Mr. Thank You

Realism for Hiroshi Shimizu was not a trend imposed by fashion; he was like a sketch artist capturing the world he saw and creating, for us, a vivid portrait of mid-thirties Japan. For Mr. Thank You he adapted a story by Kawabata into a road movie, shot entirely on location in and outside of a bus as it chugs its way through hills and villages (accompanied by favorite American tunes). The ever-cheerful eponymous bus driver is at the center of a group of strangers who include a man in a fake mustache, a sassy moga (modern girl), and a destitute mother and her young daughter, on her way to be sold as a prostitute. They, and the people they encounter-itinerant performers, Korean laborers, indeed, all manner of migrants-are an image of the bitter sacrifices the Japanese people made to growing industrialization. But Shimizu sketches them and moves on, leaving us with the impression that we have seen a delightful, humorous, and touching film.

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