Yasujiro Ozu....

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Yasujiro Ozu....

Post by LetsMeetUpInParadise240 » Sun Aug 19, 2007 7:57 pm

This is a long post, but I'm feeling kind of down and I feel like droning about him after watching the documentary, "Talking with Ozu", where these directors talked about their first Ozu film and how he influenced them.

Hopefully this will put a little more life into the Cinematheque forum.

I was happy to see that there were some Ozu lovers present on the forum the last few times I posted (I know Kazu and Neil like his work). It got me looking at some of the movies of his that I have and I realized that I'd forgotten when I first discovered his films. But as soon as I popped "Tokyo Story" into the player, I remembered that I'd seen it in my freshman year of college and disliked it at the time. I was a real Hong Kong action junkie back then, so it took me some time getting into the films that I love now.

Hell, I didn't even get Seven Samurai when I first saw it. Please don't hurt me!

A few years later when I was living on my own, I went through a bit of depression after splitting with my girlfriend at the time and realizing that I would have to move back home because finding a job and keeping my apartment proved to be extremely difficult after college. One night I was taking a long walk and stopped by the independent video rental to get a movie or two. By this time, I was a fan of Kurosawa, but I wasn't in the mood for any adventure themed movies. I wanted something black and white and foreign though. I found the Criterion DVD of Tokyo Story and thought it was a beautiful cover. And I read the synopsis and thought, why not? I rented that and a french film whose title I can't remember. By the time I got home and I viewed the film, I realized I'd seen it before but throughly enjoyed it the second time. I don't know what I was thinking back then.

There was no overblown drama, no fancy camera angles or cinematography. I paid attention to every scene and remember liking the simplicity of the way the film told it's story and how sincere the emotions were. If someone was sad, they'd pause and say "I see", and I'd find myself immersed in that same quiet solemnity. If someone was happy and laughed at a moment they found amusing or endearing (not over the top comedy), I couldn't help but chuckle too. It wasn't the most happy movie I'd ever seen, granted. Nothing depressing like watching Requiem for a Dream though. But it was REAL enough for me to appreciate at the time. Really...like having a long conversation with a old friend about family, death, ambition and happiness over a beer and a smoke and being able to have a few laughs despite the somber bits of the discussion.

Hopefully that last sentence didn't sound too corny. :D

Anyone else, what was your first introduction to Ozu like?
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Post by Kazu » Tue Aug 28, 2007 5:21 pm

My first experiences watching Ozu's films was in a film class at UCSB. It was a screening of I Was Born But..., and I could tell that I was watching the early work of a very unique filmmaker. In another class, I saw a few more Ozu films and it was from there that I went on to watch a few more of his films on my own, including Tokyo Story. Ozu is such a great filmmaker to think about as a storyteller because of his insistence on sticking to formulas that he himself created. It's like watching an artist practicing the same stuff again and again, like a machine. His films remind me of George Herrimann's Krazy Kat comics in this regard. They work extremely well for their own invented logic, and so it helps tremendously in the viewing/reading experience to understand their "rules". I find work like this to be really fascinating. It's like watching someone create their own sub-genre.

Apparently, despite his precise filmmaking techniques, he and his screenwriter would rent out a room at a resort and just get drunk on beer while writing the script for each film. Heheh.
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Post by LetsMeetUpInParadise240 » Sun Sep 02, 2007 9:14 pm

My first experiences watching Ozu's films was in a film class at UCSB. It was a screening of I Was Born But..., and I could tell that I was watching the early work of a very unique filmmaker. In another class, I saw a few more Ozu films and it was from there that I went on to watch a few more of his films on my own, including Tokyo Story. Ozu is such a great filmmaker to think about as a storyteller because of his insistence on sticking to formulas that he himself created. It's like watching an artist practicing the same stuff again and again, like a machine. His films remind me of George Herrimann's Krazy Kat comics in this regard. They work extremely well for their own invented logic, and so it helps tremendously in the viewing/reading experience to understand their "rules". I find work like this to be really fascinating. It's like watching someone create their own sub-genre.
I really want to see "I was Born, but..." The concept of the film sounds interesting. It's going to be a while until Criterion releases it though.
Apparently, despite his precise filmmaking techniques, he and his screenwriter would rent out a room at a resort and just get drunk on beer while writing the script for each film. Heheh.
For anyone who's seen an Ozu film, that would make sense. lol
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Post by neil » Tue Sep 04, 2007 1:17 am

There was no overblown drama, no fancy camera angles or cinematography. I paid attention to every scene and remember liking the simplicity of the way the film told it's story and how sincere the emotions were. If someone was sad, they'd pause and say "I see", and I'd find myself immersed in that same quiet solemnity. If someone was happy and laughed at a moment they found amusing or endearing (not over the top comedy), I couldn't help but chuckle too.
One of my favorite parts is when, after the old lady has died, the sister-in-law wonders if everyone just gets cold and heartless with age, and Setsuko Hara finds a very cheerful way to say "yes." And somehow, it's an very warm moment.
I really want to see "I was Born, but..." The concept of the film sounds interesting. It's going to be a while until Criterion releases it though.
I rented a videotape of this a few years ago, and the quality was pretty good. It's worth it if you've still got a VCR lying around.

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Post by LetsMeetUpInParadise240 » Tue Sep 04, 2007 3:36 am

I like that moment as well. I could go on about which scenes I love. But the ones that stand out for me are when in Late Spring, the father is telling his daughter that its time for her to marry and to live her own life. She responds as though he is scolding her, nodding her head and apologizing. But he only smiles and tell her, no, no....please live your life and be happy.

There's also a moment in Equinox Flower when Chishu Ryu, who also plays the father in Late Spring, where he is with his friends at the motel towards the end of the movie. They're all drinking and talking about how soon children leave home. And to break the melancholy atmosphere, he begins to sing a Noh drama. And the camera cuts away from him singing, to the others in the room....listening, smoking, drinking silently. It was a nice little moment. :)

So Neil, when did you first find Ozu?
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Post by neil » Fri Sep 07, 2007 12:46 pm

But he only smiles and tell her, no, no....please live your life and be happy.
Hehehe, this makes me recall another scene where he completely shuts down another character and smiles the whole way through it; I can't remember which movie it's in. Anyhow, his peaceful disposition is always welcome to me. He had a nice way of playing older gentlemen; seeing him as a young man in "record of a tenement gentlemen" was actually kind of shocking. I've yet to see "Equinox Flower," although it's become easy to find now. I think I've been rationing the few remaining Ozu movies.
So Neil, when did you first find Ozu?
It's been 9 or 10 years, I think, since I found the Criterion laserdisc of "Floating Weeds" in a video library. I found myself in a position to watch any movie I wanted for free in a nice environment, so I engorged myself with them. It was really anti-social of me though, siiigh..

It's nice to casually come across other people who like this stuff, and not simply because they were fed it in film school. DVD's have helped out a lot. I used to be really mad that they simply didn't release all of Ozu and all the other great stuff on DVD immediately, but Criterion and Kino and others have done a really good job of steadily building up and serving a fan base. I used to correspond with a collector in the UK and helped him a bit with this site:

ozuyasujiro.com

It's still a really good resource! We used to design covers for movies we'd want to see released from Criterion et. al. and send them in--so geeky! I should have kept at it though, because it seems like they've actually used his cover for Robert Bresson's Pickpocket. Anyway, I digress...

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Post by LetsMeetUpInParadise240 » Sat Sep 08, 2007 3:44 pm

It's been 9 or 10 years, I think, since I found the Criterion laserdisc of "Floating Weeds" in a video library. I found myself in a position to watch any movie I wanted for free in a nice environment, so I engorged myself with them. It was really anti-social of me though, siiigh..

It's nice to casually come across other people who like this stuff, and not simply because they were fed it in film school. DVD's have helped out a lot. I used to be really mad that they simply didn't release all of Ozu and all the other great stuff on DVD immediately, but Criterion and Kino and others have done a really good job of steadily building up and serving a fan base. I used to correspond with a collector in the UK and helped him a bit with this site:
The video library at my school campus was how I found Kieslowski, back in the day. I would catch the entire Decalogue series on VHS after class. :P

I do miss the independent video store where I use to live by. About a year ago, I was visiting a friend in that area and when I drove by that neighborhood, I saw it was closed down. Really heartbreaking to see, let me tell you.

Ozu, Kurosawa, Kieslowski, Melville...their work kept me inspired when I was in school. :)
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Post by gau dog » Sun Sep 23, 2007 12:52 am

When I was a student at USC, I took classes under the film school and that enrollment granted access to their video library. It was there I discovered many great films by Kurosawa, Miyazaki, Woo, etc... So too at that time, I think my first Ozu watching was Late Spring. My only impression was that it was a snooze fest. I've seen a number of Ozu films since then and while I'm still not exactly ecstatic over his work, I understand and respect him better. Thanks mostly to those Criterion commentaries. And I enjoy the idea of serene environmental shots. My favorite Ozu is Ohayo. So much that me and my brother imitate the farting, forehead pushing, arm swing gestures of the film. :lol:

Oh and if anyone likes Tokyo Story, also see Yoji Yamada's My Sons. I like Yoji's more.

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Post by neil » Sat Oct 06, 2007 6:02 am

David Bordwell's book on Ozu is now available for download in its entirety here, courtesy of the University of Michigan. (!)

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Post by gau dog » Sun Oct 07, 2007 1:19 am

Cool, I've downloaded it before though it's nice to find a new introduction on his blog.
Bordwell has a nice blog doesn't he? http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/?cat=4

Also of downloadable interest on the UM list is Japanese Cinema by Donald Richie. http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/te ... 4.0001.001
It's quite old, however circa 1971.
Browse around and there's a few more books on Japanese culture and history.

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Post by LetsMeetUpInParadise240 » Sun Oct 07, 2007 9:43 am

Ah cool. I'll be looking through these soon enough. Thanks guys.

I recently bought "Ugetsu" on DVD. Kenji Mizoguchi's another great Japanese director whihc I hadn't known about until a year ago.
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Post by neil » Tue Oct 09, 2007 10:19 am

gau dog wrote:Bordwell has a nice blog doesn't he?
Yes he does! I should have mentioned it; thanks for sharing that link.
LetsMeetUpInParadise240 wrote:I recently bought "Ugetsu" on DVD. Kenji Mizoguchi's another great Japanese director whihc I hadn't known about until a year ago.
Ah, great! I've only seen a crummy videotape of "Ugetsu" and I've been eyeing that DVD for a while. Argh, too many movies!

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