I rewatched The Shop Around the Corner this morning, by chance, and was struck by how much it reminded me of Ozu (actually that statement should reversed). Frank Morgan’s performance is devastating in much the same way Chishu Ryu’s is in Late Spring, or Shin Saburi in Equinox Flower, or even Takeshi Sakamoto in Passing Fancy, and/or A Story of Floating Weeds.
But unlike those films Morgan’s story is secondary, but it takes precedence in the half-way point of the film and near the end. What connects Lubitsch so closely to Ozu (and many of the great Shochiku masters) is he is actively willing to obfuscate narrative, and even enter in secondary narratives specifically to obfuscate the main push of the narratives to make sure the audience understands the tragedy and joy in every character.
Ozu’s films thrive on the small moments that normally mean nothing. The immediacy of the emotions on screen mean much more than the narrative, or the overall arc one may decipher from Ozu’s decision to shoot a vase in the middle of a scene. His jabs at society will not continue his legacy, his unmoving camera will not continue his legacy, but his understanding of basic and complex human emotions, and the human spirit, and relationships will make his works last centuries.
That is why one remembers his birthday.
107? That means he even surpassed de Oliveira. Happy birthday, Yasujirō.
The most important navigator of the human soul in the art’s history.
and one of the most challenging film directors too. We’ll never fully appreciate the radicality of his approach.