in ozu and the poetics of cinema apropos the seminal and transcendent scene in the Kyoto inn, david bordwell seeks to dismantle the previous narrative orientated interpretation posited by donald richie. while richie had acknowledged the formalist tendencies of ozu he failed[according to bordwell] to appreciate the sheer abstraction of this sequence.the cutaways to the vase after our contemplation of noriko might not signify her pov and therefore a symbolic value being attached to that vase[richie sees it as a repository of her emotional turmoil] but rather an purely abstract, decontextualized object of aesthetic contemplation.
I hope my comment won’t depress you even more, but did you start this thread with the intention to discuss anything? Or was it rather meant as a note to yourself?
Haha, LOSER! Big words are for sissies!
i suppose what i am trying to determine is whether we should view ozu as a totally formalist almost cubist artist as bordwell clearly does or as a semi-conventional narrative based artist with some formalist tendencies the way richie appears to do.
From my limited reading on Ozu, I think Bordwell’s view has become somewhat more accepted in critical cricles than Richie’s, although perhaps not by much, even though Richie’s would clearly be in keeping with more traditional views or ways of understanding film language. Personally, I think both could and do apply once the possibilities have been raised since there is no definite way to signal what the shot of a vase “means” in an absolute sense, so it is something up to the viewer to decide based on the aspects of the film surrounding it. In other words, it is something of an interpretation void that we fill as we choose, and there isn’t a “right” answer to it exactly.
Oh, and Liam, have you tried St. John’s Wort? Herbalists swear by it for treating depression…
Honestly, I haven’t seen any Ozu but it’s great to have some context on him before I do… thanks for your post, Liam Allen, as soon as I hae means available to me I’ll look out for the stuff you mentioned.
Though, in all honesty you probably want to semi-simplify your posts in the future. ;)
your right brady@ still i did try to properly define my inquiry in my second post.
If you’re trying to write a research paper, you’re right on track. In any other case, does it really matter at all in any capacity other than the academic if Ozu was “totally formalist, almost cubist” (which doesen’t make much sense by the way, as you can be one without being the other) or if he was rather “a semi-conventional narrative-based artist with some formalist tendancies” (again by definition, you can be both a narrative artist and a formalist) as per (insert sirname between these parentheses) believes? Watch the movies, take Ozu for what he is and above all try to appreciate that. Some people have more intuitive tendencies while others are clearly more “rationalist,” but whatever the case may be, there is really no need at all to boil a film maker or any other artist down to a classificatory title. I’m all with you if you want to talk about Ozu’s cubist influences or whatever else, but… anything that sounds like it came straight out of a textbook I’ll have to pass up.
I’m sorry if that was overly harsh.
@Greg X: I’ve tried St. John’s Wort, but you should see a doctor before taking it. If you have other conditions or take any medications it might not be a great idea.
i think i acknowledged the textbooks i was referencing , anyway i was trying to seek clarification from insightful contributors like yourself anonymouse@ so your harshness i find quite acceptable and yes i am interested in the spatial manipulations of ozus cinema, the ambiguity of norikos sightline in regards to the vase is a case in point. ozus interest in these games with cinematic space arose from his previous occupation as a cameraman[ with some encouragement from the studio who wanted their filmmakers to possess distinct styles]
Is there a definitive answer? I mean beyond just personal subjective opinion?
I think I disagree with both Ritchie and Bordwell in saying the seminal scene in the film is the scene in the Kyoto inn. I think the seminal scene in the film is the scene in which Noriko is told her father plans to remarry simply because it’s the scene where the entire tone of the film changes from a lighthearted comedy (that doesn’t seem to have any definitive plot (as with many of Ozu’s ‘pure’ comedies)) to a drama, almost a tragedy (and thus sets up every single scene remaining in the film. The effectiveness of that scene is the effectiveness of the entire film because if it doesn’t work the entire rest of the film doesn’t work.
But beyond that, I think arguing over a vase is sort of futile because it is just a transition shot. It obviously ‘means’ something, but I don’t think there is anything in the film that points definitively to it being a ‘repository’ or an ‘object of pure aesthetic contemplation’. And I don’t think one necessarily precludes the other (one really can’t contemplate beauty and narrative turmoil at the same time?)…
ozu regarded setsuko hara as did japanese audiences as a refined ideal and an expression of Japanese cultural identity so perhaps the cutaway to the vase is an indication that both hara’s persona and the traditional vase are expressions of that sense of identity.
here is another startling interpretation from the film director and theorist yoshida kiju"as the shooting of late spring went on,he[ozu] probably realized that he was pushing the relationship between the farther and the daughter too much toward that of a man and a woman.he should of been extremely pleased of and,at the same time,tremendously astonished at the fact that it was not immoral at all,even if the daughter embraces her farther in the scene at the kyoto inn.ozu-san never overlooked the possibility that the viewers could play with the same dangerous imagination.the image of the vase is inserted in order to prevent them from giving in further!!
is yoshida’s analysis a deconstruction too far?
Ozu is of formal interest but to see him as a ’formalist" is beyond stupid — for reasons that Lord Quas has helpfully illuminated.
Use your Goddamned shift key!
Ozu’s “pillow shots”, the semi-montages of typically three static shots between frames, are not meant to imply semiotic relationships like we’ve come to regard from the Soviets. They have about as semiotic importance as a wipe, fade, or iris in/out. What they do illuminate in the long run, along with Ozu’s tendency to keep the camera rolling past the point of Exit Character, as well as Ozu’s strict, yes, formalist need for actors to turn spoons in tea around a precise and specific number of times, et al, is a director fascinated with the inert, static, beingness of the world beyond the character’s drama, or possibly poetically embracing it (to me, it’s like the two have a relationship, but Ozu is not commenting on it—he finds the reality of the drama in steam coming out of a kettle as he does people actually sitting and debating, but on the flip side it’s all transitory anyway, such as his fascination with trains in similar shots).
Considering his temporal attributions to these family dramas (“Late Spring” “Early Summer”, etc.), for the most part I think the emphasis is on transition and transitory natures of life. I think the static nature of these shots emphasize, rather than contradict, them. The static camera is a fixed perspective, but it’s a fixed perspective that forces the audience to pay attention to one thing as opposed to following another (contrast to, in the case of some movies like L’Eclisse or Phantom of Liberty , the “roving camera” that delights in following other leads instead of following the main character, to different effects as well). As far as I know, Ozu never said anything about Zen, but I think his use of pillow shots are very Zen. In the middle of the character driven dramas, he points out that the world around the characters is at times static (unchanged by their worries) and transitory (impermanent). I find it delightful.
Now, in my opinion, the best scene of all is when the father and daugther are getting ready for bed, all shot in a long take static shot from the hallway as the characters come in and out of frame, sometimes missing each other, sometimes getting in each other ways, dialoging back and forth, and generally living as a family unit despite being two different forces moving in two different directions. I believe that is what Ozu understands so well about human drama, and is the most significance I can read into his pillow shots.
“…he finds the reality of the drama in steam coming out of a kettle as he does people actually sitting and debating, but on the flip side it’s all transitory anyway, such as his fascination with trains in similar shots…”
I wouldn’t read into the pillow shots too much either (and as usual you took the words right out of my mouth), but I’d like to point out the fact that even these “train shots” very much represent the ephemeral, evolving nature of time. I think Ozu was pretty well aware of the fact that Japan was still modernising (and had been for a long time). In fact, there happens to be a strangely appropriate nostalgia for this period of Japanese history today, i.e. the after war period so well captured (albeit over-sentimentally some may argue) by Ozu.
PS: Whatever happened to Liam Allen? At least he made posts about movies, all the rest of us do is ‘bs’ around on ‘Absmurdity.’
Good point. Ozu’s transitory beingness of the world was also affected by Japan’s own cultural shift during the period in which Ozu was filming, also applicable to Late Spring especially in the scene where she visits her friend in a Westernized apartment. There is both nostalgia for the past and recognition of the future in Ozu’s work.
I’m a big fan of approaching Japanese cinema as a conflict between the traditional and the modern (and sometimes postmodern). Sometimes I do believe I’m just “reading into” Japanese cinema in that way but on the other hand I think part of the issue is that the majority of Japanese cinema that makes it to the West probably does so because that conflict is so well related to by us, but the Japanese approach it more eloquently. Because the Japanese have a much clearer historical divide between “traditional” and “modern” Japan, as well as a semi-isolated geography, they are capable of taking on those Universal themes of changing social orders more directly, whereas the West has to wade through a maze of historical forces just to understand their highly debatable placement in contemporary times. On the flip side, this is a little sad for Japan, since their clear traditional background is in many cases (Oshima, for one) directly attacked while even when a Westerner “directly attacks” their past, there is an element of nostalgia and conservatism that nevertheless underlies the attack.
Let’s not get into ‘nihonjinron,’ but… yeah.
…also, let’s not forget the Renaissance and the British/ German Industrial Revolution (which came much later in France, Spain, Italy etc.).
Actually, since I do not know what nihonjinron (isn’t “Nihon” Japan?) means, I would very much like to know because it could help my understanding of these matters.
And I agree re: Renaissance and Industrial Revolution, in fact I pretty much mentally draw a line between pre-and post-Industrial societies as concerns my understanding of them (somewhat arbitrary and illogical I know, but I have to keep it simple somehow!), but your statement “which came much later in….” is part of my point. Japan’s small size, its relative geographical isolation, and it’s much more distinct “eras” help keep the divides between social situations more focused, where in the West they are more fluid. I think the same might also be true of other Far East countries, but I just simply do not know as much about them.
Nihonjinron (日本人論) literally means basically “Japanese people[s] theory” and loosely termed is essentially just the “study of Japanese cultural identity” but in reality is more the study of Japanese “uniqueness” than anything else. Most of the time this “uniqueness” is termed with comparison to the west and how the Japanese have “easternised” (I’m not using “orientalised” because that’s an accepted term referring to a Greek cultural occurence at the end of the so termed “Dark Age” which may, or not, have actually happened depending on the area and field of study) certain western technologies like, for example, the motion picture camera. As you may imagine, “nihonjinron” basically just gets off into total meaninglessness really very quickly.
I was really just referring to the Industrial Revolution, but Great Britain was industrialised already towards the end of the 18th century and already had a rather complete railroad network etc. by 1820 or 1830. France on the other hand, for example, didn’t until the mid-19th century (around 1845 or 1850). I was basically just pointing out that these same “transition periods” occured in the west, albeit much less abruptly. The same phenomenon we see in late 19th century and early 20th century Japan were more or less the same as in early industrial France or Italy even into the 20th century (up the 1950’s and 1960’s with the “trente glorieuses/ 30 great [years]” of development and modernisation). It bears note however that Japan intentionally closed it borders to outside influence and commerce until Parry and his cannons. There was still some western influence in the Edo period however, just very little (almost 100% Dutch and only really visible in Edo/Tokyo).
“these same “transition periods” occured in the west, albeit much less abruptly."
Right, which is why Japan makes such a good case study as to the effects of these transition periods because of how they occurred abruptly—however, said case study is also altered by the fact that they happened abruptly and within a general isolationist hegemony, so can also break down as valuable means of comparison as well.
I worry, I guess, that I may be guilty of nihonjinron myself because part of my fascination with Japan culture is that I see both American (as opposed to Western in general) culture and Japanese culture as funhouse mirrors—facing each other. The aspects that are exaggerated and bizarre about our culture are less exaggerated and weird in theirs, but their culture has some bizarre exagerrations that are less exaggerated in our culture. For instance, the United States has this Madonna/Whore relationship to sexuality that Japan does not have, and is perverse, but Japan has this whole innuendo approach to sexuality that the United States finds even more perverse. These cultural differences fascinate me slightly more than direct comparisons with other unlike cultures.
Donald Richie also says in 100 Years of Japanese Cinema that the big eyes, long legs aspect of anime that the Westerners find so very “typically Japanese” is actually developed by the Japanese in response to the West. (Big eyes = round eyes, long legs = taller). He only mentions it in passing and I’ve never been able to find other research about this, but is that a case of nihonjinron or is there actual data to support this?
True enough. I think Japanese culture just has to be taken for what it is, which is obviously extremely difficult these days given the its rapid modernisation and (limited) integration into the western world (minus colonial rule). Generally when people study culture, they focus on the influencers and not the influenced which makes the problem even more difficult. I’m obviously biased, but to me “nihonjinron” has always sort of rimed with “cultural identity crisis.”
the above review of noel burch’s to the distant observer while initially sympathetic soon descends into theoretical warfare (which still continues to this day! bordwell has been dismissive of the concept,as defined by burch, of the pillow shot)
it is confusing that after my melodramatic tantrum ,during which i cancelled my previous account before rather pathetically creating a new one three days later, someone ie:polaris dib actually appeared to read this article http://www.rouge.com.au/4/ozu_women.html before kicking off an fluid dissuasion with anonymouse!(the fact that virtually no one noticed my absence produced a physic-shock)