Two young brothers become the leaders of a gang of kids in their neighborhood. Their father is an office clerk who tries for advancement by playing up his boss. When the boys visit the boss... 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 »
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 »
Okay, so we expect a certain clarity from cinema about the conundrums of life. In Ozu this appears in a combination of things. The spatiotemporal eye is empty, grounded, it's a dispassionate awareness that sets the room for life to play out. It's more than realism, it's a way of creating realization about the point things are more sensibly viewed from.
Narrative then is a matter of having something to view. Here several things blend. Officework for the salaryman in the audience. War reminiscence. A marriage grown distant to illustrate the tension in the home. So each of these threads poses an aspect of life, the idea is that life also extends a bit in this or that direction. This is the opportunity to create that realization that in the first place informs the passage of time.
It's not that things were better in the old days, this is never the point in his films. Viewers who miss this are stuck with a sentimental uncle. It's that things are not different, that slightly changed the same conundrums repeat: salarymen are not more distinguished than the old craftsmen, husbands will stray as before and so on. In the same swoop it creates both melancholy and a certain kind of relief.
Ozu is quaint then in this sense of being content by the way life envelops and figures itself out, letting the drama peter out as a way of saying it was never worth being caught in. This was most elegantly seen in Early Summer in the girl's spontaneous decision one night to marry. Here the wife in the end makes her choice to follow her husband in his transfer, not because anything has been solved, but because it is now seen to not matter.
But he removes the self from the camera only to put it back in the characters. This is a great and difficult balance that to my mind he only accomplished once or twice, how little to show and say. There's no precise answer, just different brushstrokes to try. Push with a little more force and it becomes a moral smudge, push less and maybe there won't be an intelligible trace.
Ozu traces faintly the turmoil but too hard the worldly lesson, it seems every minor character is encountered to offer advice at some point. It defeats the whole point of a world that is not yet figured.
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