Yasujirō Ozu (1903-1963) is one of Japan’s most famous film makers. I recently watched 7 of his films:
- 東京の合唱 (Tokyo no gassho/Tokyo Chorus, 1931)
- 戸田家の兄妹 (Todake no kyodai/Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family, 1941)
- 晩春 (Banshun/Late Spring, 1949)
- 東京物語 (Tokyo monogatari/Tokyo Story, 1953)
- お早よう (Ohayo/Good Morning, 1959)
- 秋日和 (Akibiyori/Late Autumn, 1960)
- 秋刀魚の味 (Sanma no aji/An Autumn Afternoon, 1962 – his final work)
They all focus on the everyday life of the Family; work, children, marriage, death … The family focus is so strong that it borders on satire. But I’d rather call it obsession.
Three of the films had the same plot: A daughter who doesn’t want to marry, partly out of pity since she lives with her lone parent. The whole film focuses on her acquaintances’ attempts to get her to marry, which she eventually does.
Ozu seems to say: Traditions are important. Change is inevitable and should be embraced.
My favourite was the silent movie Tokyo Chorus, because of the way Ozu shapes the main character, a pretty ordinary guy whom it is impossible not to love.
Ozu uses the same set design and the same actors in many of his movies. Watching the movies so close together almost gave me the impression of a soap opera. (Movie buffs may hate me.) Same plots, same quarrels, same actors – but in different roles. Maybe a better comparison is that of a travelling theatrical company. I couldn’t help but smile when an actress I had “got to know” suddenly emerged in a new role.
The films are all very slow and sport a minimalistic aesthetics. I fell asleep during several of them. But I still liked them, especially to watch on a Sunday when you’re hungover.