When the patriarch of the Toda family suddenly dies, his widow discovers that he has left her with nothing but debt and married children who are unwilling to support her--except for her most thoughtful son, just returned from China.
Kenji is a small thief who likes drinking and fighting. When he falls in love with sweet and simple Yazue, and she finds out what kind of guy he really is, she leaves him 'until he becomes ... See full summary »
Ryoichi and Chikako are brother and sister. They live together. Chikako works during the day in a office and at night she prostitutes herself to fund her brother studies in univesity. ... See full summary »
Does Ozu do the silent era or does the silent era do Ozu?
Those of us who are both attracted to and repelled by auteur-ism are challenged by this very early work of Ozu. Japanese cinema was still silent in 1930, and here an Ozu in his mid-20s got his start making crime films clearly indebted to those of German expressionism as it manifested itself both in Germany and in the US, in the form of the silent American works of Murnau and Von Sternberg.
None of the cinematic trade-marks of Ozu's sound-films are present here, and this challenges some auteurist notions of Ozu as a mandarin-renegade who resisted all western influence. Indeed, this crime tale has a fair amount of camera movement, an action-driven plot (at least for the first half), and chiaroscuro lighting and compositions much more reminiscent of German expressionism than traditional Japanese paintings, the key influence on the mise-en-scene of the director's "mature work" (from an auteurist perspective).
About a third of the way in to this short feature, it gets really meta-. The walls of the apartment of the couple that is the story's focus is covered in Hollywood movie posters. Ozu, that "home-grown Japanese auteur" started off as just another early cinema nerd- advertising his "influences."
Turning to the narrative, you can view it as either wholly unrelated to, or as a forerunner for Ozu's famous family driven meditations. The characters are united in poverty and crime, as with so much noir, but this ultimately proves all of their humanity, rather than the negation of it, as '40s Hollywood would have it. Having said that, we should remember this was made at the end of the silent era. Griffithian sentimentality may also be an influence on this movie's narrative. This struck me as I had always interpreted those bits of Ozu's mature works viewed by most western audiences as "sad" to instead be an Asian negation of "tragedy" and the western fetishization of death. Perhaps, I acknowledge sadly, such scenes were a disguised adoption of that western fetish.
Whether one attributes it to Ozu's authorship, or to dependence on Hollywood faux-optimism, this is a powerfully humane, if sentimental, work.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?