A Japanese film director, known for his silent films with detailed depictions of Japanese society. Born in Shizuoka Prefecture and attended Hokkaido University but left before graduating. He joined the Shochiku studio in Tokyo in 1921 and made his directorial debut in 1924, at the age of 21. A friend and colleague of Ozu Yasujiro, he directed over 160 films during his career.
His later work often focused on children, and Shimizu himself worked to help war orphans after World War II, an experience that led to the film Children of the Beehive which Jacoby calls a “masterpiece of neo-realism”. His films featured all sorts of children, ranging from those who do not love, or are unloved by their parents, to children that are rejected by their peers or become social outcasts to even those that suffer from illness and disability. While the premise of the stories differed, a common theme often persisted. Shimizu utilized individuals who are excluded from a group to make social commentary and criticism of society through the group themselves.
Shimizu also explored themes of maternal self-sacrifice and, in general, fallen female roles. In these films his heroine was often accepting the burden of supporting a male dependent or relative to afford them the opportunity to go to school or become successful in life. However their efforts and sacrifice do not lead to their aim and their actions are called to question from which it seems that tragedy will inevitably follow. Alexander Jacoby explains this as a “critical of the double standard which expects women to sacrifice everything for the sake of their male dependents, while indulging in moralistic condemnation of the methods they are required to adopt to do so.
He died of a heart attack on June 23, 1966, at the age of 63. Though respected in his time, today he is largely unknown, even in his native Japan. In 2008, Shochiku released two box sets which include eight of his films (Region 2 format, with both Japanese and English subtitles). In 2009, a Criterion Collection box set of four of his films (corresponding to the first Shochiku set) was released in the Region 1 format.