Mr. Thank You | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Mr. Thank You

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One of the most unusual--and unusually beautiful--films I have ever seen is Hiroshi Shimizu's Mr. Thank You (1936), which follows the route, passengers, and driver ("Mr. Thank You") of a bus in rural Japan. A series of minor incidents unfolds with the gentle rhythm of a Japanese scroll painting, and gradually it becomes apparent not only that very little is happening but that almost nothing is going to. There is no dramatic tension, no suspense, no overriding narrative arc set into place by a conflict that begs to be resolved. An impatient touring sedan vies with the bus for the road on a few occasions, but even that leads nowhere in particular. Views out the bus widow display a landscape neither humanized nor asetheticized, but simply, gently present. If the history of classical narrative cinema can be said to chronicle the infinite varieties of human ambition, Shimizu's bus ride offers, in its quiet but insistent way, a placid, meditative alternative. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, February 22, 4:15, 443-3737).

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