I’m late to the conversation, but Wu really nailed it.
“Ozu builds upon one truism for his career; the older one gets, the more they sense the coming of nothing and the more they push away from it.”
The simplicity of Ozu is immortal. It’s why he’s the greatest.
A few years ago I tried to watch The Story of Floating Weeds seveveral times and kept falling asleep. I don’t think I ever got more than 30 minutes in.
I’d like to give Ozu another shot.
Hou Hsiao-hsien said the same thing about his first Ozu. That he fell asleep and didn’t watch anything else for a few years.
Fifteen years later the influence Ozu had on Hou was so pronounced he was being invited by Shochiku to make the film celebrating Ozu’s centennial in 2003.
This may have already been mentioned/alluded to, but I think one of the most important fundamentals to appreciating Ozu’s art, shot-for-shot, is to realize that he is putting you the viewer in the point-of-view perspective of an observer, often in the Japanese tradition of kneeling or sitting. And he also puts the viewer in a tranquil, Zen-like state with the formal simplicity of the visuals/editing and “action”. Films like Late Spring and Tokyo Story become so devastating because the emotional sequences are interfearing with this spiritual sense of Zen and tranquility that both you, the viewer, and the characters have exhibited up to that point, but have now been broken down, first gradually, then very powerfully. Yet in the face of these emotions, the point-of-view, visuals and editing remain stylistically unchanged, a moving lesson in remaining understanding of our fellows even in the resistance that recognition of flaws in another’s character and emotional disagreements/upsets can have on one. Not only are the films subtle and highly perceptive tests on the humanity of the characters, but end up being so for the viewer as well.
^ Whoops, should have said: …is to realize that he is putting you, the viewer, in the point-of-view perspective of an observer, often in the Japanese tradition of kneeling or sitting, as in his “tatami” shots, in which the camera is placed at a low height, as if a person on a tatami mat.
Ozu, in his later films, embodies the idea that less is more. His style can be lulling but in a way that the drama builds subtly yet pervasively so as its impact sneaks up on you. It does require some patience and the willingness to pay attention to small details, but in my opinion, the reward is immense. I rarely find myself bored in an Ozu film. Even if nothing else is happening, and something almost always is, Ozu’s visual composition always holds my attention. I also recommend what a previous poster said. Go watch I WAS BORN, BUT… It’s a more accessible way to get into Ozu.
Here’s are some bits on Ozu I really like:
“…in Ozu’s work, virtually all of the characters in each film are versions of each other. They figure alternative destinies or represent variations of each other’s pasts and futures (as Ozu’s older- and younger-generation figures almost always do).. The parallelism allows us to compare different responses to, different ways of coping with, the same imaginative situation.”
“It is a vision of continuous, generational change, renewal, and more change, without end.” “There is nowhere to get, no end to the process, no release from time.”
If you don’t “get” Ozu you don’t “get” cinema.
Damn. Fuck cinema.
I recently watched Tokyo Story primarily because of how much praise it gets on here.
It starts off slow. I wasn’t feeling it for the first half an hour really. Thought it was a simple family melodrama. But starting with the sightseeing tour of Tokyo I got into it.
I fully expected to be depressed by the end because of the reviews I’ve read but I wasn’t. It’s more of a ‘sigh that’s life’ feeling. Emotional but not sad.
Lots has been said in this thread about the camera work. How it merely observes and doesn’t force any feeling on the viewer. Agreed. I think that’s probably why I didn’t feel it was depressing.
Looking forward to going through his other films.
Patience is required in viewing them.
No… Fuck Cinema.
“Patience is required in viewing them.”
Patience is required in all great cinema, because any film that reveals anything without thought, isn’t great.
You mentioned not forcing feeling on the viewer… Naming yourself after a film by the great American master, you should know about using camerawork to not force emotion; what does the elder boy in Tokyo Story whistle when he comes home from school? The melody to Stagecoach?
Chishu Ryu’s folsky, down-home tragicness in Tokyo Story has only one cinematic precursor; Will Rogers in Steamboat ’round the Bend, Judge Priest and especially Doctor Bull.
Patience is required for appreciating anything cinematically worthwhile.
“Tokyo Story” has become the canonical Ozu work. My personal favorite is “Record of a Tenement Gentleman.” I also adore “I Was Born But. . .,” both versions of “Floating Weeds,” and “The Taste of Autumn Mackrel.”
Hara’s smile masks a multitude of emotions.
Has anyone read Adam Mars-Jones’ recent book Noriko Smiling?
I urge you to resist ‘being taught’ to like Ozu, and especially in the academic manner of some people here. If you can’t internalize at the moment of watching so that the thing purely makes sense as itself, there’s really no point to it – at all.
I mean this in a good way. You don’t get anything for ‘appreciating’ Ozu, because a shot cascades a certain way and that was advanced for the time. In my view, if it takes conscious effort it’s not worth it at all, nothing that has transcendent capacity is reasonable – from good sex to having a sense of humor. In fact, it is anti-Ozu from the much publicized angle of Zen in his work. I don’t mean it shouldn’t take effort, but not reasoning-effort.
It could be a bit like work, this exposure to something new and diffcult: tiresome but in a pleasant way.
A way to get into Ozu, is keep in mind this is one world he gradually added layers of watercolor narrative to, it is a long-term project of cultivating something.