Introspection Tower (1941)

22 07 2008

While I’d definitely place this on Shimizu’s lower-tier of works, I have to also give it a lot of credit for being so unique. To my knowledge, there really was no film like this in Japan at the time, or anywhere for that matter. Of course, being so different doesn’t give necessarily give it a free critical pass but the film is “interesting” enough to be inherently entertaining for almost two hours. Rather than being built upon a cohesive story as Shimizu usually does, the film features many loosely connected vignettes. There’s plenty of great moments that make the viewing worthwhile, if not downright mandatory. It’s great to see Shimizu doing some experimentation, even if the results aren’t completely successful.

The film opens to Chishu Ryu giving a tour of a boarding school to a group of parents. The camera quietly observes the daily routine of both the school’s teacher and students. On the surface, things seem perfectly fine, even if the institution is for delinquents. Then, we are introduced to Tami, who has just recently been enrolled. She is okay at first, and seems to be the most mature of the children there, but she quickly gets fed up with the school’s treatment. She befriends Masue, who along with Yoshio, makes up a problematic group of wannabe-runaways. The teachers are also frustrated, but by the children’s resistance to co-operation.

There’s many other things going on in Intospection Tower that ultimately doesn’t amount to a substantial part of the plot, but that is because Shimizu’s interests seem to lie in capturing little grains of truth from as many characters as possible, rather than focusing on any clear protagonist. One can argue that Tami is the main character as she is somewhat of a launching pad for the film’s drama, but then, it can also be argued that the teachers are the main characters because their logic is (obviously) much more rational than the children’s. The ongoing plots greatly underscore Shimizu’s occasional playful and even though this film itself isn’t a masterpiece, I do wish Shimizu would have done more “vignette” driven films.

It is probably a bit repetitive to mention that, once again, Shimizu has an amazing sense of confidence handling the camera. With the exception of the inevitable fades, this about as perfect as any film could be on a technical level. Considering the wide and open landscapes he was working with, it is great to see Shimizu avoid many close-ups. When we do see character’s faces, we really see their faces. Perhaps some see the long static shots from far away awkwardly clashing with the ridiculous close-ups, but the transition between the two is handled so gracefully under Shimizu’s direction. In other words, this is another pitch-perfect example of his filmmaking talents, but the narrative isn’t quite up to Shimizu’s usual amount of observation, heartbreak, and poignancy.




One response

20 12 2012
Introspection Tower « Will Has a Blog

[…] Japanese Director of the 30’s and 40’s. When I was looking up reviews of the movie, I read one that said it was on the “lower tier” of Shimizu Hiroshi’s work, and I flew into a small rage. […]

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