so. There's an incredible grace and beauty to the camerawork, a delicacy in the portrayal of these characters, a fluidity to the whole film that I've rarely seen. I know I sound like I'm describing Ozu, but for me this film is something different entirely. In a curious way, this is a feel-good film of the purest kind, despite the grim reality it depicts and which we are not meant to forget at all. But somehow the bus driver's joyful mentality and his humanity is used here as an antidote, almost as if he was a messenger of an even 'deeper', 'truer' reality. That he is a young man and not an old wise sage-turned-bus driver makes it all the more convincing. Oh, and I was never aware how beautiful the Japanese countryside is/was. Perfectly captured and perhaps highlighted by Shimizu, of course.

I'm very curious now about the other films, but I guess "Mr. Thank You" has already and immediately made it into my top ten list of Japanese films, unlike many a Mizoguchi, Ozu or even Kurosawa-film much better known. And I can't even compare it to something else; probably a good thing.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 2:58 pm 
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Shimizu is very distinctive -- and yet very inter-connected with both Ozu and Naruse.

Unfortunately, very little of Shimizu's earliest work exists (and so much early work of Ozu and Naruse is also lost) -- so it is hard to piece everything together.

In any event, my first Shimizu film (or two -- or thereabouts) was likewise like a bolt out of the blue.

There is lots to look forward to. A lot of his best work is still unavailable on DVD (even in Japan).

BTW -- my favorite character in Arigato-san is Michiko Kuwano's moga. (too bad IMDB has split Kawano's credits with a mythical "Kayoko Kuwano").


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:11 pm 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
Unfortunately, very little of Shimizu's earliest work exists (and so much early work of Ozu and Naruse is also lost) -- so it is hard to piece everything together.

Do you know anything about his late works from the 40s and 50s? Most or all of them have not even gotten a single comment on imdb, so I suppose they are rather unknown (at least outside Japan).

Michael Kerpan wrote:
BTW -- my favorite character in Arigato-san is Michiko Kuwano's moga. (too bad IMDB has split Kawano's credits with a mythical "Kayoko Kuwano").

The young woman who speaks with the driver about the 'sad girl' near the end? Yes, she might be my favourite character, too. It's nice to see how she appears to be a modern girl in a completely natural way, in the sense of not somewhat just taking-over western attitudes and clothing, as in the case of Mizo's "Sisters of the Gion", for instance, where the characters appear far more torn between two worlds (intentionally so, of course). Her character might be seen almost like a catalyst for the approach to life that the bus driver exudes.

Anyway, I continued yesterday with "Japanese Girls at the Harbour", and this also pretty much impressed me. While the story is more or less conventional, the film itself is not. Shimizu has an absolutely uncanny sense for blocking and using space between characters. The various scenes on the hill road where you see the town in the background are a good example; entirely beautiful and lyrical shots. I also admired the long tracking shot over the ocean-liner in the harbour: it's not unique, even for a film of that time, but the camera movement has just the right speed and angle to transform it into something that seems like you've rarely seen it before. Visual poetry at its best, and there are many more examples in the film. I was simultaneously reminded of Clair and Kirsanoff, perhaps even late Murnau occasionally. The film seems to be very much influenced by western films of the time, but Shimizu manages to coalesce such influences into something distinctly his own; quite unlike Ford copying Murnau, for instance.

I pretty much think that this might be my favourite dvd purchase this year, even though I have still two films to watch. Only two...


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:34 pm 
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I've seen a number of Shimizu's post-war films (not enough, however) -- and found them quite satsifying -- even if not as startling as the best work from the 30s. The earliest surviving film I know of is Fue no shiratama (from the late 20s), which is visually stunning and may have one of the earliest film portraits of a "moga". (See Roslindale Monogatari for screen shots of various Shimizu films).

What is important to note about the "modern girl" in Arigato-san is that she herself took a similar trip to the city (for a similar purpose) just a year or two earlier. While she would like to be a rival to the younger woman, she is also extremely sympathetic to her situation.

What I find most remarkable in the film, however, is the handling of the Korean migrant worker girl (and, by extension, all exploited Korean workers in Japan). So far as I know, there is no precedent in Japanese cinema for such highly sympathetic treatment of Korean immigrants. (Shimizu also dealt with Chinese immigrants in his Forget Love For Now).

Japanese Girls is definitely visually striking -- from start to finish. Yokohama is definitely one of the most dramatic locales for 1930s Japanese cinema. It was the primary cinematic (and popular culture) nexus between Japan and the West (although the real economic center of trade with the west had actually migrated into Tokyo itself).

The original Japanese box set was definitely MY purchase of the year -- back when this first came out.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 3:03 pm 
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Michael Kerpan wrote:
The earliest surviving film I know of is Fue no shiratama (from the late 20s), which is visually stunning and may have one of the earliest film portraits of a "moga".

I wanted to ask you that before: what exactly is a moga?

Michael Kerpan wrote:
What I find most remarkable in the film, however, is the handling of the Korean migrant worker girl (and, by extension, all exploited Korean workers in Japan). So far as I know, there is no precedent in Japanese cinema for such highly sympathetic treatment of Korean immigrants. (Shimizu also dealt with Chinese immigrants in his Forget Love For Now).

Yes, that's probably more important than it seemed to me when viewing the film. I can't remember seeing the problem treated in any Japanese film that I know before the 60s (I think it was some Oshima film, but I can't remember which one it was at the moment). I can only guess at the impact that this scene made on the Japanese audience at the time; but it's so seamlessly integrated into the film that there certainly is no finger-pointing or explicit social commentary involved. For me, it was more or less another expression of the general humanity and 'sympathy for all human beings' the film has to me. It would be interesting to know whether Shimizu had some strong Buddhist leanings in this respect.

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Japanese Girls is definitely visually striking -- from start to finish.

You can say that LOUD. Somehow I'm surprised that the 'silent crew' here hasn't already jumped on it and praised it to the highest degree in that respect. But so it goes: it took me quite a while to purchase the set simply because the director is so completely unknown in the West, and I did not expect the films to be THAT great. I would assume that others have/had a similar mindset, so it may take its time for the set to make its impact. But I really, really hope it will do, and while everyone (me included) wants more Naruse from CC or MoC, I think I want more Shimizu even more urgently; he clearly deserves it, including some good extras or an extensive booklet. I know absolutely nothing about the man; I suppose there's no book about him in the English or any other European language?


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 3:24 pm 
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moga == modan garu (modern girl)

An excellent book on the development of more "modern" sexual roles in Japan during the inter-war period -- Barbara Sato's "the New Japanese Woman":

Keiko McDonald was finishing (or had more or less finished) a book on _some_ of the films of Shimizu when she died. No word as to what, if anything, is happening with that book. I'm not aware of any other Shimizu-related project in the works. His work was pretty much dismissed by Western writers until relatively recently. I think some of the articles on Shimizu on Midnight Eye and on my (neglected) site are the most extensive ones available.

Shimizu is surely the most important virtually ignored great director of the classic era in Japan -- but the lack of awareness of others -- like Shimazu, Gosho, Uchida, Imai (for starters) is equally unfortunate.

Not sure what Shimizu's personal religious beliefs were.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 4:15 pm 
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Tommaso wrote:
Michael Kerpan wrote:
Japanese Girls is definitely visually striking -- from start to finish.

You can say that LOUD. Somehow I'm surprised that the 'silent crew' here hasn't already jumped on it and praised it to the highest degree in that respect. But so it goes: it took me quite a while to purchase the set simply because the director is so completely unknown in the West, and I did not expect the films to be THAT great.

There was already quite a bit of discussion in the original Shimizu box set thread. And those of us who paid through the nose for the Japanese set get to remind ourselves that we at least got the better end of the packaging deal.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:02 am 
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I almost feel ashamed, but one film in, and I'm not feeling it. Saw Japanese Girls yesterday, and while as I distance myself from the film I am more impressed (and I'm sure that after another viewing I'll be in the same camp as everyone else) I'm not sure what the greatness is for that film. It's stayed in mind over twenty-four hours and there are many things I'm impressed by, the editing during the shooting sequence and that hilarious moment when she kicks out the artist, but I'm changing my mind as I write this. I guess I'll have to watch Mr. Thank you before I can make any judgment calls. Hopefully that has the extra kick to turn this from very good to great.
By the way isn't san less formal then Mr?


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 7:51 am 
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Thanks, Michael, for the additional information. And thanks, Zedz: I wasn't aware we already had a fully fledged Shimizu thread. Great write-up on "Japanese Girls", as usual.

Knives, the reaction you describe reminds me very much of my initial reaction to Naruse. Everyone seemed to rave about his films immediately, and I couldn't quite see why they were supposed to be great. Now with Shimizu it's the other way round for me, but as I now also admire Naruse after seeing more of his films, I'd say: simply don't give up, and I would guess that you will like "Mr. Thank You" better. I also prefer it to "Japanese Girls", though only marginally.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 8:03 am 
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"-san" is equivalent to Mr., Mrs., Ms., etc.

"-sensei" is a term of respect for persons with enhanced knowledge, like teachers, professors, doctors, lawyers, professional writers, etc.

"-sama" is a very deferential term, once used for feudal lords, also in some cases for senior relatives, not commonly used in everyday life now.

"-chan" is a more informal version of "-san", sort of like a diminutive in English. For example, "okaa-san" = "mother", "okaa-chan" = "mommy". Most often used by adults towards children -- and by children towards their peer"

"-kun" is even more informal than "-chan", but more limited in use. Typically used for young boys and pets.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:07 am 
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While the subject is open, what does "neh" mean? I hear it quite a bit seeming to signify something like the affirmative form of "eh?", or "huh?", or "right?"... like, as in, if my eyesight were failing me-- "I'm posting in the Shimizu thread on the Critforum, neh?"


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:50 am 
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HerrSchreck wrote:
While the subject is open, what does "neh" mean? I hear it quite a bit seeming to signify something like the affirmative form of "eh?", or "huh?", or "right?"... like, as in, if my eyesight were failing me-- "I'm posting in the Shimizu thread on the Critforum, neh?"
Ne, is roughly equivalent to the English "isn't it?", "aren't you?", "don't you?" etc. The use of ne shows that the speaker expects the listener to agree with him or her.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:52 am 
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HerrSchreck wrote:
While the subject is open, what does "neh" mean? I hear it quite a bit seeming to signify something like the affirmative form of "eh?", or "huh?", or "right?"... like, as in, if my eyesight were failing me-- "I'm posting in the Shimizu thread on the Critforum, neh?"

"ne" is a (usually) gentle (but see the hilarious musical chairs scene in Ozu, with all its aggressive ne-ing) invitation to the hearer to share in the opinion expressed, with the expectation (or at least hope) that the hearer WILL concur. In some cases (especially when men are speaking very informally), "na" may serve the same sort of purpose.

(noting feckless boy beat me to the punch)

One has to listen carefully to the intonation used for "ne" -- in some cases it is clear that it is used in a pleading fashion -- where the speaker either doesn't know whether the listener will concur or (worse still) when they suspect that the listener may well disagree.


Last edited by Michael Kerpan on Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:58 am 
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Thanks guys. I was pretty sure, but you don't wan to take these things for granted.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 10:37 am 

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schreck- kinda... not always.

when most people will translate it it does become a "right?" or a "huh?"

I don't fully agree with that. mostly cause it depends on the intonation or inflection and how the statement best translates to english, like the phrase "oh yeah" in english depending on the intonation could mean a question, excitement, disappointment, a sarcastic reply, or any number of things. plus, japanese questions end in "ka" (formal) or "no" (informal) or a raised intonation. ne is more of a statement. like a canadian "eh".

so ne is often used as a request for affirmation from the second or third party in a conversation. but its not quite a question. sometimes its used to soften a direct statement to someone since japanese hate to be blunt.

kinda like a mom does to a kid. like "you love lima beans, huh." notice its not quite a question rather a statement but still almost acting if the mother were asking for affirmation when everyone knows she is telling the kid rather than asking.

or you could see it like this...
a guy talking to a friend.

"ano ko ga suki desu ne."
could be translated "you like that girl, don't you?" but it infers in english that the guy doesn't know if the friend likes the girl or not. that's not quite what it in infers in japanese.
if that were the case the guy would say:
"ano ko ga suki desu ka ne." ("you like that girl, don't you?")
notice the ka denoting question

so i would translate the phrase: "ano ko ga suki desu ne."
"you like that girl, huh."
notice its a statement, a hypothesis, a well educated guess looking for affirmation but not really asking a question. you could see a guy saying this in english nudging his friend as they see the girl walk past.

another example is how the friend would respond.
"suki desu ne"
isn't translated "i like the girl, i guess?" or "i like the girl, huh?"
as if the friend doesn't know himself and is looking for second or third party affirmation.

the better translation is "I guess i do like the girl." or better yet "i do like that girl, huh...."
this is said as if almost asking for affirmation and affirming the information to himself. or coming to acknowledge that he likes the girl while admitting it to the guy who originally posed the question also.

so in conclusion.... i would say its a hazy point between question and statement. a signifier for a request for affirmation.
i guess i should've just wrote that...


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:22 am 
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Tommaso wrote:
Knives, the reaction you describe reminds me very much of my initial reaction to Naruse. Everyone seemed to rave about his films immediately, and I couldn't quite see why they were supposed to be great. Now with Shimizu it's the other way round for me, but as I now also admire Naruse after seeing more of his films, I'd say: simply don't give up, and I would guess that you will like "Mr. Thank You" better. I also prefer it to "Japanese Girls", though only marginally.

Thank You, I've been thinking as much. I think part of the problem is that I thought I was watching a movie, when really it was a song all along. I'll probably rewatch Japanese Girls when I finally get to Mr. Thank You (at least these movies make for short viewing; I spent the half of yesterday watching Dr. Mabuse the Gambler)
Also Thank You Michael for clarifying. The one thing I wish criterion put into the subs more often is the Honorifcs


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:53 am 
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When it comes to Japanese movies, one really needs to learn a fair amount about the language -- including intonation and gesturing. There is so much that translations can't really convey. (I assume this is true of all foreign language films, of course).


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 11:58 am 
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ehimle: appreciated, but I really don't see any extra distinction between your statement and that of Feckless B and Mike. Both of them indicated that the speaker is expecting the interlocutor to agree, and that usually the issuance is often not really a genuine question.
Michael Kerpan wrote:
ne" is a (usually) gentle (but see the hilarious musical chairs scene in Ozu, with all its aggressive ne-ing) invitation to the hearer to share in the opinion expressed, with the expectation (or at least hope) that the hearer WILL concur
feckless boy wrote:
The use of ne shows that the speaker expects the listener to agree with him or her.
Ne, is roughly equivalent to the English "isn't it?", "aren't you?", "don't you?" etc. The use of ne shows that the speaker expects the listener to agree with him or her.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 8:29 pm 

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Quote:
ehimle: appreciated, but I really don't see any extra distinction between your statement and that of Feckless B and Mike

they both posted while i was trying to write my ridiculously long post. i didn't see either until i was done. just trying to be helpful is all.

mike definitely says what i was trying to say more economically and to the point (i wish i had that gift).


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