Ambivalent regard for the films of Ozu Yasujiro


As what I have posted about Ozu films shows, his work frequently frayed my patience. Especially his wartime and postwar fixed camera placement a meter above the floor seems to me restrictive for no good reason. I like his earlier, more fluid work. Though even in the era of silent films, he often set up a frame through which people (or trains) moved through, he sometimes panned, sometimes tracked.Ozu did not hold particular shots (as his Taiwanese admirers, Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Tsai Ming-Lai do to pathological degrees IMO). That is, he cur very frequently, if only back and forth between two people conversing (often without looking at each other, btw). He did not believe actors could remember more than a few lines and did not risk line-flubbing in any extended take.

Like his Shochiku Studio contemporary, Naruse Mikio, Ozu’s range of subject matter was very narrow (in marked contrast with younger members of the pantheon like Ichikawa, Kurosawa, and Shinoda). From the 1940s through the 1960s, his movies are about families, though there was some comedy (Ohayo, Floating Weeds) not just self-sacrificing women spinning away  with varying degrees of voluntariness from stoic buty regret-filled parents.

Someone who lived with his mother until she died had limited experience of relationships and idealized the mothers in his movies, though less than the daughters played by Hara Setsuko (who retired when Ozu dies in 1963, on his 60th birthday).

Here are my IMDB ratings (1-10)  from the Ozu films I’ve seen.

1929 I Graduated but… (only fragments of which I survive) 6

1930 Walk Cheerfully 6

1930 That Night’s Wife 7

1932 I Was Born but... 8

1933 Dragnet Girl 6

1934  A Story of Floating Weeds 6.5

1941 The Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family 7

1942 There Was a Father 6.5

1949 Late Spring 8

1951 Early Summer 8

1953 Tokyo Story 8

1956 Early Spring 5

1957 Tokyo Twilight 7

1958 Equinox Flower 7.5

1958 Ohayo/Good Morning 9

1959 Ukiguse/Floating Weeds 8

1960 Late Autumn 7.5

1961 The End of Summer 8.5

1962 An Autumn Afternoon 8

(I’ve seen 19 of the 49 full-length films IMDB lists, none of the 1930s comedies and not the 8 earliest one)

Now, on to Mizoguchi Kenji, the third of the “old masters,” then to more recent stuff!


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