Connections: Mr. Thank You (1936)

Bus

In many ways, Hiroshi Shimizu’s Mr. Thank You, released in 1936, is a little film. Only seventy-six minutes long, it restricts itself, physically speaking, almost entirely to the interior of a small bus and to the road along which that bus makes its regular journeys through the Japanese countryside. There’s not a great deal of action, unless one counts the vehicle’s oft-interrupted progression, nor is there much in the way of plot. Instead, the heart of the film is in its characters and the interactions among them. Some of their interactions are funny; others are poignant; many are brief, by necessity; and as these varied little moments accumulate, the film reveals itself as something grander in scope and in spirit than it might appear at first glance.

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Brief Encounters: The Masseurs and a Woman (1938)

carriage

A few minutes into Hiroshi Shimizu’s 1938 film The Masseurs and a Woman, the titular characters cross paths for the first time, in rather less than auspicious circumstances: while walking along a mountain road with fellow masseur Fuku (Shin’ichi Himori) — both of them blind, a tradition in Japan — a man named Toku (Shin Tokudaiji) stumbles on a rock and falls to the ground just as a horse-drawn carriage rounds the corner. Fortunately, he manages to get to his feet in time to move out of its way, and when he resumes his conversation with Fuku, he doesn’t even comment on his narrow escape. Something much more agreeable has captured his attention. “There was a nice woman aboard,” he says. “A lady from Tokyo. She had the scent of Tokyo.” Meanwhile, the driver of the carriage tells his passengers, including the woman in question (Mieko Takamine), about the two masseurs, whom he describes as “famous in these parts” due to their fondness for overtaking sighted people on the road during their annual visits: “Like swallows, they come north every spring, then return to the spas in the south every winter.”

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