A young boy follows Tashiro home to his tenement housing complex on the outskirts of Tokyo, the boy who was separated from his carpenter father somehow and somewhere in Kudan. All Tashiro ... See full summary »
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.
This is not only the first of the four "student comedies" directed by Ozu Yasujirô but the earliest surviving Ozu we have. The genre came to Japan from imported American films, amongst which Harold Lloyd's The Freshman (1925) was arguably the most influential. The British Film Institute has now released all four of Ozu's films on DVD as part of their gigantic endeavor to release over 30 films (they've now released eighteen).
One could argue that this is far removed from the family dramas of Ozu's 1950s period: exuberant and blithe in contrast to the serious contemplativeness of his later work. I can see where you're coming from if you think like this, but Ozu's too good of a filmmaker to suffer what I think is a serious simplification.
Following Ozu's career is a like film school, really. Here already he's ferociously adventurous when it comes to framing, and the techniques and angles he's implementing show a great understanding of what film can do — remember that film was very new then, only 34 years old. Indeed, as pointed out by Rayns (2012), "Ozu obviously amused himself by experimenting with forms, camera movements and cutting patterns in his early comedies, gangster movies and melodramas." This cinematic zestfulness is as fitting as ever to genre we're dealing with, which is all about youthful exploration.
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