May 2011, arsenal cinema

Shibuya Minoru

MODERN PEOPLE/GENDAIJIN, 1952 (©Schochiku Co., Ltd.)

He is yet to be discovered outside of Japan: the director Shibuya Minoru (1907-1980), who between 1937 and 1965 made more than forty films for the production company Shochiku. After the presentation of his films at the Forum of the Berlinale, we will screen eight works from his most important creative phase in the 1950s and 60s. Shibuya joined Shochiku in 1930 and was initially an assistant to Naruse and Gosho and also in one of Ozu’s movies. He gave his debut as a director in 1937. He was mainly dedicated to social dramas and comedies, which were typical of Shochiku, focusing on ordinary people and their everyday worries. Shibuya’s work is characterized by a sober, cool and satirical – at times also viciously sarcastic – view of Japanese society in the post-war period, coupled with a keen eye for the character weaknesses of his protagonists and the moral abysses of a greedy society. His style is shaped by visual excessiveness and vitality, with which he holds the often digressing narrative strands together.

DOCTOR’S DAY OFF (Honjitsu kyushin, 1952, Feb. 23) The central character is a doctor on whose day off several people come to his practice seeking help. A motley troop of war veterans, petty criminals and youths searching for orientation find in him not only a physician but also a caring and strict surrogate father. As so often with Shibuya, a wide variety of different characters and the relationship between generations are the focus of events.

MODERN PEOPLE (Gendaijin, 1952, Feb. 24) In order to pay for the hospital bills of his ill wife, the government official Ogino joins his colleagues in their corrupt activities. His younger and more serious colleague Odagiri rejects these machinations. But when he falls in love with Ogino's daughter, he is drawn deeper and deeper into a whirl of violence and criminality which he cannot escape. An excessive film in terms of form and content.

RIGHTEOUSNESS (Seigiha, 1957, Fe. 25) The obstinate black market trader Okyo lives together with her son Seitaro, who works as a mechanic for a bus company. She also looks after her son's colleague, the bus driver Fujita. When he causes an accident one day, Seitaro testifies against him due to his moral scruples, thus getting his company into trouble.

THE DAYS OF EVIL WOMEN (Akujo no kisetsu, 1958, Feb. 25) A black comedy in which Shibuya casts a devastating view on the abysses of human greed and egotism. Old, capricious and wealthy Yashiro lives with his lover, a former geisha. She and her daughter plan to murder him to obtain his money. While they employ ever new ruses to kill him, he escapes all threats. A merciless and almost cynical study of a family falling apart.

THE SHRIKES (Mozu, 1961, Feb. 26) The portrayal of a difficult relationship between a mother and her grown-up daughter, vacillating between love, hate and jealousy. A bitter and pitiless melodrama, the cheerful color photography of which stands in sharp contrast to the gloomy human conflicts.

A GOOD MAN, A GOOD DAY (Kojin kojitsu, 1961, Feb. 26) The university professor Ozeki Hitoshi (Ryu Chishu) is regarded as an eccentric by people in his surroundings. When his daughter Tokiko is asked to marry a colleague, she and her mother are overjoyed, but Hitoshi is not satisfied with the situation.

DRUNKARD’S PARADISE (Yopparai tengoku, 1962, Feb. 27) The office clerk Atsumi Kozi (Ryu Chishu) and his adult son are both heavy drinkers. During a carousal, a serious accident occurs. The social satire raises the question of why people drink. While in the first half a comedic tone prevails, the second part turns into a bitter accusation of a society that tolerates this. The drinker played by Ryu is a typical Shibuya character of excess: his distorted, demonstratively drunk body bundles all the cruelty of life.

THE RADISH AND THE CARROT (Daikon to ninjin, 1964, Feb. 28) Shibuya's last movie for Shochiku is an homage to Ozu Yasujiro, who had died a year earlier. The script is based on one of Ozu's stories, and the film brings together many great Ozu actors, especially Ryu Chishu. He plays an older man and father of four adult daughters who suddenly and without explanation disappears one day.

In cooperation with the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen. Thanks to Shochiku Co. Ltd. (Ishida Satoko), TOKYO FILMeX (Hayashi Kanako), The Japan Foundation, National Film Center, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.