Monday, October 18, 2004

Discovering Ozu




Being an extreme movie-lover, I think there are some filmmakers whose work I feel I should know. One of them is the greatly admired Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu.

The way cinephiles spend their time might shock "normal" people.
Case in point. I think I've seen over 25 films by the much lesser known Japanese director Kon Ichikawa, and I know I've taken in pretty much every film by the prolific Fritz Lang (both German and American).
But as for Ozu, I'm ashamed to say that my feet are barely wet. Of his movies, I've seen only Tokyo Story (his most famous; pictured above) and Good Morning.

But I didn't plan it that way. I certainly didn't go out of my way to avoid his movies. In fact, I've always looked forward to the opportunity of seeing them.

Inspired by conversations at my friend Doug Cummings's site FilmJourney, I resolved to begin remedying this cine-defect in my character. Last night, I watched Ozu's An Autumn Afternoon (1962).

It was such a thrilling experience that I feel like I could babble away for pages about the movie. But fear not, gentle reader, I'll be brief.

What really struck me about An Autumn Afternoon was that:

  • it is marvelously, cleansingly, minimal.
  • it makes the average film look hyper, hurried and overstuffed.
  • the movie's use of color is careful and controlled, not unlike Hitchcock's films of the same period.
  • it is a film that is constantly surprising--like in its razor-sharp cuts and its scene transitions; and
  • it is very funny--in a mature, wise, yet satirical way.

All the time I'm thinking, "There's no way this movie could have been made by someone under fifty". (Ozu was sixty at the time, and it was his farewell film).

I really should take that little Ozu road trip I've been considering, later this week.