was ozu a social reformer or a conservative
either both or neither
In Record of a Tenement Gentleman, Ozu reveals the post-war situation of orphans in Japan and the difficulties of the Japanese people under Western occupation. At one point in the movie, the little boy pees in his sleep and his mattress is hung outside to dry. The mattress is a graphic match to the American flag and indicates a director subtly and humorously making a political statement against what he perceived to be damaging to the very families in which he loved to cast as his subjects.
Neither. He portrayed Japan as he saw it. In his early career one may find messages of social reform (not necessarily true or untrue), and later one may find messages of social conservatism (not necessarily true or untrue), but in reality Ozu seemed to preach both, simultaneously throughout his career.
In Ozu’s work the message you may leave with is much less important than how Ozu got you there; the people he showed you and the way they relate to each other.
There is much more to be said about Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu’s relationship in Late Spring than any implied conservative or reform ideology. Humans are much more interesting than politics.
I think the way the children are bratty and don’t honor their grandparents, and the way the young adults are always rushing off to offices and don’t have time for their elders or much of anything else….
……is definitely a jab at the encroachment of “Western” values into Japanese ones….
Those children are there from the start of his career. Long before we can honestly say the Western world “corrupted” Japanese value systems (especially when we consider the fact that Ozu was himself as bratty as could possibly be in his own youth).
I don’t think mischievous children are Ozu making a comment about Western values. I think he himself said something like children misbehave; it’s what they do.
Also, if we’re saying adults rushing off are evidence of another comment what do make of Setsuko Hara in Late Spring, Early Summer, Tokyo Story, and Tokyo Twilight? Or Ineko Arima in Equinox Flower? Or many of the women that constantly honour their parents in his films (like every adult in Early Summer, for example).
I think Ozu portrays elders as dismissive, and ignorant of their children’s wants and needs as often as he portrays their children as selfish. I mean the father in An Autumn Afternoon essentially just throws money at his children so he can forget about them and hang out with friends getting drunk. What is that saying?
-was ozu a social reformer or a conservative-
To somewhat echo what Apursansar and I’ve have already said, that question is an exercise in hyper-reductionism.
THERE IS AN IMPLICITE CONDEMNATION OF THE PATRIARCHAL SYSTEM NOT ONLY IN LATE SPRING BUT MOST OFHIS POST WAR FILMS OZU CLEARLY SEES THE FAMILY As A PARTLY NEGATIVE INSTITUTION
Hey, you’re again shouting at us. And there’s no need to start a thread with a question if you already got the answer.
Well, if that’s true then one must explain why Ozu’s post-war films in which the family is broken apart (Late Spring, Early Summer, Late Autumn, An Autumn Afternoon) end on such bittersweet, melancholy, even nostalgic notes. One must explain the ending of End of Summer in which the family patriarch dies and their is a grand sense of mourning and sadness at his passing even though he was a very selfish man.
One must also explain the joyful endings of The Flavour of Green Tea Over Rice, Early Spring, and Equinox Flower. In all of those films the family is separated by a conflict within the film, and specifically the patriarch is questioned, and by the end of the film the family is brought together again to a happy ending.
I think seeing Ozu as either a man that saw the family as good or bad, that saw patriarchy as good or bad, is reducing his cinema. It’s not that simple. He’s almost a documentarian; recording the world as he saw it. He’s giving his audience (who when he was making films were mainly middle class women) something to think and cry over; questioning their values and reinforcing them. It’s not as simple as saying Ozu didn’t like this, or did like that because for the most part Ozu didn’t make his beliefs known and his films are ambiguous on these subjects… and that’s what makes them so moving and great.
Ozu was a liberal.
(Attacks by Conservatives begin in 5…4…3…2…1.)
No he wasn’t!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(/&$#&/&% (I’m just playing the role of a conservative to do you a favor.)
Ozu’s films after the war are idealized images of middle-class family life that had altogether vanished in Japan by that time. In Ozu, the narratives keep repeating the same themes and plots again and again only to insist again and again that this family life will break up, fragment and pass away. Nothing conservative about that.
When Ozu broke out of that tradition with TOKYO TWILIGHT, a more realistic and socio-political and a more direct attack on family and patriarchy…the people stayed away in droves. It was Ozu’s sole flop of his later films.
His immediate post-war work A HEN IN THE WIND is harsh and direct to the point of being unwatchable. He had a very pessimistic vision not at all a gentle wise Zen guy at all.
Ozu was a democrat until Kennedy wanted to give the blacks civil rights, and then he switched over and polluted the party of Lincoln.
He voted for George Wallace.
I think first of all, Ozu was probably the most experimental filmmaker in the history of Japanese cinema. And it is no accident that he was part of the greatest New Wave, world cinema has ever seen. And critic against patriarchy already began in the arly 30s. Even Ozus relation with the westernized post war Japan is far more complex to put it in very simple terms. First of all Ozu belonged to a tendency of artists and intellectuals who applauded and even established western influences in Japan long before the war. So his most radical attack against ptariarchy is from 1933 A WOMAN FROM TOKYO. If he seems uncomfortable with the westernisation in his post war films they are as well always including a certain part of self-critcism like in TOKYO BOSHOKU, a clear statement that his genartion is not inncocent in the cold alienated world of this gloomy film. The same Chishu Ryus statement about war in his last masterpiece SAMMA NO AJI (in fact one single explosion of cinematic intelligence unmatched in japanese cinema for almost 50 years) is also a clear statement of national guilt.
On the other way I don´t believe that it is adequate to try to understand Ozu with putting him in a political corner. His extraordinary sensitiveness, his intelligence and his wisdom is too great.
If there’s one artist from the past century who SHOULDN’T be politicized, its Yasujiro Ozu.