Forget Love for Now (1937)

15 03 2008

Despite the poor condition of the film’s print, this still shows just why Shimizu is often remembered as the most technically advanced director to come out of Japan in the 1930s. I’ll have to explore more of his filmography to make a more general statement, but with this, one of his earliest talkies, he has made a film that looks and feels more directly influential to the minimalists of modern-day east Asia. Certainly, Naruse and Ozu are more written about and they deserve it (after all, they are probably my two favorite directors) but Shimizu manages to create a style that is just as observant, yet unlike the aesthetic of his peers.

Yuki is a young, single mother supporting herself and her son, Haru, with a job as a bar hostess. Haru’s group of friends (which includes the always good Tomio Aoki) are told by their parents to avoid playing with Haru because of his mother’s shady job. Meanwhile, at the bar, Yuki asks for increased pay but her bosses’ refusal makes her morale lower. In addition, Yuki discovers that Haru is skipping school. She is understandably angry but her son’s reasons are logical: no one will play with him. She enrolls him at a different school the very next day where he is accepted by a group of Chinese immigrants. In a playful juxtaposition, Yuki tells her manager that she will never entertain immigrants. Haru’s new group eventually collides with his old group and he’s left to defend his mother’s honor.

Now, I say Shimizu is the most advanced of his peers because his style is so easily identifiable with many of my favorite modern-day minimalistic directors from east Asia. There’s a more direct connection, in an aesthetic sense, than in an Ozu or Naruse film. Again, I’m not downplaying the greatness of those two but it’s mostly just that time has (unintentionally) chosen to preserve Shimizu’s technique. It’s quite important to note that I’m merely talking about Shimizu’s aesthetic because obviously there are some deeper connection between Hou and Ozu, for instance. It’s not like I don’t love the style of Ozu/Naruse either, but it’s just that Shimizu’s style is different.

I suppose Mizoguchi was also doing stuff as innovative around the same time, but his films do get a little too tragic. On paper, this story is completely tragic and yet, the performance are all downbeat and for my money, fantastic. Even the kids, despite playing in roles that border on being antagonistic, deliver subdued performances. Michiko Kuwano is really fantastic here too so it’s a bit of a bummer to know that her career was cut so short. In all honesty, this is pretty much a perfect movie in the most objective level but it’s short running time (72 minutes) and the print’s condition (not to mention the timecode!) deny any overwhelming emotional involvement. It’s still great to finally experience a Shimizu film, but I certainly hope he went on to craft films that were more emotionally fulfilling. Otherwise, a wonderful movie.

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One response

17 03 2008
Michael Kerpan

This is undoubtedly a remarkably powerful film. It would make an excellent pairing on a double bill with the great Chinese film (from a couple of years earlier) Shen nu (The Goddess), with which it shares quite a few thematic links.

Both Ozu and Mizoguchi considered Shimizu not only their equal — but someone who could go places (cinematically) that they couldn’t.

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