Hiroshi Shimizu’s government-pressured, militarism-era film A Star Athlete is a breezy, refreshingly lighthearted, and subtly subversive slice-of-life comedy that centers on an all-day student march in formation and armed combat drills through the rural countryside for military training exercises. Shimizu demonstrates his deceptively facile adeptness and virtuoso camerawork through a series of extraordinarily choreographed plan sequence shots: a track-and-field race around the campus track between the school’s start athlete Seki (Shuji Sano) and his constantly spurring – and sparring – team mate (Chishu Ryu); an extended dolly sequence of the students’ march as bemused villagers and flirtatious, love-struck young women alternately respectfully step aside, playfully trail, obliviously obstruct, and amorously chase the dashing students in uniform; a mock battlefield charge assault through muddy fields as a guilt-ridden motley crew of travelers on the road scramble to flee from the students in a mistaken belief of being chased in retribution for their petty transgressions during their brief stay in the village. —filmref.com
Shimizu Hiroshi was born in Shizuoka Prefecture on 28 March, 1903 and died in Kyoto on 23 June, 1966. He dropped out of his studies at Hokkaido University in order to join Shochiku’s Kamata studio as a director’s assistant in 1922. By the age of 21, he had risen to the rank of director with his first film, Toge no kanata (Beyond the Pass, 1924), and proceeded to forge a reputation as a skillful director, particularly of melodramas and comedies. A “trial marriage” to the actress Tanaka Kinuyo in 1927 ended in divorce two years later. Shimizu directed 140 films for Shochiku up to and throughout World War II. After the war he established the Hachinosu Eiga studio in collaboration with several colleagues. This allowed him to work independently of the studios, and films such as Children of the Beehive (1948), where he employed homeless children he had taken in and raised himself, resulted. He also directed films for Shin-Toho and Daiei, the last of which, Haha no… read more
Amazing how Shimizu makes it all seem so casual and so easy. At first sight it seems to be a militaristic Japanese film made just before WW2, but reveals subversive subtexts throughout. And that march in the second scene of the film which Noël Burch (for whom this film showcases Shimizu's highly non-classical conception of narrative) calls one of Shimizu's "most brilliant achievements" is incredible indeed!