[La donna che pianse in primavera] T. int.: The Lady Who Wept in Spring. Sog.: Shun Honma. Scen.: Mitsuru Suyama. F.: Taro Sasaki. M.: Norihiro Mizutani. Scgf.: Yoneichi Wakita. Mus.: Harutaka Shimada. Int.: Den Obinata (Kenji), Shigeru Ogura (Chuko), Ryuji Ishiyama (Kudo, il marinaio), Kenji Oyama (Guzuyasu), Yoshiko Okada (Ohama), Sachiko Murase (Oaki), Akiko Chihaya (Oyasu), Mitsuko Ichimura (Omitsu, sorella di Ohama), Tsuruko Kumoi (Otsuru), Shizue Hyodo (Oshizu), Akiko Shiraishi (Omei). Prod.: Shochiku
35mm. D.: 96′. Bn.
Long neglected, Hiroshi Shimizu is at last achieving due recognition in the West, with retrospectives and festival screenings along with the welcome availability of English subtitled DVDs of representative works. In the process, the breadth and depth of his work is finally being acknowledged. The titles of Kaze no naka no kodomo (Children in the Wind, 1937) and Kodomo no shiki (Four Seasons of Children, 1939) suggest a recurring focus on the young, and Shimizu’s status as a master director of child actors has long been noted: Sadao Yamane states that “the films of Shimizu Hiroshi present all the splendour of life, embodied in the spectacle of children simply being themselves.” But his work also contains much bleaker aspects: thus, Wong Ain-Ling notes the director’s “affinity [with] fallen souls”, his interest in vagrants and fallen women. In the 1930s, films such as Arigato-san (Mr Thank You, 1936) and Koi mo wasurete (Forget Love for Now, 1937) used comedic and melodramatic plots subtly to confront the urgent social and political questions of the time.
The Lady Who Wept in Spring is Shimizu’s first talkie and to our knowledge has never before been shown in the West. It is a melodrama about the love story between an itinerant women and a miner, set in Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, where the film was partly shot on location. According to the accounts of colleagues, Shimizu, at home in the rural surroundings of the Izu Peninsula south of Tokyo, hated distant Hokkaido. Yet he used its snowy landscapes well, and created telling contrasts between them and the interiors (unusually numerous for a director who preferred to shoot outdoors), where he experimented with the use of shadow. He also strove to make full use of the potential of sound film by incorporating songs into the drama. At the time of release the film’s critical reception was mixed, but Yasujiro Ozu is on record as saying that he felt challenged by it to make a sound film of his own – the work which was to become The Only Son.