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yasujiro ozu (tokyo story, etc.)


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#21 Overstreet

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 01:03 AM

Wow.

My wife and I just watched Tokyo Story, and for the second time in a month I had that sensation that tells me I've just seen one that will be in my lifelong top twenty, maybe the top ten. (The other was Bresson's Balthazar.)

What a beautiful film. And I had to gasp when I came back to this thread and read the mention of the camera being placed at eye level if the viewer was kneeling in the houses, because that thought occurred to me while watching it. I wondered about it and then thought I was working to hard... reading too much into his intention. So what a surprise to realize that he DID intend that, and that it worked beautifully.

The film affected me much more than Ikiru did, which I watched recently. Technically, Ikiru is more complex and ambitious, but as far as storytelling goes, this one possessed a subtlety and weight that Ikiru lacked. (Ikiru's narration often seemed unnecessary, and Tokyo Story doesn't explain itself to us so much.)

I'm also interested in seeing if there are connections between Dreyer, Bresson, and Ozu. There are some shots in this film that are strikingly reminiscent of the shots in Ordet in which we look up at the crest of that hill against the sky, and a figure moves across it. Here, bicyclists, children, and other move across the stark line of the hill against a sky in a similar fashion. Further, the subtle nods to progress in this film as a divisive, mechanical, ironbound, unnatural thing reminded me of Bresson's way of relating electricity and industrialism with evil. There are some downright ugly shots of metalwork in this film that make Tokyo seem like an unnatural and alienating place.

Doug, maybe you can shed some light on this for me. Or maybe I should just go watch Disc 2 and see the tributes and the documentary. What other Ozu should I seek out?

I suddenly see Yi-Yi in a whole new light. If there aren't intentional references to this film in Yang's movie, then there are some spooky parallels going on. The multi-generational story, the way he films rooms with different generations walking in and out, carrying their own stories, the way the old look at the young, the way the young look at the old, the way parents consider what their children have grown up to be, the way a dying parent brings the children to see themselves as they truly are... Yang must have been paying tribute to Ozu with that film. So now I love Yi-Yi even more.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet, 26 May 2006 - 01:08 AM.


#22 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 03:29 AM

Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:
: My wife and I just watched Tokyo Story, and for the second time in a
: month I had that sensation that tells me I've just seen one that will be in
: my lifelong top twenty, maybe the top ten.

Glad you liked it! I kinda regret not catching more of Ozu's films at the 'theque this year, but I'm sure glad I caught this one.

: I'm also interested in seeing if there are connections between Dreyer,
: Bresson, and Ozu.

You mean, apart from the fact that Paul Schrader lumped them all together in that book of his, Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer? smile.gif

: Yang must have been paying tribute to Ozu with that film.

Certainly possible. Then again, it may be a cultural thing.

#23 Doug C

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 01:53 PM

Technically, Ikiru is on a higher level of filmmaking achievement . . .


Oh, that's debatable! (At least I would debate it.) wink.gif

I'm also interested in seeing if there are connections between Dreyer, Bresson, and Ozu.


I like your idea about "progress" being a great difficulty for these filmmakers--I think they all recognized social and technological changes as having profound effects on humanity that weren't necessarily always positive.

All three filmmakers certainly value contemplation over manipulation in general terms. They aren't Hitchcock or Spielberg constraining the viewer and playing them like a piano, but allow room for distance, reflection, and interpretation.

The skyline is a recurring visual motif in Ozu's work, particularly with structures like clotheslines and smokestacks.

Like Rohmer or Woody Allen or a whole slew of other filmmakers, Ozu was often accused of remaking the same films, but that's only true if you impose a plot-centric view of his work, which would be a grievious mistake. Ozu made a lot of different films in a lot of different genres, and the similarity of his late films are fascinating variations on a theme. I'd definitely look for Late Spring and Early Summer, and Criterion will be releasing Floating Weeds (and his original A Story of Floating Weeds) later this month. His silent masterpiece, I Was Born But... is truly remarkable, and his loose remake, Good Morning (Ohayo), is also available as a Criterion DVD. SDG is particularly fond of it.

Edward Yang is a huge devotee of Ozu. (Do check out that second Tokyo Story disc!)


The multi-generational story, the way he films rooms with different generations walking in and out, carrying their own stories, the way the old look at the young, the way the young look at the old, the way parents consider what their children have grown up to be, the way a dying parent brings the children to see themselves as they truly are... Yang must have been paying tribute to Ozu with that film. So now I love Yi-Yi even more.


Great observations.

A particularly big influence on Tokyo Story was Leo McCarey's astonishing Make Way for Tomorrow, which is criminally unavailable on video. (Email me if you're interested.)

#24 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 02:35 PM

Doug C wrote:
: I like your idea about "progress" being a great difficulty for these
: filmmakers--I think they all recognized social and technological changes
: as having profound effects on humanity that weren't necessarily always
: positive.

And yet they still made films ... wink.gif

: . . . Criterion will be releasing Floating Weeds (and his original A Story of
: Floating Weeds) later this month.

Yeah, I was particularly interested in these two but missed both of them when they came to the 'theque, so I've been looking forward to the Criterion DVD.

: His silent masterpiece, I Was Born But... is truly remarkable, and his
: loose remake, Good Morning (Ohayo), is also available as a Criterion
: DVD. SDG is particularly fond of it.

Yep, I saw that film on SDG's recommendation and commented on both of those films in this thread -- and I'm kinda surprised SDG hasn't chimed in yet since then!

#25 Doug C

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 02:49 PM

Ha--Russell, I went back and just read your Rohmer and Allen comment. Great minds and all that... wink.gif

(I'm also curious why SDG never contributed to the Bresson thread, seeing that he recently saw Diary and pronounced it one of the most "deeply Catholic" and spiritual films he'd ever seen.)

#26 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 03:57 PM

Doug C wrote:
: Ozu made a lot of different films in a lot of different genres . . .

BTW, Doug, have you ever seen Dragnet Girl? That was another film I was interested in seeing (but alas did not see) during the recent retrospective, precisely because it seemed so atypical -- or at least it seemed to reflect a side of Ozu people tend not to emphasize.

#27 Doug C

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Posted 10 April 2004 - 04:39 PM

I haven't. So many of Ozu's films simply haven't been released on video and I only saw a few 16mm prints in my Japanese Cinema course at university. I'm really hoping for a L.A. stop on the retrospective tour!

But James Quandt puts it well:

The scrim of reverence that has enshrouded certain directors, particularly those considered spiritual or visionary--Dreyer, Bresson, Tarkovsky, Brakhage are obvious examples--has veiled or obscured many aspects of their work. Political, sexual, or psychological readings of their films have been regarded as tantamount to blasphemy, a besmirchment or distortion of pure and inviolable texts. So too Ozu, venerated as a "transcendental" artist, whose international fame has long rested on a half dozen of his (mostly late) films: muted, minimalist home dramas, esteemed for their "eternal verities" about family, death, transience, tradition; for their poignancy, Zen serenity and quiet sense of resignation--subsumed in the concept of mono no aware or "sensitivity to things"; and for their delicacy, restraint, and formal rigour.

It’s pointless to deny these qualities in Ozu’s work or that the late films are sublime–-atmospherically, with their limpid, summery calm; formally, with their low-slung, symmetrical and stationary compositions, cut straight and punctuated by gorgeously extraneous "pillow shots" or disorienting ellipses; and emotionally, with their roiling undercurrents of disappointment and smiling despair. But their decorous sense of dissolution has too often been mistaken for Zen transcendentalism and probity, and in the process much of what comprises the Ozu universe has been ignored or suppressed. (As Donald Richie notes above, Ozu himself downplayed the miscellany of his career.) Booze, brats, and boxing figure in Ozu’s work, as do gangsters and prostitutes, scatology and fetishism, dragnet girls, femmes fatales and gun-wielding wives. Crime films and proto-noirs, neorealist narratives and melodramas, vulgar comedies and knockabout student satires (of the subgenre known as "erotic-grotesque-nonsense")-–all influenced by Hollywood cinema (Lubitsch, Lloyd, Sternberg)-–stipple Ozu’s prewar filmography. Unlike the evenly lit, statically shot, and abruptly cut late films, the earlier works feature chiaroscuro, virtuoso camera movement, and fluent transitions; many are so movie-mad that their overt references to Ozu’s beloved directors (through homage or citation) make him occasionally seem like an erstwhile Godard.



#28 Doug C

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Posted 12 April 2004 - 12:01 PM

DVDBeaver has put up a preview of Criterion's A Story of Floating Weeds. Looks great!

http://207.136.67.23...oatingweeds.htm

#29 Doug C

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 01:18 PM

Just announced by Criterion for July...

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A nuanced examination of a family falling apart, Early Summer tells the story of the Mamiya family and their efforts to marry off their headstrong daughter, Noriko, played by the extraordinary Setsuko Hara. A seemingly simple story, it is among the director’s most emotionally complex. The Criterion Collection is proud to present one of Ozu’s most enduring classics.

Special Features

• New high-definition digital transfer, with restored image and sound
• Audio commentary by Japanese-film expert Donald Richie
• Ozu’s Films from Behind-the-Scenes, a conversation between Ozu producer Shizuo Yamanouchi, actor and technician Kojiro Suematsu, and assistant cameraman Takashi Kawamata
• New essay by film scholar David Bordwell, author Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema
• Original theatrical trailer
• New and improved English subtitle translation
• Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition
• More!

Edited by Doug C, 03 May 2004 - 01:20 PM.


#30 Jazzaloha

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Posted 31 December 2004 - 02:29 PM

Here's a short blog entry on wrote on Ozu recently.

#31 Doug C

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Posted 23 January 2005 - 05:07 PM

As I'm finishing up the liner notes for Tartan's Ozu DVDs to be released in the UK next month, I stumbled across an announcement for the Seattle stop of the Ozu series:

Sacred Cinema: Yasujiro Ozu Retrospective
February 3 - March 10, 2005

Northwesterners take note...


#32 Jazzaloha

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Posted 24 January 2005 - 12:51 PM

Wow, what a great opportunity for those of you living in that area. I wish I could be there.

#33 Christian

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Posted 09 January 2006 - 08:17 PM

I watched Tokyo Story a few days ago, and although the film is quite good, it failed to make the same impression on me that the other two Ozu's I've seen have (Floating Weeds and Late Autumn). I think my weakness for color cinematography may get the better of me here. Tokyo Story is the only film of the three filmed in black and white, and while I love splendid black and white cinematography, the main thing I took away from earlier viewings of Ozu's work was his lovely use of color.

I wonder, is Ozu known more for his color films than his black and white, or it the other way around? Perhaps the recent praise heaped on Tokyo Story has tipped the critical consensus toward his earlier work. I have no idea.

I'm also unsure what to make of all this talk focusing on camera placement in our Ozu threads. True, Ozu's camera usually does sit in the same spot when he films his characters in Tokyo Story, but if memory serves, this technique must have been refined by his later films, where the shots themselves may be a little tighter, even if camera placement remains the same. Something's different, beyond the use of color in the later films. My impression watching Late Autumn last year was that the characters almost loomed in the frame. They also faced the camera straight on, whereas in Tokyo Story, they sometimes are at an angle.

I didn't have time to explore the Criterion supplements.

Oh, one more thing. Like others who've commented on this film, I watched Tokyo Story around the time I watched the Criteroin Ikiru -- my second viewing of the latter, which I'd seen half a lifetime ago, in college. The Kurosawa film floored me this time around. It's outstanding.

#34 yukiyuki

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Posted 15 January 2006 - 02:00 PM

QUOTE(Christian @ Jan 10 2006, 08:17 AM) View Post

I watched Tokyo Story a few days ago, and although the film is quite good, it failed to make the same impression on me that the other two Ozu's I've seen have (Floating Weeds and Late Autumn). I think my weakness for color cinematography may get the better of me here. Tokyo Story is the only film of the three filmed in black and white, and while I love splendid black and white cinematography, the main thing I took away from earlier viewings of Ozu's work was his lovely use of color.

I wonder, is Ozu known more for his color films than his black and white, or it the other way around? Perhaps the recent praise heaped on Tokyo Story has tipped the critical consensus toward his earlier work. I have no idea.




then go watch his Good Morning, as beautiful as Floating Weeds and funnier.

#35 Christian

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Posted 16 May 2006 - 01:20 PM

Dave Kehr has a nice summary of Ozu's style in his review of Criterion's Late Spring.

#36 Andrew

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Posted 18 May 2010 - 04:02 PM

Bump - if for no other reason than to second Doug's years-old recommendation of Wim Wenders' film 'Tokyo-Ga.' For me, the interviews with actor Chishu Ryu and Ozu's longtime cameraman (coupled with a demonstration of Ozu's tatami-level filming technique) are gems.

Edited by Andrew, 18 May 2010 - 04:03 PM.


#37 Andrew

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 07:31 AM

I just finished my own personal Ozu mini-film fest - Late Spring, Tokyo Story, The End of Summer, An Autumn Afternoon - and so much loved spending eight hours in these characters' company.  The intimacy of these tales, their contemplative pacing and editing, their depiction of the beauty of the ordinary while accepting its ephemerality - I think Ozu may have displaced Kurosawa as my favorite film director.