Umekichi, a geisha in the Gion district of Kyoto, feels obliged to help her lover Furusawa when he asks to stay with her after becoming bankrupt and leaving his wife. However her younger ... See full summary »
Okada and Kato, students at 'W' [i.e. Waseda] University, in Tokyo, live in the same lodgings. One morning, Kato receives a tailor's bill. Okada has seen the letter arrive, so Kato tells ... See full summary »
The credits indicate that the script was based on an original work by a foreign writer with a name that sounds like "Winzart Monet", but it is actually a gag name, derived from "without money". See more »
Ozu was really on the verge of discovery at the time, having experimented for a few years. I believe this is why he continued in the silent format longer than his peers, fearing sound would pose demands on the visual experience he was hoping to cultivate. So he was looking for an eye that is quiet but attentive, alert, seeing with a kind of vital emptiness.
Focus would be his exercise. In place of more rigorous form, he had discovered a few motifs he knew carried resonance - vast rolling skies, floating weeds, fireworks - and was content to use that as spontaneous blossoms of insight amid languid flows.
And he had an optimism that was touching, faith in a secular way. His characters really grew to a point of sublime selflessness but did so out of common sense and remained distraught, human.
So there is a lot of sense in early Ozu, in both meanings of the word, and this is why I value him.
But I wish he was bolder at the same time. And this is because the first 30 minutes are unusually sparse, even by standards he was developing, and just look at how simply he paints contemporary Japan with one stroke, a father with two raggedy kids to feed, unemployed in the middle of a sunbaked plain littered with factories, but in the latter stages turns into conventional drama that resolves theatrically, and even worse is a rehash of his Floating Weeds from the previous year.
So he was finding ways to handle emptiness but was still thinking in terms of balanced, old-fashioned storytelling. His eye was looking to see clearly but did not see itself.
The juxtaposition is striking and disappoints more, especially by comparison to the likes of Mizoguchi and Naruse who were coming up with clever ways to annotate the artifice of their melodrama. Ozu's unfolds at face value, provincial in its earnestness.
Asymmetry is what is lacking here. Imbalance that reflects a world unfettered by narratives.
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