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Hiroshi Shimizu (director)

Hiroshi Shimizu
Shimizu in 1949
Born(1903-03-28)28 March 1903
Died23 June 1966(1966-06-23) (aged 63)
Kyoto, Japan
Other namesTakahiko Minamoto, Umihiko Yuhara
Occupation(s)film director, screenwriter, editor
Years active1924–1959

Hiroshi Shimizu (清水宏, Shimizu Hiroshi, 28 March 1903 – 23 June 1966) was a Japanese film director, who directed over 160 films during his career.[1][2]


Early years

Shimizu was born in Shizuoka Prefecture and attended Hokkaidō University, but left before graduating.[3] He joined the Shochiku film studio in Tokyo in 1921, making his directorial debut in 1924 at the age of just 21.[1]


Shimizu specialised in melodramas and comedies.[3] In his most distinguished silent films like Fue no Shiratama (1929) and Japanese Girls at the Harbor (1933), he explored a Japan poised between native and Western ideas, traditionalism and liberalism,[4] while stylistically relying on modernist and avant-garde techniques.[5][6] The majority of his silent films is nowadays considered lost.[7]

In the 1930s, Shimizu increasingly took advantage of shooting on location[3] and with non-professional actors, and was praised at the time by film critics such as Matsuo Kishi and fellow directors as Kenji Mizoguchi.[1] Mr. Thank You (1936), The Masseurs and a Woman (1938) and Ornamental Hairpin (1941) portrayed small groups and communities of travelers or spa residents which, as film historian Alexander Jacoby points out, "concentrated more on the delineation of character than on plot".[4] For critic Chris Fujiwara, this "unpredictability and plotlessness", in combination with the extensive use of a mobile camera, gives Shimizu's films of this era a "strikingly modern quality".[8]

Shimizu also explored themes of maternal self-sacrifice and fallen female roles, common themes in Japanese cinema at the time.[9] In films like Forget Love for Now (1937) and Notes of an Itinerant Performer (1941), his heroine was accepting the burden of supporting a male dependent or relative to afford him the opportunity to go to school or become successful in life.[4] Forget Love for Now in particular was "critical of the double standard which expects women to sacrifice everything for the sake of their male dependents, while indulging in moralistic condemnation of the methods they are required to adopt to do so" (Jacoby).[9]

Shimizu's reputation as a director has often been associated with films about children, especially Children in the Wind (1937) and Four Seasons of Childhood (1939).[4][10] His experiences with child orphans after World War II led to the film Children of the Beehive (1948), independently produced by the director himself,[11] which Jacoby calls a "masterpiece of neo-realism".[4] Shimizu's films featured children who do not love or are unloved by their parents, children that are rejected by their peers or become social outcasts, or ones that suffer from illness and disability. While the premise of the stories differed, a common theme often persisted: Shimizu utilised individuals who are excluded from a group as a social commentary and criticism of society through the group themselves.[9]

Films like Children in the Wind and Ornamental Hairpin have also, in retrospect, been interpreted as Shimizu's attempts to escape the realities of wartime Japan (one critic even attacked Ornamental Hairpin for wasting valuable film stock).[11][12] The pressure put on Shimizu by the authorities to contribute to the war effort resulted in films like Introspection Tower (also titled The Inspection Tower, 1941) and Sayon's Bell (1943).[11][12] After the war, having left Shochiku, Shimizu directed films for his own production company and the Shintoho and Daiei studios.[2][11] Notable works of this era, in addition to Children of the Beehive, are Children of the Great Buddha (1952) and The Shiinomi School (1955).[4][11][13]

Shimizu lived with actress Kinuyo Tanaka from 1927 to 1929.[14][11] He died of a heart attack on 23 June 1966 at the age of 63,[15][16] seven years after directing his last film.[1]



Archive copies of Shimizu's extant films have been shown at the Cinémathèque française,[17][18] the Museum of Modern Art,[19][20] the Berlin International Film Festival,[5][21] and other institutions and festivals.

In 2008, Shochiku released two box sets which include eight of his films (Region 2 format, with both Japanese and English subtitles). The first box set contained the films Japanese Girls at the Harbor, Mr. Thank You, The Masseurs and a Woman and Ornamental Hairpin. The second box set contained Children in the Wind, Nobuko, Introspection Tower and Four Seasons of Children. In 2009, a Criterion Collection box set of four of his films (corresponding to the first Shochiku set) was released in the Region 1 format.[22]


  1. ^ a b c d Drew, William M. (15 April 2004). "Hiroshi Shimizu: Silent Master of the Japanese Ethos". Midnight Eye. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  2. ^ a b "清水宏". Japanese Movie Database (in Japanese). Retrieved 4 November 2022.
  3. ^ a b c "Shimizu Hiroshi". Nihon jinmei daijiten+Plus (in Japanese). Kōdansha. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Jacoby, Alexander (2008). A Critical Handbook of Japanese Film Directors. Berkeley, California: Stone Bridge Press. pp. 268–273. ISBN 978-1-933330-53-2.
  5. ^ a b "3 Filme von Shimizu Hiroshi" (PDF). Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin. Retrieved 4 November 2022.
  6. ^ Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey, ed. (1996). "The classical cinema in Japan". The Oxford History of World Cinema. Oxford University Press. p. 417. ISBN 9780191518188.
  7. ^ Rist, Peter (2007). "The presence (and absence) of landscape in silent East Asian films". In Lefebvre, Martin (ed.). Landscape and Film. New York and London: Routledge. p. 202.
  8. ^ Fujiwara, Chris (2004). "Shimizu Hiroshi". FIPRESCI. Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  9. ^ a b c Jacoby, Alexander. "Hiroshi Shimizu: A Hero of His Time". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 22 May 2012.
  10. ^ "Children in the Wind (Kaze no naka no kodomo)". University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Retrieved 4 November 2022.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Sharp, Jasper (2011). Historical Dictionary of Japanese Cinema. Scarecrow Press. pp. 240–242. ISBN 978-0-8108-7541-8.
  12. ^ a b Phillips, Alastair; Stringer, Julian, eds. (2007). Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts. London and New York: Routledge. ISBN 9780415328470.
  13. ^ Washburn, Dennis; Cavanaugh, Carole, eds. (2001). Word and Image in Japanese Cinema. Cambridge University Press. p. 193. ISBN 9780521771825.
  14. ^ Gonzalez-Lopez, Irene (2017). Tanaka Kinuyo:Nation, Stardom and Female Subjectivity. Edinburgh University Press. p. 52. ISBN 978-1-4744-4463-7.
  15. ^ "清水 宏 (Hiroshi Shimizu)". Kinenote (in Japanese). Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  16. ^ Drew, William M. (15 April 2004). "Hiroshi Shimizu – Silent Master of the Japanese Ethos". Midnight Eye. Retrieved 31 October 2022.
  17. ^ "Perle éternelle". Cinémathèque française (in French). Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  18. ^ "Jeunes filles Japonaises sur le port". La cinémathèque française (in French). Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  19. ^ "Fue no Shiratama (Eternal Heart)". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  20. ^ "Koi mo Wasurete (Forget Love for Now)". Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  21. ^ "Retrospective: Tokyo no eiyu". Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin. Retrieved 5 November 2022.
  22. ^ "Eclipse Series 15: Travels with Hiroshi Shimizu". Criterion Collection. Retrieved 23 June 2011.
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Hiroshi Shimizu (director)
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