Sunday, April 05, 2009


Hiroshi Shimizu's 1933 film Japanese Girls at the Harbor

It is remarkable that one can spot out gangsters even in a 1933 silent film. And quite a few Japanese gangster films in the last two decades (even in Takashi Miike's films) have used similar reproductions of this shot where three well dressed men are spaced apart.

Spinning an affair -- a simple yarn used to good effect.

In the first instance, the yarn gets tied up as Sunako (Michiko Oikawa) dances with her ex-childhood love Henry (Ureo Egawa) who is now married to Sunako's good childhood friend Dora (Yukiko Inoue). The threads tangling around their feet indicate that their love for each other is rekindling.

Sunako (on the left) is having second thoughts about her feelings for Henry. She does not want to stand in the way of Dora's marriage with Henry and decides to untangle herself from both of them.

Sunako hands over the yarn to Henry and indicates that his place is next to Dora.

The camera angle and Henry's expressions indicate that he feels trapped in his marriage. The threads form a pair of handcuffs.

Overall, Japanese Girls at the Harbor contains many wonderful shots and moments. Which makes it all the more remarkable that I had not heard of Shimizu until a few weeks ago when some of his films were re-released. So I plan to view more of his films in the upcoming weeks to see whether his name should be added next to Kurosawa, Ozu and Mizoguchi's when discussing vintage Japanese cinema.


Pacze Moj said...

Good catch on the spaced-out, well-dressed gangsters. It's like they're together, but with enough room for each to command his own terrain.

nitesh said...

I read a lot about him... but never got the chance to watch his films on any format. Here is a well written article on TISCH..that made me desperate to watch the movies anyhow...hoping I can get the Japanese Embassy to order or get his films..:)