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Four Seasons of Children © 1939 Shochiku Co., Ltd.

Hiroshi Shimizu
Part I: The Shochiku Years

May 4 — May 19, 2024

An unsung master of Japanese cinema, Hiroshi Shimizu (1903–1966) was highly regarded by contemporaries Yasujirō Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi for his seemingly effortless formal ingenuity, distinguished by his signature linear traveling shots and his naturalistic, open-air depictions of regional Japan. Shot on location and frequently employing non-actors, the loosely plotted, low-key tragicomedies that comprise his most characteristic work foregrounded the transient lives and hardships of everyday people with a marked regard for those pushed to the margins of society, including drifters, migrant workers, war veterans, persons with disabilities, outcast women, and especially children, in whom the director took a personal philanthropic interest and of whom he remarked: “They are natural. They breathe the air. Films must have humans who breathe the air.” 

This two-part retrospective offers the first New York survey of the major yet often overlooked filmmaker in more than 30 years and the largest ever assembled in North America. Presented at the Museum, Part I: The Shochiku Years gathers the best films of Shimizu’s protean and varied career with the studio from his stark, strikingly modernist early melodramas, both silent and sound, through the lyrical tours of provincial life with which he would become chiefly associated. Highlights include the filmmaker’s best-known films in the United States (Japanese Girls at the Harbor, Mr. Thank You, The Masseurs and a Woman, Ornamental Hairpin) alongside rarer contemporaneous works that display the full stylistic and tonal range of this consummate craftsman’s accomplishments, including two of the director’s supreme masterpieces, Children in the Wind (1937) and its two-volume sequel Four Seasons of Children (1939). All films will be presented in 35mm prints imported from collections and archives in Japan. 

Part II: The Postwar and Independent Years opens at Japan Society on May 16 and will illuminate Shimizu’s output after his departure from Shochiku, particularly the trilogy of films he made with the orphans he personally adopted and brought up after World War II. 

Tickets for each screening program are $15 (discounted for MoMI members, seniors, students, and youth). Go to individual program pages below to purchase tickets.

See ALL of Part I: The Shochiku Years with a $130 series pass (limited availability). Present your pass upon arrival to pick up tickets for that day’s Shimizu screenings. Your spot will be held until 10 minutes prior to the start of each film.

Programmed by Edo Choi, Associate Curator of Film; Alexander Fee, Film Programmer, Japan Society; and Akinaru Rokkaku, Japan Foundation, New York

Co-organized with Japan Society; the National Film Archive of Japan; and the Japan Foundation, New York

Special thanks to Brian Belovarac (Janus Films); Mako Fukata; Hitomi Hosoda (Shochiku Co.); Kate MacKay (Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive); Clément Rauger; Tony Stella; Kenta Tamada (National Film Archive of Japan); Yukiko Wachi (Kawakita Memorial Film Institute); Yoshio Yasui (Kobe Planet Film Archive)

 

A logo with a red circle insignia on the left, next to the words JAPAN SOCIETY in bold capital letters on the rightA logo showing an image of a white screen within a wider curved black screen, below which are the letters NFAJ, which are above Japanese-language characters, which are above the words National Film Archive of JapanA logo with the words JAPAN FOUNDATION NEW YORK on the left and a purple design in the shape of a butterfly on the right

“Descriptors such as ‘overlooked,’ ‘forgotten,’ and ‘unsung’ have been attached to Shimizu so often by western writers that he can almost be said to be famous for being less famous than he should be. His low profile is sometimes attributed to his being overshadowed by his exact contemporary Yasujiro Ozu (both were born in 1903), though Ozu was an avowed admirer of his colleague at Shochiku, the studio where Shimizu worked throughout the 1930s and the war years before striking out on his own. Kenji Mizoguchi declared, ‘People like me and Ozu get films made by hard work, but Shimizu is a genius.’ The real problem has been the difficulty of seeing more than a handful of his films outside Japan, so the arrival of the largest North American retrospective to date is cause for rejoicing.

Read Imogen Sara Smith on Shimizu at Reverse Shot.